Foreign and Defense Policy

Lesson Learned: Leak Away

Over at Foreign Policy, Peter Feaver speculates about the motives behind today’s leak of the McChrystal recommendations on Afghanistan. I was wondering whether Peter was right that the leak was designed to “force [Obama’s] hand,” or whether it was actually put out to gin up opposition on the left. Of course, we’ll never know for sure. But here’s some interesting context:

Last week, when the president dispatched a team of four senior administration officials to kick the Poles and the Czechs in the teeth on missile defense, the move was totally unexpected. To review the bidding, the president announced that ground-based interceptors (GBIs) for Poland were now off the table, to be replaced, if necessary, at some later time, with SM-3 Block 2B (not yet in existence). Quite a surprise to all—not only to our friends in Europe but also, apparently, those who had done the administration’s review. Indeed, according to reliable rumint, the administration’s missile defense review did not recommend the total cancellation of the GBI program (a program that had originally been approved by Secretary of Defense Gates).

Conclusion: The president didn’t like his team’s recommendations on missile defense, and chose to ashcan the sites in Poland and the Czech Republic despite the team’s recommendations, which never saw the light of day. Lesson learned: If you want the president to do the right thing, don’t let the recommendations remain secret and allow the president to cave into his worst instincts. Leak away.

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