Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Obama's Wars"

Obama's Wars, a new book from Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, offers insights into the administration's deliberative process about Afghanistan.

One passage deals with the size of the troop surge:

Later that same day, Obama held his regular weekly meeting with Gates in the Oval Office. The room is so well lit, bright with no shadows, that it has a stark feeling. It is assuredly a setting for business.

Jones was also there; Mullen was traveling, so Cartwright attended in his place.

Under the redefined mission, Obama told Gates, the best I can do is 30,000. "This is what I'm willing to take on, politically," the president said.

Gates had worked for seven other presidents. Each had his own decision-making style. They often floated assertions and conclusions, sometimes emphatically, sometimes tentatively. It wasn't always evident what they meant.

"I've got a request for 4,500 enablers sitting on my desk," Gates said. "And I'd like to have another 10 percent that I can send in, enablers or forces, if I need them."

"Bob," Obama said, "30,000 plus 4,500 plus 10 percent of 30,000 is" - he had already done the math - "37,500." Sounding like an auctioneer, he added, "I'm at 30,000."

Obama had never been quite so definitive or abrupt with Gates.

"I will give you some latitude within your 10 percentage points," Obama said, but under exceptional circumstances only.

"Can you support this?" Obama asked Gates. "Because if the answer is no, I understand it and I'll be happy to just authorize another 10,000 troops, and we can continue to go as we are and train the Afghan national force and just hope for the best."

"Hope for the best." The condescending words hung in the air.

Yesterday, National Security Adviser Jim Jones resigned. His deputy, Tom Donilon, succeeded him. Another passage deals with the relationship between Donilon and Secretary of Defense Gates:

The Pentagon also had concerns about Donilon. When criticism of Jones had reached a high-water mark the previous year, Gates had decided to publicly embrace him. "I think of Jim as the glue that holds this team together," Gates told The Washington Post's David Ignatius, whose "Jim Jones's Team" ran prominently on the op-ed page.

Gates did this in part, he told an aide, because he did not think Donilon would work out as Jones's successor. Gates felt that Donilon did not understand the military or treat its senior leadership with sufficient respect. The secretary later told Jones that Donilon would be a "disaster" as Obama's national security adviser.

ABC reports on damage control efforts:

A defense source tells ABC News that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates no longer feels that Tom Donilon would be a “disaster” as National Security Adviser, as Gates is quoted telling National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones (ret.) in Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars.”

“They had some issues during the Af/Pak review, which everyone knows got contentious at times,” the defense source says. “But since then, they have addressed and overcome those issues and now enjoy a good working relationship.”