Another insider tale of Obama administration decision-making raises an important issue of civil-military relations under the U.S. Constitution -- a subject I feel strongly about. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter says that the president, angry over suspected Pentagon leaks about Afghanistan policy, summoned Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mullen to the oval office to express his anger over the leaks and to demand that they pledge to support his eventual decision. Newsweek reprints the relevant chapter from Alter's book.
While I agree with CNAS's "Abu Muqawama" that Alter seems to have been spun by some White House officials into dramatizing the situation more than the facts required, I also agree that Obama's actions are fully in line with the way U.S. civil-military relations are supposed to work. There has to be genuine dialogue, albeit an unequal one, and the president has a right to ask about military actions that could have strategic consequences.
In my view, the new president and his extraordinarily able Secretary of Defense have done a pretty good job of managing what is a supremely important relationship and what can be a source of enormous problems.