How can any commander be so precise so far in advance about an enterprise so inherently contingent and unpredictable? It was a signal to friend and foe that he wasn’t serious. And as if to amplify that signal, Obama added that “the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own,” thus immediately undermining the very importance of the war to which he was committing new troops.
Such stunning ambivalence, I wrote at the time, had produced the most uncertain trumpet ever sounded by a president. One could sense that Obama’s heart was never in it.
And now we know. Indeed, this became hauntingly clear to Obama’s own defense secretary within just a few months — before the majority of the troops had arrived in the field, before the new strategy had even been tested.
How can a commander in good conscience send troops on a mission he doesn’t believe in, a mission from which he knows some will never return? Even worse, Obama ordered a major escalation, expending much blood but not an ounce of his own political capital. Over the next four years, notes Gates with chagrin, Obama ignored the obligation of any commander to explain, support, and try to rally the nation to the cause.