Agreeing on Afghanistan

Why the Obama Administration Chose Consensus This Time

Courtesy Reuters

President Obama is putting the finishing touches on his strategic review of the Afghanistan war, the third of his presidency. The focus is the pace of U.S. force withdrawals rather than a top-to-bottom reassessment of war strategy. The results will be announced Wednesday evening. But as important as those results will be, perhaps more important is the process of getting there.

U.S. presidents running national security strategy reviews have two basic models to choose from: the adversarial model and the consensus model. Whereas the Obama administration's earlier policy reviews were conducted through an adversarial model, the past few weeks have seen a process more focused on consensus -- which is a fitting approach for this stage of his presidency.

Under the adversarial model, the president's principals -- the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the national security adviser, and others -- develop specific policy options. The most

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