An Afghanistan Showdown

Joe Klein looks ahead:

The Administration wants to keep Afghanistan on the back burner for the next two months, until after the election. The military is playing a different hand. It will try, via a surreptitious media strategy, to get the President to delay any policy review, to give a new vote of confidence to a failing and deeply flawed, in my view, war strategy. Bob Woodward's new book, an account of the Administration's Afghanistan decision-making process, could well strengthen the military's hand; some administration officials fear that the book will characterize the process as messy and chaotic. (Woodward wrote a similar book about Bill Clinton's messy, chaotic budget-making process in 1993, a process that emerged, over time, as a major economic and political triumph). In short, there will be an effort to portray the President as an indecisive, non-military wimp. There will be an effort to get him to back off his July 2011 date for the beginning of the transition to Afghan "control." There may even be a request for more troops. All this will happen in the midst of a political campaign that may well prove devastating for Democrats. This is a test of strength that Obama can't afford to lose.