Eliot Cohen Lays Into Obama at COIN Conferencce

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 9:21 am

At a conference on leadership in counterinsurgency at the National Press Club sponsored by Marine Corps University, Eliot Cohen, the respected Johns Hopkins scholar who advised Condoleezza Rice at the tail end of the Bush administration, slowly and steadily built up a critique of the Obama administration on Afghanistan. Obama’s apparent reconsideration of counterinsurgency strategy for the war hangs over the conference, and Cohen brought it to the fore.

First he criticized Obama’s “apparent” decision not to continue personal video teleconferencing with the Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan and Gen. Raymond Odierno in Iraq, an arrangement Cohen said served President George W. Bush during the surge. Then he said Obama’s decision to create “special envoys” for a variety of tasks left a bad taste in his mouth, since it wasn’t clear to whom they report — “the president, the secretary of state” — and what institutional bureaucratic support they actually command. Then came the crescendo.

Obliquely referencing the leaked McChrystal review as the “events of this week,” Cohen said bringing disputes about “strategy” into the public had “real impact” — deleterious impact — for events “on the ground,” since friends, enemies and undecideds “all watch CNN.” And now, Cohen intimated but did not say directly, they’d question Obama’s “commitment” to Afghanistan.

Cohen’s comment could be interpreted as criticizing the leaker, since it wasn’t the Obama administration that handed McChrystal’s review to Bob Woodward. But his emphasis on public “strategy” disputes appeared to be aimed at Obama, who told “Meet The Press” that he wouldn’t add troops until he’s convinced his Afghanistan strategy is correct, a comment that’s led to much speculation about whether Obama has counterinsurgency “buyer’s remorse.”

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Comments

19 Comments

Wonk Room » ‘Assume Competent Afghan Governance…’
Pingback posted September 23, 2009 @ 2:20 pm

[...] also why, contra Eliot Cohen, it’s good to see that there’s still a healthy debate going on in the Obama administration. [...]


LosGatosCA
Comment posted September 23, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

Well, let's add it up. Cohen was the neocon chickenhawk defender who later voiced regrets before sucking it up and working for the largely ineffectual BushRice state department.

Add in it's eight years into a 10-12 month operation that should have ended with bin ladin's death or capture and it's easy to see how Obama should really take this crticism to heart.

After all what group has done more for America's security than the neocons?


Petraeus at the Press Club | GSA Schedule Services
Pingback posted September 23, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

[...] Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia — and this one at the National Press Club is no exception. Petraeus’ remarks in Washington come, of course, at an extremely delicate moment: after the [...]


Eliot Cohen regrets that the we discusses matters best left to our betters « Fabius Maximus
Pingback posted September 25, 2009 @ 8:01 am

[...] spencer ackerman — Fabius Maximus @ 12:00 pm A precious and revealing comment reported by Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent, 23 September 2009  (assuming that Ackerman reports this correctly): At a conference on leadership in [...]


clipper
Comment posted September 26, 2009 @ 11:33 pm

Eliot Cohen has been consistently wrong his whole career. There is no reason for us to expect him to start being right.


paulnitze
Comment posted September 29, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

Eliot Cohen is shameless. As the previous comment already notes, he has consistently been wrong with regard to every major foreign policy issue he's had the nerve to comment on over the last 8 years. I would also question his capacity as a scholar and his general adherence to intellectual rigor. You might ask what gives me the right to make such a statement…as a graduate of Johns Hopkins SAIS, I spent time in the man's office. He's a chicken hawk through and through. I would also add that I am Jewish, and a strong believer in Israel's right to defend itself against genuine strategic threats. And I also appreciate the vital role the US has played in guaranteeing Israel's security. That said, I think Professor Cohen unfortunately has a difficult time distinguishing between Israel's interests and those of the United States. It embarrasses me to say that, because it's a view shared by a lot of folks who are genuine anti-semites (NOT to be confused with critics of Israel; yes, I realize there is a difference, thank you). Of course, what's particularly ironic is that the US and Israeli policy of the last 8 years have put Israel at greater strategic risk than perhaps since 1973. Not ot mention all of the blood that's been spilled, be it Israeli or Palestinian….this was meant to be a ciriticism of Cohen, but the mere mention of the man's name makes my blood boil.


The American Conservative » The Rookie vs. The General
Pingback posted February 6, 2010 @ 2:07 am

[...] cast. A day later, neoconservative Iraq War booster Eliot Cohen used a counterinsurgency conference to criticize Obama for not engaging in daily teleconferencing with his generals. Meanwhile, other senators like Mitch [...]


The American Conservative » The Rookie vs. The General
Pingback posted February 6, 2010 @ 2:07 am

[...] cast. A day later, neoconservative Iraq War booster Eliot Cohen used a counterinsurgency conference to criticize Obama for not engaging in daily teleconferencing with his generals. Meanwhile, other senators like Mitch [...]


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