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October 13th, 2009 2:02 pm
Clinton and Gates to the Rescue?
Posted by Print

The New York Times carries a very interesting piece this morning on the influence that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have had on the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. In a nutshell, they’ve kept it from total insanity.

According to the Times’ Mark Landler and Thom Shanker, the dynamic duo were responsible for preventing the public release of further prisoner abuse photos, as well as for shepherding the decision to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. While the two are woefully behind the curve on Iran (as I noted of Gates here), they still represent the toughest line in the administration.

What’s troubling about all this, however, is the piece’s (unsourced) prognostication of where Clinton and Gates will end up on the current debate over Afghanistan:

Now, as President Obama leads yet another debate on whether to deploy tens of thousands of additional troops there, the secretary of state and the secretary of defense will once again constitute a critical voting bloc, the likely leaders of an argument for a middle ground between a huge influx of soldiers and a narrow focus aimed at killing terrorists from Al Qaeda, according to several administration officials.”

“That swing vote would put them at odds with the bare-bones approach still being pushed by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., as well as the most aggressive military buildup recommended by the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.”

On this one, Clinton and Gates are taking a dangerous turn. Playing for a tie in Afghanistan is the worst of all possible worlds. While the so-called “Biden Plan” mistakenly applies a counterterrorism strategy to a counterinsurgency problem, at least it doesn’t escalate without the resources necessary for victory. Clinton and Gates are looking for a middle way … but in Afghanistan the options are go big or go home.

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