Having gone silent all last week as Pentagon officials lined up to sell Afghanistan, the White House watched helplessly as the war’s “narrative” spun further out of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ hands. They know they’re trapped. There was no choice now, they had to get in the game.
But rather than deploy an official with credible sincerity, President Barack Obama sent out one of his least credible batters.
"The July '11 date, as stated by the president, that's not moving," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told ABC's "This Week,” one of several rounds he made on Sunday. "That's not changing. Everybody agreed on that date... And the goal is to take this opportunity, focus on what needs to get done, and then on July 2011, begin the reduction."
Unwise as it is for Obama to stay hidden while his surge falls apart, even more foolish was to send Emanuel to do his dirty work - although that is his job. As both Democrats and Republicans (and ourselves) demand answers to the holes in Obama’s time-line and basic strategy, Emanuel will prevent the White House from securing new support.
Not only is Emanuel considered less than trustworthy by Washington insiders and the US public, he may be gone before July 2011.
Rumored to be angered by the White House’s “idealism,” The Telegraph reported Sunday night, “Washington insiders say he will quit within six to eight months in frustration at their unwillingness to ‘bang heads together’ to get policy pushed through.”
Emanuel issued a statement saying, “This is BS. And if you need it for translation, it’s baseless.”
What’s really baseless is Emanuel’s statements on the Afghan war. Let’s assume for a moment that Emanuel isn’t going anywhere; he’s still an unappealing figure to sell the war, given the tarnished perceptions of his character. When the US people demand honesty and get Emanuel, an immediate error has been committed.
Furthermore, Emanuel was allegedly one of the main opponents of Obama’s surge, rightfully fearing distraction from and complications with US domestic issues. Having favored the “offshore” strategy, Emanuel is stating a personal opinion more than any hard reality. He isn’t speaking for the Pentagon, who surely conflicts with him due to his opposition, has no relative idea of the conditions in Afghanistan, nor military expertise in general. The same conflict is developing between the Pentagon and Vice President Joe Biden, who Emanuel agreed with on going “offshore.”
To reaffirm Obama’s deadline in the face of mounting contrary evidence is lethally disingenuous. Emanuel won’t stop the bleeding.
Now let’s assume the Telegraph’s report contains either partial or full truth. Rumors have had Emanuel on the out for months so this isn’t out of the blue. His prediction on Afghanistan has also come true, as the war is devouring Obama’s credibility and wasting political support on the domestic front. Given that the war will only demand more resources, Emanuel will be forced to adapt legislatively for the rest of Obama’s first term, and likely his second.
If he stays.
It’s not baseless that Emanuel would skip out in the event of a GOP victory in the mid-term Congressional elections. That base has already been constructed. If Emanuel were angry at idealism then a July 2011 deadline would certainly qualify. And who wouldn’t expect Emanuel to deny such a report? The possibility remains open that Emanuel won’t last the rest of Obama’s term.
Which means at the very least, the White House deployed a man of political uncertainty to vouch for Obama’s fake July 2011 deadline. At worst, the White House just made a phantom promise with no intention of keeping it.
“There is no more important place in the world for American foreign policy and national security,” US envoy Richard Holbrooke said of Marjah from the village itself.
Regardless of what happens in Emanuel’s personal future, few US troops will be leaving Afghanistan after July 2011 - if any. This isn’t the integrity that the situation requires, yet it appears the White House and Pentagon are planning to lie all the way until then.
Or as long as they can.