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Posted by on Sep 28, 2009 in Politics, War | 30 comments

President Obama: Restoring Chain-Of-Command (UPDATED)

UPDATE: According to MSNBC’s First Read, President Obama will be meeting with ALL the players in his Situation Room tomorrow (emphasis mine):

Although President Obama has spent so much time and energy on domestic issues in his first nine months in office, last week’s news (Iran and its nuclear ambitions and missile tests, the future of Gitmo’s closure, and Gen. McChrystal’s troop request for Afghanistan) once again proved that foreign affairs could end up defining Obama’s presidency more than health care or even the economy. And foreign affairs will continue to dominate this week’s headlines. On Tuesday, Obama will meet in his Situation Room to discuss Afghanistan with Gens. Petraeus and McChrystal, Defense Secretary Gates, Secretary of State Clinton, Ambassador Ikenberry, and Afghanistan adviser Holbrooke. On Thursday, the U.S. will have its big meeting with Iran in Geneva. That meeting comes after today’s news that Iran test-fired long-range missiles capable of striking Israel and American bases in the Persian Gulf.

Well General McChrystal’s gets his second meeting with President Obama along with his “boss” General Petraeus. And even Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton will be there. We’ll see what comes out of this.

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According to Amanda Carpenter at The Washington Times, President Obama has only spoke to the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan only once:

The military general credited with capturing Saddam Hussein and killing the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, says he has spoken with President Obama only once since taking command in Afghanistan.

“I’ve talked to the president, since I’ve been here, once on a VTC ,” Gen. Stanley McChrystal told CBS reporter David Martin in a television interview that aired Sunday.

“You’ve talked to him once in 70 days?” Mr. Martin followed up.

“That is correct,” the general replied.

Of course former U.S. Ambassador for the United Nations John R. Bolton has to weigh in on this with a familiar refrain:

“I think it’s very clear, and has been during last year’s campaign and in the eight months the president has been in office, that he just doesn’t regard foreign policy and national security as important as domestic issues, like reforming the health care system,” Mr. Bolton told the hosts of The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” on Monday.

But Tim Fernholz at The American Prospect makes note that President Obama looks to be restoring the chain-of-command (he takes aim at Ben Smith at Politico who flagged the Washington Times piece as well):

Ben thinks this is evidence of “Obama’s — thus far — limited personal involvement in the Afghan war.” No, it’s not. It’s Obama’s return to normal procedure — I don’t think having the President micro-manage a conflict a world away is a particularly smart. McChrystal reports to General David Petraeus, who in turn reports up-the-line of command.

From my vantage point, this is a very good move from President Obama. General David Petraeus has been in McChrystal’s position. He knows “the deal”. And restoring the chain-of-command, where Gen. McChrysal reports to Gen. Petraeus is a win-win. Some in Right Blogtopia here, here, and here are painting this as “Obama the Inexperienced” and “Obama The Foreign Policy Goof”. On the contrary, this is smart. President Bush may have needed to jump in at times due to the urgency of two wars but he also didn’t have pressing and very serious domestic issues. President Obama does. And restoring the chain-of-command keeps expert “eyes on the ball” that report directly to him while maintaining orderly flow of intel and information; all the while freeing the President to tackle domestic issues as well (that are AS important at this stage).