Civil air surrounds Afghan war strategy debate at White House
To hear spokesman Robert Gibbs describe it, President Barack Obama’s White House is a mighty civil place to work.
Even when formulating Afghan war strategy, for instance, the president, his generals and his advisers do not argue. Or apparently even forcefully state their views.
This despite their known differences in position, with Afghan war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal seeking up to 40,000 more troops and Vice President Joe Biden wanting to maintain current troop levels while intensifying attacks on al Qaeda.
The president held one of a series of war strategy sessions Wednesday at the White House.
Asked beforehand whether the different advisers were likely to argue their specific points of view, spokesman Robert Gibbs expressed surprise at the suggestion.
“You know, this may not be good TV, but there really weren’t any arguments in the last three-hour meeting,” he told a briefing. “There was a larger discussion of where we are and what we need to do going forward. So I — I can’t predict who’s going to yell at who…”
“I’m not talking about yelling,” the questioner said, but “forcefully stating.” For example, they way McChrystal did when he spoke publicly in London in favor of troop increases.
Gibbs said he expected “firm analysis” rather than any forceful stating.
And what was Obama’s role at these sessions? Did he sit quietly acting as a sort of judge and jury while the advisers presented their arguments?
“I think you’re thinking of that great movie version of Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Gibbs responded. “But … I don’t quite see the movie setting that you’ve described.”
During the last strategy session, he said, “nobody raised their voice … there was just a sort of calm discussion about where we are.”
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama at a White House event Wednesday)