Moments of Truth for Obama

by Michael Crowley | November 9, 2009

I agree with Jason, it simply looks as though we're not getting anywhere with Tehran. This means Obama will have to make two momentous choices in the coming weeks. First, how many troops will he send to Afghanistan? Second, how long will he indulge Iranian stalling tactics before moving to a push for strict sanctions.

On the Afghanistan decision, it appear that Obama is headed towards something on the order of 30,000+ troops. On Saturday the New York Times called this a "middle option." That's based on reports that Stanley McChrystal's request included an option for 80,000 more troops. But I'm not sure anyone ever took that number too seriously. Among other things, it'll be a while before we have that many soldiers available (we're still tied down in Iraq, remember). And you can't simply dump that many men in the field right away; it's a slow process. Thirty to forty thousand is probably about the most Obama could send right now. So "middle option" would be a nice PR victory for a White House that likes to be seen as pragmatic.

It also seems to represent an internal victory for Robert Gates, perhaps the most interesting member of Obama's cabinet, about whom you can read a lot more in my new cover story.

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