The long debate has made Obama look indecisive and uncertain — because he has been. And the leaks of conflicting positions have given his critics ammunition for the postmortem debate over any decision he makes. If Obama chooses to go small, hawks will accuse him of ignoring the advice of his own military commander, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who asked for 40,000 additional troops. If he goes big, doves will accuse him of ignoring the advice of Ambassador Eikenberry, who said the additional troops wouldn’t do much good.
When he ran for president, “no drama Obama” prided himself on a campaign organization that never aired internal disputes and always closed ranks in common cause. Not in this process, which has turned into a very un-Obamalike battle of leaks and counterleaks. This much transparency, alas, creates a problem: Washingtonians love to keep track of winners and losers. A well-managed process gives losers a chance to lick their wounds in private, without suffering public damage to their reputations. This one is more likely to end in public recriminations.