Monday, October 27, 2014

knives are out

Enterprising journalists are finding sources inside the Obama administration who are increasingly willing to criticize White House policies, albeit anonymously. Today, Michael Hirsh in Politico skewers National security Adviser Susan Rice as heading a "Team of Bumblers."  Last week, Joshua Green in Bloomberg Businessweek cited "administration veterans" criticizing Obama's "graduate seminar" style of governance with a headline, "Obama is Too Cool for Crisis Management."  Earlier, Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post chronicled the  "extended presidential dithering" over a policy for Syria and Iraq. And Mark Perry wrote in Politico that only pressure from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, General Martin Dempsey, in a rare one-on-one conversation with the president, forced the administration to get its act together to confront ISIL.

Not a pretty picture. While it's true that most Washington memoirs deserve a subtitle of "They Should have Listened to Me," the flurry of insider gripes reflects frustrations over White House efforts to control all aspects of foreign policy. That's normal on both sides: the White House wants consistency in policy and messaging; the rest of the government resents tight control without adequate consultation.

I am troubled by the insularity and defensiveness of the administration's defenders. They should have gotten their act together sooner on ISIL, and they certainly shouldn't have sent "arms and train" legislation relating to Syrian opposition forces without first advising the Pentagon.

On the other hand, they are trying to fashion a policy while juggling several inconsistent goals -- a fact of life, not mismanagement. I think the president is right to move very cautiously about military actions in Iraq and Syria, since many of the enemies of our enemies are also hostile to American interests.

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