Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Saying "No" is Better than Doing Nothing

Another war of words has been launched in Washington, this time from Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Speaking yesterday, Gates said that US military officers and civilians advising President Obama on Afghanistan should keep their views private. The AFP News Service reports that in referring to White House discussions on the war, Gates said that it is imperative that all who take part should be candid with the president, but should do so privately. While he did not mention his name, Gates remarks seemed to be directed at General Stanley McChrystal who made his views on strategy known in a London speech last week.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the president's national security advisor, retired General James Jones have also joined in the criticism of General McChrystal. Jones told CNN over the weekend that he thought McChrystal was guilty of not going through the proper chains of command when discussing military strategy.

While the chain of command is important, and perhaps General McChrystal should have kept quiet until he could meet with the president, one can understand the frustration that caused him to speak out. As reported last week, the general has only met with the president once in the past seventy days and has been snubbed in his request for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

Time is running out and if the U.S. is going to win the war there, more troops are needed now. The wait and see policy that Mr. Obama has adopted can only mean one thing: "a bigger chance for failure with each passing day."

While the president has spent the last week preparing for and attending the Olympic Committee meeting in Copenhagen, that ultimately brought him nothing but embarassment, General McChrystal's request for more troops has been left on the table with no regard for his position or expertise.

This game of cat and mouse is uncalled for, and by refusing to address the general's request, President Obama is appearing to be stubborn and unable to make a decision. While he has been very vocal about not wanting more troops in the region, his refusal to address the issue with the general has obviously left many on both sides frustrated.

Leadership requires that the person in command is willing to put their own viewpoints aside while listening to everyone who has been given the right to speak. It also requires the ability to make a final decision even if that decision is not popular or correct.

The president should send in the troops that have been requested, and his avoidance of the issue is causing a rift between the very people who need to ban together to make our efforts in Afghanistan work.

The problem lies in the waiting, and it seems that General McChrystal is trying to get the president's attention by making his comments public. Frustration can cause one to do things that may go against their beliefs or position, so it's time for the president to call a meeting.

Even if he's convinced that the general is wrong, it's time to speak up and give his advisor an answer. Even if troops are not deployed, the decision will have been made and the general can move on. This is what we need from you Mr. President: "Effective Leadership."

So, hold the meeting with the general Sir. While we hope you make the right decision, remember, it is within the scope of your power to "just say no."

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