My latest contribution to Foreign Policy magazine’s AfPak Channel is now up. I take a look at some of the growing sensitivities among the Obama Administration’s senior leaders – in the White House, DoD, State.
The Obama Administration’s social media prowess has been a novelty among latter day political media machines. It helped to crowd-source the campaign funding needed to put Barack Obama in the White House, and generated a populist gloss that was, at the time, convincingly fresh and transparent. What was equally admirable was its apparent internal discipline over when information made the transition from government secret to press release. Controlling the flow of data and keeping secrets secret is a challenge under any circumstance. Combine that with a predilection for Facebook and Twitter, and a hyperactive security officer might expect policy waters to muddy more quickly than they would under normal circumstances.
So when U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry’s expressed his “discomfort” last week over a possible troop surge, via diplomatic cable to Washington, it’s no wonder that the message ended up dominating headlines. The New York Times reported “U.S. Envoy Urges Caution on Forces for Afghanistan.” The BBC offered a characteristically staid “U.S. Envoy Opposed to Afghan Surge.” The other Times (of London) headline was less sanguine: “Rift in U.S. War Cabinet as Obama Throws Out All Options in Debate Over Troop Surge.” How exactly the cables ended up fodder for public consumption is anyone’s guess. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, for one, is not amused. “I have been appalled,” he told reporters last week, “by the amount of leaking that has been going on in this process” — an allusion to diplomatic decorum inspired, no doubt, by more than just untimely revelations to the press.