Obama also kept asking his generals for more options to consider. They were playing the old trick of giving the president three pseudo-options—two that were clearly unacceptable (in this case, 80,000 more troops for full counterinsurgency and 10,000 troops just to train Afghan soldiers) and the one in the middle that they wanted (40,000 more troops). They never gave him another option. When Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drew up a compromise plan involving 20,000 troops (believing the president had a right to see a wide span of options, even if the military didn’t agree with them), Mullen forbade him from taking it outside the Pentagon. Obama never saw it.
In the end, Woodward reveals, Obama devised his own alternative strategy and personally wrote out its terms in a six-page, single-spaced memo that he made his top civilian and military advisers read and sign on to.
This is classic Obama — if you can’t give him what he wants, he’s just going to sit down and do it himself. I don’t think you can underestimate the guts of this move. Whether his strategy will actually work, well, remains to be seen.