Diana West

If this is true, it's outrageous. After all, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was fired for trash talk about the civilian leadership. What Woodward describes is trash treatment of the civilian leadership, which is worse.

But it's hard to imagine Obama firing anyone over this case. What also comes across in Woodward's account is a weak-in-the-war-making-department president who recoils from the potential consequences of overruling the military: namely, the resignations of people blocking the very policy changes he set out to enact. Why he flinches, I don't know.

According to Woodward, Obama said he wanted to devise a way out of, not deeper into Afghanistan; he even wanted to move away from the insupportable nation-building that lies at the theoretical root of the perfect "counterinsurgency." (I agree with both goals while realizing the meeting of the minds likely ends right there.) Neither goal is central to the "surge" as finally ordered. Obama's "decision" to send 30,000, not 40,000 troops, is marginal, while his 2011 "withdrawal" has been publicly discounted from the beginning.

So, Obama's war is, in fact, an expanded mission that has no clear end, something that seems to suit his leading general fine. "I don't think you win this war," Petraeus is quoted as saying privately. "I think you keep fighting. It's a little bit like Iraq, actually ... Yes, there have been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives."

Call it a 100-year-war. By that point, if we get there, the Oval Office will have long become a pentagon.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).



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