Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let's examine Obama's rejection of all the Afghanistan war options presented to him in the context of regular Joe Smith making a decision.

The easiest decisions for Joe to make are those where Joe (1) knows what he wants to accomplish, (2) has the necessary resources available to him, and (3) doesn't have to get permission from someone else, and (4) has the experience and knowledge to choose from the various options for following through.

For example, if Joe is deciding on what he's going to do on vacation, it is pretty straightforward if Joe knows where he wants to go and what he wants to do while there, has the money and the time that he needs to go there, doesn't have to ask permission from a boss or spouse, and has enough experience to decide from the various trip packages which one best suits his objectives.

It isn't so easy, and understandably so, if Joe just can't decide what he wants to do or has to persuade a reluctant spouse that it would be fun, or doesn't have the money or can't get the time off or has no idea what is involved in, for example, sailing around the world or taking a safari to Africa.

For Obama and Afghanistan, some of these issues shouldn't be a factor: he has pretty much an unlimited budget, he doesn't have to ask anybody's permission. While he himself doesn't have expertise in military operations, with his military advisers, he has the equivalent of a travel agent who does have the expertise to fill in where he can't.

So what's missing, what accounts for his dithering, why is he still unable to make a decision?

One possibility is that Obama doesn't trust his travel agents, that he suspects they're trying to sell him a bad, overpriced experience, that they care more about themselves than in helping him enjoy his vacation experience, that they're not listening to him, that they're trying to sell him a trip to Finland instead of the trip to Bermuda that he said he wanted.

But I am skeptical about this as a possibility. Obama handpicked his travel agents (i.e., military advisers). He hasn't had a bad experience with them that makes him suspect them now. In fact, he hasn't had any experience with them. Maybe there is someone whispering in his ear telling him bad things about his advisers, but if this were so, why hasn't Obama gone and picked himself another set of advisers.

Another possibility is that he doesn't know what he wants to accomplish. To paraphrase someone, you can't get there if you don't know where you want to go.

But that's unlikely. He's talked enough about what he wants to accomplish - kill Al Qaeda, deny the Taliban the ability to regain control and/or terrorize the population and have a friendly, democratic government willing to help keep America safe - that I dismiss this as a possibility.

Another possibility is that he is mentally or emotionally unable to make the decision and issue the orders... so he looks to put it off as long as possible. As I thought Bush held off going after Iran because he wasn't emotionally able to deal with the casualties - and the public criticism - from another conflict, maybe Obama is holding off because he feels that until he makes a decision he can avoid thinking of this as his fight and thus avoid the guilt that comes from having soldiers die carrying out his orders.

I don't know what it is, but I can't imagine it being for a good reason.