As a longtime observer of U.S. civil-military relations, I noted with interest the ways Defense Secretary Gates and especially Admiral Mike Mullen defended administration Afghanistan policy in Wednesday's hearings. Without raising his voice, Gates calmly answered Republican charges that timelines for U.S. troop reductions would lead to failure as the Taliban just awaited withdrawal. He stressed the conditional nature of the projected transition to Afghan control.
Admiral Mullen gave even stronger support to the President's policy in the face of congressional criticism. As I noted to Jim Fallows, Mullen concluded that the revised approach was "more balanced, more flexible, and more achievable." He also praised the thoroughness of the policy review and the president's willingness to give full voice to military leaders as well as other officials. These comments were helpful in preventing critics from trying to drive a wedge between Obama and the military.