Behind the Surge

How Obama Made Up His Mind

How did the president come to one of the most important decisions of his time in office? “I don’t want to be going to Walter Reed for another eight years,” President Obama told his advisers when explaining his thinking about the toll that an escalated war in Afghanistan might bring. In a detailed retelling of the day-to-day thinking behind the decision to add 30,000 troops to a war half a world away, Peter Baker of The New York Times writes that Obama was troubled by human and financial costs. Leaks caused a "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" reaction from the Pentagon. The president warned: “What I’m not going to tolerate is you talking to the press outside of this room." Obama took to reading a book on Vietnam called Lessons in Disaster. Before every meeting, Vice President Biden sent the president a secret memo. Finally by November 29, Obama announced to his team that he had made up his mind, after hours of meetings and private thought. How did he feel? Said one adviser, "He was totally at peace."