Is Obama Dawdling on Afghanistan?

The administration wants to consider all options carefully, but some think the president is wasting time

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Is the protracted and public White House debate on Afghanistan being dragged out? With Senator McCain warning against taking too much time to formulate strategy, and presidential adviser David Axelrod countering that the president is "taking a lot of time" in order to give the matter "real thought," the question is this: How much time is too much?  Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joins some heavyweight foreign policy commentators in the debate over Obama's drawn out deliberation.

  • Don't Rush It, But Nine Months Should Be Enough to Decide  "Personally," begins the Washington Post's David Ignatius, "I think [Obama is] wise to take his time on an issue in which it's so hard to know the right answer." But that's as complimentary as he gets. "Obama wants to avoid any semblance of a 'rush to war,'" he notes. "Nine months on, that doesn't seem like a danger." Calling the current president different from his predecessor, "occasionally to a fault," Ignatius concludes that "Obama needs to decide--soon--how the United States can best help Kabul in a way that's politically sustainable in Washington"
  • But This Is How Decision-Making Is Done, affirms former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, commenting on MSNBC on Wednesday. "I actually think that everything is going the way it should in terms of the decision-making process," she responds to those who quibble. "I [want] a confident president rather than a certain president." She also rejects the notion that consensus is a waste of time: "what has to happen in these meetings, and they don't work if this is not really happening," she says, drawing on her cabinet experience, is "a different statement of views ... people debating with each other over whether their point of view is right or wrong ... I teach about decision making," she adds, "and this is actually the best way to do it."
  • Shows Obama's 'Fetish' for Consensus  Commentary magazine's Jennifer Rubin takes up where Ignatius leaves off, calling Obama's decision-making process "academic" and "indecisive." Really, she asks "is the presidency a graduate course on international relations?"
  • Take Your Time--And Use It to Pressure Karzai  Andrew Exum's (a.k.a. Abu Muqawama) original take on the matter suggests that Obama should deliberately prolong the decision. He urges making an even bigger show of consensus and public debate. "Why? Well," explains the Center for a New American Security blogger, "if the White House uses this time wisely, it should be putting pressure on Hamid Karzai at the same time in which signals are being sent that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is at a fork in the road. Our committment, we should be telling Karzai, is at least partially dependent on what his government does and fails to do."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.