September 23, 2009

The Leak

The leak of General McChrystal's Afghanistan review is becoming bigger news than the review. The leaker's identity is important but not nearly as important as the leak itself. One can only imagine the rage of perfectionist micro-managers Rahm Emanual and David Axelrod as they awoke to the headlines. While the effects of this event can't be overestimated, whoever challenged Obama stabbed him in a critical way.

Critics of the leak are easy to find. Obama's staff and Democratic allies are naturally upset but so are Republicans who favor the war - the odds of escalation just dipped. Americans may be upset as well, but they should be grateful of receiving any information because Obama was going to take months to make a decision he should've already decided. Critics claim the leak infringed upon Obama's right to secrecy, but this threat is eclipsed by a far deadlier risk: military paralysis.

Conspiracy theories grow plentifully around leaks, but assume for now a straight-forward story. Someone in the Pentagon who favors escalation, could be good friends with McChrystal, honestly believes the mission is failing, and might not like Obama saw enough stonewalling to crack and vent. Once Obama voiced skepticism for McChrystal's review it was time for duty, or some similar justification.

Obama could know the leaker's identity, in which case the question of punishment arises. It seems hazardous to root out and reprimand the leaker because, if the military is already growing skeptical of Obama, he could make even more enemies.

Obama's true problem is that the leak was made possible by a climate already suited for it. Enough division must already be setting in that lines are starting to form. If the military believes in General McChrystal's review and developed the review assuming Obama would follow through, it won't be happy that Joe Biden is gumming up the gears.The military especially will despise Obama if it believes he's beholden to political opinion. His intelligent but green perception becomes a liability. Obama actually played down military credentials in the campaign because Iraq was his only foothold to hang onto.

If Biden, whose only foreign policy expertise is a few stints on the Foreign Relations Committee, manages to sway him from counterinsurgency in Afghanistan to counter-terrorism in Pakistan, the military could lose faith in Obama's ability to command.

For all the problems of a united, runaway military as under George Bush, a divided military is just as dangerous. Afghanistan isn't a land of compromise; America has serious problems if the Pentagon and White House genuinely differ on a course of action. The war will be hard enough waged with absolute unity and determination. America cannot fight this war successfully while suffering from internal military schisms. Congress and the American people are already foaming for decision. Stalling and hesitating is jeopardizing President Obama's relationship with the Pentagon and will create more enemies than he can handle.

Octopus Mountain tried to warn him.

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