Monday, October 12, 2009

Mr. President, you are holding 11 - and you always double down on 11..

Barack Obama could learn a lot from Vince Vaughn in that scene.

Obama could learn the value of "doubling down" in Afghanistan.

Doubling down (i.e. approving McChrystal's request for 40k troops) isn't just about about a properly resourced COIN strategy anymore. Increasingly, Obama decision is about signaling to our allies in the region that we're serious about staying.

Even if Obama does end up making the correct decision on Afghanistan strategy (by which I mean adding troops, since counterinsurgency is manpower-intensive), the public agony over his deliberations may already have done incalculable damage. The Afghan people have survived three decades of war by hedging their bets. Now, watching a young and inexperienced American president appear to waiver on his commitment to their country, they are deciding, at the level of both the individual and the mass, whether to make their peace with the Taliban—even as the Taliban itself can only take solace and encouragement from Obama's public agonizing. Meanwhile, fundamentalist elements of the Pakistani military, opposed to the recent crackdown against local Taliban, are also taking heart from developments in Washington. This is how coups and revolutions get started, by the middle ranks sensing weakness in foreign support for their superiors.

Obama's wobbliness also has a corrosive effect on the Indians and the Iranians. India desperately needs a relatively secular Afghan regime in place to bolster Hindu India's geopolitical position against radical Islamdom, and while the country enjoyed an excellent relationship with bush, Obama's dithering is making it nervous. And Iran, in observing Washington's indecision, can only feel more secure in its creeping economic annexation of western Afghanistan. So, too, other allies far and wide—from the Middle East to East Asia, and Israel to Japan—will start to make decisions based on their understanding that Washington under Obama may not have their backs in a crisis. Again, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama only plays to such fears.

And Obama has already signaled to other American allies that they may be on their own when the wolf - or bear- comes howling at the door

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