Hillary: No, no, no, I'm not running again

Dude, she’s totally running — albeit certainly not in 2012 as an upstart challenger to The One. She’s too good of a soldier to do that, per her diving headfirst into the tank here to defend his Nobel win. I’m intrigued by her guarantee that the final decision on Afghanistan will be well thought through, though. Even assuming that that’s true, why wasn’t it well thought through when Obama replaced McKiernan with McChrystal earlier this year? That’s no idle gotcha question, as Robert Kaplan explains:

The Administration had many months, beginning the moment Obama was elected, to recalibrate Afghan strategy. Yet it’s now in the position of publicly questioning the fundamental wisdom of the general it has chosen. The position Obama’s now in is similar to that of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld some years back—appearing not to be listening to his generals. If the president doesn’t agree with his field commander, that’s fine. Just don’t make a public spectacle of it.

Even if Obama does end up making the correct decision on Afghanistan strategy (by which I mean adding troops, since counterinsurgency is manpower-intensive), the public agony over his deliberations may already have done incalculable damage. The Afghan people have survived three decades of war by hedging their bets. Now, watching a young and inexperienced American president appear to waiver on his commitment to their country, they are deciding, at the level of both the individual and the mass, whether to make their peace with the Taliban—even as the Taliban itself can only take solace and encouragement from Obama’s public agonizing. Meanwhile, fundamentalist elements of the Pakistani military, opposed to the recent crackdown against local Taliban, are also taking heart from developments in Washington. This is how coups and revolutions get started, by the middle ranks sensing weakness in foreign support for their superiors.

Obama’s wobbliness also has a corrosive effect on the Indians and the Iranians. India desperately needs a relatively secular Afghan regime in place to bolster Hindu India’s geopolitical position against radical Islamdom, and while the country enjoyed an excellent relationship with bush, Obama’s dithering is making it nervous. And Iran, in observing Washington’s indecision, can only feel more secure in its creeping economic annexation of western Afghanistan.

I’m not blaming her for The One’s dithering — there’s little doubt what President Hillary would have decided to do in Afghanistan — but the “we want to get this right” excuse doesn’t have an indefinite shelf life. How much longer do we have to wait? Meanwhile, in WaPo, Fareed Zakaria takes his best shot against a troop build-up by arguing that we’ve actually done a great job in Afghanistan thus far, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Which is super, except that the overwhelming sense from media reports is that U.S. troops in the field are simply trying to hold back a rising Taliban tide until reinforcements come. Which, if true, prompts the question: If the reinforcements aren’t coming, why do we still have men there trying to hold back the tide?

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