President Barack Obama is refusing to be rushed into his first decision to send troops into combat, an early sign he may be more independent-minded than U.S. military leaders expected.
The new president's methodical decision-making offers an early insight into how the new commander in chief will approach the war in Afghanistan and has surprised some Pentagon officials, who had predicted repeatedly in the past two weeks that Obama would decide within days on additional forces, only to find the White House taking more time.
Rather than sign off quickly on all or part of a long-standing Pentagon request for three Army combat brigades and Marine units, totaling over 10,000 troops, Obama and his aides are questioning the timetable, the mission and even the composition of the new forces, officials familiar with the deliberations said.
The latest sign of crossed signals occurred Friday, when White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Obama "hasn't made a decision on augmenting our force structure in Afghanistan," three days after Pentagon officials said he would likely do so that week. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called Obama's deliberate approach on his first troop decision "entirely appropriate."
Of course, jackasses on the right will interpret this as either 1) a desire to lose or 2) lack of desire to win, but the mere fact that Obama is delaying, even if he ultimately sends the troops (as I imagine he will) is an excellent sign. There is no end to the number of presidents in American history who felt obligated to military commitments made by prior administrations or themselves, and who increased force levels without any real idea of how or even if those troops would help. The Obama administration is actually pausing to seriously think about it, especially in light of the news that the situation on the ground is worse than they thought it would be prior to coming into office, and developments like increasing attacks on supply routes and increasing unreliability of the Karzai government. We should be thinking about how on Earth we're going to win this war.