The leaking of U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Gen. (ret.) Karl Eikenberry’s opposition to Gen. McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan is the latest development in President Obama’s back-and-forth discussions of the way forward in Afghanistan. And certainly Eikenberry’s concerns about corruption in the Karzai administration are real. So too is the need for security, if development efforts are to have any effect.
Washington-based journalists love reporting on dissension within any administration; leaks are their bread-and-butter. But that doesn’t excuse dereliction of journalistic duties. What journalists frame as a numbers game is, in reality, a debate about how to win in Afghanistan. It is seldom, when journalists discuss a figure, they press the source to explain how that number of troops can bring victory. Perhaps journalists reporting on other plans besides McChrystal’s can start asking “How will this plan lead to U.S. victory?” Presumably, any person objecting to McChrystal’s request, or putting forward their own plan, will have designed their plan to bring victory. So why not hear it? The difference between playing politics and more serious debate lies in the answer to the question, “How to win?” That assumes, of course, that that is our goal in facing the Taliban’s insurgency in Afghanistan.