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Obama Misses the Afghan Exit Ramp

By       Message Ray McGovern     Permalink
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Eikenberry's knowledge and experience show through clearly in two highly sensitive cables Eikenberry sent to Washington on November 6 and 9, 2009.Oddly, theNew York Timeseditorialists suggested yesterday that Obama should include Eikenberry in a "wider housecleaning" of the administration's Afghan brain trust.Never mind that Eikenberry got it exactly right, as the events of the past eight months clearly show.

The news columns of the Times, however, do deserve credit for publishing a story on Eikenberry's views as soon as it acquired the substance of two cables he sent from Kabul to Washington on November 6 and 9.The columns were printed well before Obama made his decision to escalate in Afghanistan.Better still, in January the Times posted on line the actual TOP SECRET NODIS cables (full text).

Sources of such material do not take lightly the risk of being discovered and punished.In my view, however, there are times when they are not only justified, but required in conscience to make sensitive material available. To the credit of the Times' source (reportedly a U.S. official), he/she was willing to take this patriotic action, to ensure that those interested could learn what Eikenberry really thought, especially his doubts about the effectiveness of a military escalation.( See "Obama Ignores Key Afghan Warning,")

Apparently, the Times' source saw what ethicists call a "supervening" value in making this unauthorized disclosure--value that transcends and trumps the promise, customarily made as a condition of employment, not to divulge classified information.

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Promises are important; one does not break them capriciously.But unauthorized disclosures can be acts of courage--the kind of behavior that can prevent wars, and even stop ones already under way.

Despite the fact that Eikenberry's views were in the public domain last fall, President Obama apparently put his finger to the prevailing political winds of Washington and chose to go with McChrystal's counterinsurgency "surge" rather than the advice from Eikenberry and from Vice President Joe Biden, who also opposed the escalation.Obama seems to assign the highest priority to being able to thwart any campaign--however disingenuous--to paint him soft on terrorism.

And so the President sided with McChrystal, Petraeus, Clinton, and Gates, agreeing to triple the U.S. troop levels to about 100,000. In the months that have passed, the levels of American casualties have jumped but the prospects for victory (or some modicum of success) remain stuck in a deepening quagmire--in the deep muddy, so to speak.

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Now, with some indiscreet comments to Rolling Stone magazine, McChrystal has managed to get plucked from the swamp, as if a "deus ex machina" derrick suddenly appeared from behind the scenes of a Greek tragedy and magically hoisted the embattled hero out of an impossible situation.

Obama now has turned to what might be called "Petraeus ex machina" as a rescue operation for the benighted U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. But this dusted-off, spit-and-polish human device is not likely to be able to lift the larger military campaign out of grave danger. Instead, many of the U.S. troops committed to this dubious plan--not to mention thousands of Afghans-- seem doomed to perish in what has become a real-life tragedy.

The original of this article appeared on Consortiumnews.com.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)

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