The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan – By Vali Nasr | Foreign Policy

The Clinton/Holbrooke alliance was not enough to break through a risk averse White House according to Vali Nasr, dean of SAIS and a senior advisor on Afghanistan:

The White House, however, did not want to try anything as audacious as diplomacy. It was an art lost on Americas top decision-makers. They had no experience with it and were daunted by the idea of it.

While running for president, Obama had promised a new chapter in U.S. foreign policy: America would move away from Bushs militarized foreign policy and take engagement seriously. When it came down to brass tacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, Clinton was the lonely voice making the case for diplomacy….

But Clinton shared Holbrookes belief that the purpose of hard power is to facilitate diplomatic breakthroughs. During many meetings I attended with her, she would ask us to make the case for diplomacy and would then quiz us on our assumptions and plan of action. At the end of these drills she would ask us to put it all in writing for the benefit of the White House

Holbrooke and Clinton had a tight partnership. They were friends. Clinton trusted Holbrooke’s judgment and valued his counsel. They conferred often (not just on Afghanistan and Pakistan), and Clinton protected Holbrooke from an obdurate White House.

via The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan – By Vali Nasr | Foreign Policy.


2 thoughts on “The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan – By Vali Nasr | Foreign Policy”

  1. I went to the rest of the article and I thought it was interesting how Clinton protected Holbrooke often. They obviously had similar views and goals in regards to foreign policy, and that can create quite a formidable duo. However, and this is what I find even more interesting, the Secretary of State staff and the White House often clash heads. Even post-election they have problems. (Which isn’t necessarily surprising, just kind of interesting to point out. Later on the article states:
    “Turf battles are a staple of every administration, but the Obama White House has been particularly ravenous. Add to this the campaign hangover: Those in Obama’s inner circle, veterans of his election campaign, were suspicious of Clinton. Even after Clinton proved she was a team player, they remained concerned about her popularity and feared that she could overshadow the president.”
    The election is over and done with, but still we see the effects. In many different ways besides this one.

  2. I found it interesting how the White House allowed politics to impede receiving help from those more knowledgable about the situation. It goes to show how leaders need to open up venues for outside information- this was definitely an example of groupthink. I was intrigued by how it described the White House’s success in Afghanistan was really just success in spinning what was actually happening to the American public.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s