One of the tough things about politics is the performance art aspect. From at least the moment of his inauguration, President Obama has distressed his liberal supporters with a number of policy decisions that have confounded expectations. By the time he got around to announcing his detention policies for terrorism suspects, it seemed the only thing American liberals could hope for is that he was playing a long hand, working with what he had until he could plot some useful and decent change of course for the nation.
While there are some encouraging signs, it is far too early to declare that Obama really is doing something so insane as to start pulling those changeling rabbits out of his hat starting in late 2010 or early 2011.
However, Peter baker and Elisabeth Bumiller wrote yesterday for the New York Times that the president is considering alternative strategies for the disastrous endeavor in Afghanistan:
President Obama is exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan, including a plan advocated by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to scale back American forces and focus more on rooting out Al Qaeda there and in Pakistan, officials said Tuesday.
The options under review are part of what administration officials described as a wholesale reconsideration of a strategy the president announced with fanfare just six months ago. Two new intelligence reports are being conducted to evaluate Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said.
The sweeping reassessment has been prompted by deteriorating conditions on the ground, the messy and still unsettled outcome of the Afghan elections and a dire report by Mr. Obama’s new commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. Aides said the president wanted to examine whether the strategy he unveiled in March was still the best approach and whether it could work with the extra combat forces General McChrystal wants.
In looking at other options, aides said, Mr. Obama might just be testing assumptions — and assuring liberals in his own party that he was not rushing into a further expansion of the war — before ultimately agreeing to the anticipated troop request from General McChrystal. But the review suggests the president is having second thoughts about how deeply to engage in an intractable eight-year conflict that is not going well.
Although Mr. Obama has said that a stable Afghanistan is central to the security of the United States, some advisers said he was also wary of becoming trapped in an overseas quagmire. Some Pentagon officials say they worry that he is having what they called “buyer’s remorse” after ordering an extra 21,000 troops there within weeks of taking office before even settling on a strategy.