THE SPINE SEPTEMBER 21, 2009
Look, everything I know about the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is outstanding. And, believe me, this is not just a reflexive compliment. But I wonder where the president's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, actually is. No, I don't mean this literally, which is to say, geographically. I want to know what his advice to the Barack Obama is, what his advice to the country is. The bald truth is that America trusts Holbrooke. It trusts him strategically; it trusts him ethically. Wouldn't you want to know what Holbrooke thinks about more troops to Afghanistan ... and the consequences if there are none.
On foreign policy, on the other hand, rookies are doing the deciding. After all, both the president and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, are amateurs. Yes, I know that Hillary visited 81 countries when she was first lady. But the president keeps her cooped up and when she is let out of Foggy Bottom she deals with women's issues. Hortatory stuff.
Obama did obeisance in three Muslim countries within five months of his swearing-in. He was a big hit. But, alas, he struck out. Maybe he's talking too much but thinking and listening too little. This morning's Times had him doing five talk show interviews on Sunday. No wonder he doesn't have time to go to church--a matter which I've been wondering about for a long time. But I guess it's impolitic to raise. Surely there are other pastors than Preacher Wright.
Back to Holbrooke and his fellow senior foreign service comrades: Where, for that matter, is Dennis Ross who knows more about Israel-Palestine than five George Mitchells put together? I'm not sure whether Mtchell has been advising the president about his assigned topic. Or just carrying the messages back and forth.