I didn't watch Obama on Letterman--past my bedtime, but the first clip out this morning deepens my respect and affection for the First Guest. When Dave asked him about the hostility at town halls and Jimmy Carter's suggestion that racism is in play, Obama handled it deftly, saying he was black before the election, so that the people knowingly chose a black person. This along with a subsequent comment about politicians know that people will attack him show how self-possessed this guy is. I know I am not that even-tempered (duh!), so I have got to admire Obama in these circumstances.
On a similar note, Obama now faces criticism from the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, a bunch of scholars who want a serious re-evaluation of the Afghanistan strategy. Which is funny because this is what Obama is doing--not jumping in without thinking, but taking Gen. McChrystal's recommendations seriously. This coalition is building on a previous effort--Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy, which published an open letter signed in 2004 by much of the academic community who study security (and profs who don't study that stuff too), suggesting that the Bush team was out of whack precisely because it did not do the due diligence that is the hallmark of Obama. I signed the earlier letter, but only heard about the subsequent one after the fact. And that is fine, since despite misgivings and doubt registered here about Afghanistan, I think Obama does not need our pre-emptive criticism on this one. He has not made a decision yet because he is evaluating all of the bad options he faces.
The problem as I have blogged about the past month is the absent of good choices. The frustrating thing about the leaks about the review is that they all focus on numbers of troops and not on the supposedly new strategy. That is really the key for whether the additional troops make sense, despite the politics being all about the troop levels. What is McChrystal's plan to save the show in one year? Especially since there is always a delay in the troops getting there and then having an impact? If the idea is to essentially replace the NATO troops so that unity of command is provided and that is necessary for success, then, ok, that makes some sense.
Before rushing to judgment, I want to see more details on the strategy.