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Fighting It Out In Public

Mike Crowley has a terrific piece in the next issue of TNR (to which you should have a real subscription) that will also be online in which he recapitulates poor Hillary Clinton's nasty arguments with herself over her (our) foreign policy. This is an extreme example of the first of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points in 1918: "open covenants openly arrived at." It is, after all, strange to have our secretary of state change her mind every Wednesday and Thursday, to do so in public and then to be angry that many people think she is unsteady and undisciplined. 

(I am planning to write a longish article in coming weeks about why we should no longer play this game. And the most important reason is that it does not work. The fact is we are played for fools. Even by the endlessly foolish Palestinians who are having an election to force our hands, not having an election to force our hands, declaring independence to force our hands, dissolving the Palestinian Authority to force our hands, getting President Abbas to resign to force our hands, getting Abbas to stay to force our hands, getting Fatah and Hamas to make peace with each other to force our hands, keeping Fatah and Hamas separate to force our hands. And doing all of this also to force the hands of the Israelis.)

The most appalling instance of the administration fighting it out in public, however, is in the constant leaking of its personnel's conflicting opinions on what we should do in Afghanistan. So who is appalled? Much more important, as the Financial Times reports this morning is that defense secretary Gates is " 'appalled' at leaking of Afghan troop deliberations." "Everybody out there ought to just shut up." The proximate "everybody" was Karl Eikenberry, the American ambassador in Kabul. But there is also everybody else.

It even spills over into Harris polling data from five of the largest European states, really stupid polling data, also in a dispatch ("Poll shows European split on troop surge") in the FT.  The respondents were asked, for example, how long non-U.S. troops and U.S. troops should be kept in Afghanistan. Let's say for "at least one more year." A split there is. But the numbers in all permutations of the question hover around 60% who say yes to the one year proposition. At the same time, less than 50% of the five states' respondents thought President Obama should send more troops to Afghanistan. Go tell!

Another FT news analysis from Washington by Daniel Dombey informs us that, "At a war council this week Obama indicated he was still not happy with any of his choices."  But who ever said that the White House is a place where one finds happiness? Particularly in these times.