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Who Leaked Against Obama?

2:35 PM, Sep 22, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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A senior administration official points the finger at McChrystal. A Pentagon spokesman says Gates doesn't believe that's true. Spencer Ackerman suspects Admiral Mullen, but is dissuaded by one of his sources. Ben Smith offers a fanatastic scenario in which an Obama loyalist leaked the document "to damage McChrystal's position by inducing White House anger at the general."

(For what it's worth, my money is on someone at CENTCOM -- one of Petraeus's acolytes who took pity on General McChrystal and his bad luck in having a commander in chief without the strength of character to offer clear and unflinching support for his own commanders and troops on the ground. The CIA could also be responsible -- they have motive in spades. And I have zero evidence to support either of those theories, which puts me in pretty good company for this guessing game.)

Regardless of who leaked the document, the effect is the same. The assessment has aggravated the divisions within the administration and between the administration and Congress over how best to proceed in Afghanistan. These divisions have sprung up in the absence of any sustained effort by the president to make his case for why victory in the war in Afghanistan is imperative. Obama has made the case for the stimulus, for health care reform, for engagement with Iran, for a two-state solution in Israel, and for a dozen other priorities, all with varying degrees of success. But this president does not talk about Afghanistan unless prompted to do so by the press. He does not give speeches, or build support, or visit the troops to praise their efforts.

So somebody got fed up with the administration's internal dithering and the president's very public indecision. After nine months in office and nearly a year after his election, the Obama administration says it wants more time to figure out "first principles" for the war in Afghanistan. Sorry, but first principles are for the first day, maybe the first 100 days. We're way beyond that now. Obama has to make a tough decision and soon -- and he can't pass the buck on this one to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid or Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs. The commander in chief can't vote 'present' on matters of war.