News Shock: White House Had Real Debate On Afghanistan Policy

You've got to hand it to that old master of the bleeding obvious, the famous celebrant of George Bush, and the faithful stenographer of Washington power-brokers, Bob Woodward. He sure knows how to break non-news.

I have only read the excerpts, but I have to say that the notion that there was serious debate, some rancor, plenty of disagreements, occasional bursts of temper (have you ever met Holbrooke, arguably the most arrogant asshole in DC?), an earnest attempt to understand the options, and Obama's acceptance of political constraints - "I can't lose the entire Democratic Party" - is not exactly stop-the-presses stuff. It's what happens in any organization tackling such a terribly difficult decision - and the fact that views were aired and egos were bruised is, to my mind, at the least unremarkable and, at best, reassuring.

Far better than the deference, impatience, groupthink and denial of the last administration (who lost the Afghan war through negligence). But, quite obviously from my point of view, the process led to the wrong decision, and easily the worst decision of Obama's first term.

Caught between a strategic rock and a political hard place, Obama took a gamble on the neocons and McChrystal (which, after the previous eight years, was, in my view, close to madness). One wonders, of course, whether swift withdrawal or the Biden option, would have led to another set of awful consequences - moral and strategic. But we will never know. There are no controlled experiments in history.

But on the core test of his new presidency, in my view, Obama made a fatally wrong decision. It's far more important now to figure out how to salvage that mistake than to re-hash the perfectly normal internal haggling that led to it. The White House responds via Tapper here.