While President Obama Is In A Firing Mood . . .

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 26, 2010

He may want to get Ambassadors Karl Eikenberry and Richard Holbrooke to join Stanley McChrystal in spending more time with their families.

As Thomas Ricks notes, one of the key components of success in Iraq was the ability of General David Petraeus to work well with Ryan Crocker, the then-American Ambassador to Iraq. A successful counterinsurgency operation demands no less; there must be close and seamless coordination between the military and the diplomatic corps in any effort to implement a counterinsurgency strategy. Petraeus and Crocker got along famously with one another, unified the American effort in Iraq, won over skeptical policymakers in Washington, and ultimately helped rescue Iraq from chaos, sectarian violence, and possibly, full-on civil war.

By contrast, Ambassador Eikenberry is . . . well . . . read the following from Ricks:

. . . Unlike Crocker, Eikenberry has no strong base in the State Department and is not steeped in the history and culture of the region. Rather, he is a retired general who in fighting with McChrystal over the past year used many of the same arguments that another American commander, John Abizaid, had used in opposing Petraeus’s approach to Iraq. That is no coincidence — Abizaid and Eikenberry have been close friends since they were West Point roommates in the class of 1973.

Quite frankly, Eikenberry ought to have been able to read the handwriting on the wall by now. President Obama has selected two consecutive generals to prosecute the war in Afghanistan who are steeped in the tactics of counterinsurgency. There can be no more dramatic repudiation of the types of arguments that Eikenberry employed to advocate against the counterinsurgency effort. If Ambassador Eikenberry cannot get on board with the counterinsurgency program–and it appears plain that he cannot–then he ought to submit his resignation to President Obama. If he fails to do so, the President ought to relieve the Ambassador of his responsibilities, and appoint another to take his place. Perhaps Ambassador Crocker would be willing to renew his partnership with General Petraeus, this time in Afghanistan. We could do worse.

And then, there is Ambassador Holbrooke. I am actually a fan of his, and thought that President Obama’s appointment of him to serve as the Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan was a shrewd move. Holbrooke is quite intellectually gifted, and has an unequaled ability to upset the applecart in ways that are beneficial for American diplomacy in the long term. Unfortunately, his work has yield no results, neither in Afghanistan, nor in Pakistan. Bluff, and bluster need to be used at times to advance diplomatic goals, but they cannot be the only arrows in a diplomat’s quiver. Unfortunately, it appears that Ambassador Holbrooke has nothing else to offer but bluff, and bluster. It’s time for him to give way to someone who can make a difference, either voluntarily, or involuntarily.

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