In Not So Secret After All? (March 18), I pondered the spate of leaks on seemingly sensitive military and foreign policy matters. Well, here comes more. In the New York Times of March 28, we have in the lead story a full-blown leak-a-thon:
President Obama’s plan to widen United States involvement in Afghanistan came after an internal debate in which Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. warned against getting into a political and military quagmire, while military advisers argued that the Afghanistan war effort could be imperiled without even more troops.All of the president’s advisers agreed that the primary goal in the region should be narrow — taking aim at Al Qaeda, as opposed to the vast attempt at nation-building the Bush administration had sought in Iraq. The question was how to get there.
The commanders in the field wanted a firmer and long-term commitment of more combat troops beyond the 17,000 that Mr. Obama had already promised to send, and a pledge that billions of dollars would be found to significantly expand the number of Afghan security forces.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pressed for an additional 4,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan — but only to serve as trainers. They tempered the commanders’ request and agreed to put off any decision to order more combat troops to Afghanistan until the end of this year, when the strategy’s progress could be assessed.
During these discussions, Mr. Biden was the voice of caution, reminding the group members that they would have to sell their plans to a skeptical Congress.
This article is based on interviews with half a dozen officials who were involved in the debate. All requested anonymity because they were discussing meetings that involved classified material and the shaping of policy.
Huh? Everyone in the meeting blabbed to these reporters, then claimed they weren’t supposed to be talking? My guess is that the Obama administration wanted to get out the message that the president is encouraging debate—even to the point of revealing who said what. If so, fine. But let’s not mislead readers on the use of the Times for strategic purposes.