An On-the-Record Supporter of Obama’s Decision-Making

Elisabeth Bumiller has an article in today’s New York Times relaying frustration from “active duty and retired senior officers” that President Obama is taking his time making a decision about future strategy in Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, most of those officers declined to be named—as Bumiller writes, they “spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from the military’s civilian leadership and the White House.”

What is a little surprising, at first glance, is that the “military policy analyst” who provides the balancing quote defending Obama at the end of the piece is also unnamed, for fear of “antagonizing senior Pentagon leaders.” Matthew Yglesias has some thoughts on that dynamic here, but it’s also worth noting that there are some experts and analysts who have been willing to defend Obama’s decision-making process on the record. Here is Marc Lynch at his Foreign Policy blog, responding to Tom Ricks:

On the question of the overall deliberation, I would give the President extremely high marks. They know that they are making a very important, difficult decision and they are appropriately taking their time to think it through from all directions. They have solicited all points of view, and have refused to be railroaded by either the advocates of escalation or by the minimalist skeptics. This is exactly how such a deliberative process is supposed to work…

… I think the White House has handled this process as well as it could have. If they decide on a policy with which I disagree I will be uncomfortable but I will also be convinced that they gave all serious alternatives full consideration and that they go into it with eyes wide open. I also think that the public debate has sharpened everyone’s understanding of the stakes of the decision, and of the problems with each of the approaches. Not every moment has been handled perfectly, but overall this is a model of how such decisions should be approached.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.