The President thinks that the generals are doing a lousy job. He thinks that policy should be driven from the ground up. That is, why not ask the people who are actually doing the job what they think should be done? He saw that the management driven renovation of 21, his favorite NY restaurant, was a failure because the busboys and the waiters were not consulted. He seems to think that the same might work in Afghanistan.
Setting aside the feelings of the generals, is there merit to his idea? I can't believe I am typing this, but I'm leaning toward a yes.
Ask a school teacher if administrative decrees make a positive difference in their classrooms. It might have made sense to the District Office to place all the non-English speaking kindergarteners in one room, but it left the teacher unable to communicate with a third of her students. Since few of the children had attended pre-school, they were unprepared to sit on their own colored square, to line up quietly, to face front when the teacher was speaking. Without enough English to understand the directions, chaos ensued.
Ask a sales rep if Corporate's changes - made in the middle of the day, in the middle of the month, in the middle of a call, without any warning - are helpful. .
Ask the lunch room ladies if pre-cooked foodstuffs are delivered lukewarm, rendering the veggies soggy and unappetizing. Wonder with them if the small savings in cost outweigh the waste of the inedible.
Ask the cyclists in spin class where the mirrors ought to be before Corporate decides they should be behind you.
True, those at the top can see the bigger picture. True, there is a different skill set needed to create policy than to implement it. True, individual needs often skew judgments. But sometimes those small voices need to be heard.
I'm not certain that every soldier knows the right way to succeed in Afghanistan. In fact, I am certain that success is unobtainable. Even Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world between Macedonia and India, turned his back on the area. If we are not nation building any more, why are we there? Is a military solution the path we should be following? For an administration which has devastated the State Department's budget, which is pulling back from the soft power pieces of diplomacy, this is a true conundrum.
But, perhaps, it might be wise to ask for suggestions from the bottom up. We can't do any worse than we are doing now.