We do not know whether the president will accept General McChrystal’s proffered resignation as Commanding General. But that uncertainty does not at all detract from the real insights to be gained from this most recent contretemps between the Republic’s Commander-in-Chief and his subordinates in the field. There is a pattern here: Consider, first, the president’s leadership for the past two months, during an environmental crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.
From whence came the leak of two cables from the US Ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, warning against an escalation in Afghanistan? It's not clear, though most of the speculation assumes that Eikenberry himself publicized it to shift the public debate away from how many more troops to send to whether to send more troops at all. Some reporting indicates White House anger [Update: I'm told the item linked at left has been retracted] over the leak, directed at Eikenberry himself. But Marc Ambinder has an intriguing notion: What if the White House leaked the memo? You could see it a few ways.
What to make of the news that the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, is arguing against an increase in troops because of his doubts about Karzai? Eikenberry is presumably in a better position than any other American official to assess Karzai's government. And if you take it as a given that a successful COIN approach depends on a credible Afghan partner, his doubts have to carry a lot of weight. Especially since it seems that McChrystal hasn't given the matter that much thought.
With the Iraq war spinning out of control in mid-2005, retired Marine General James L. Jones spoke with his old friend Peter Pace, the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jones, who is now Barack Obama's national security advisor, had been sounded out for the Joint Chiefs job but demurred. One reason: He felt that civilian leaders in Washington were warping the military planning process. "Military advice is being influenced on a political level," Jones warned Pace, according to Bob Woodward's book State of Denial. Jones's warning squared with other reports at the time that U.S.