President Obama would be wise to make a detour after his trip to Denmark to meet with General McChrystal in Germany. There is no value for a sitting president to travel to Europe to sell the Olympics for Chicago. But Mr. Obama can make a trip with no value and purpose, purposeful by adding to his schedule. He can use this opportunity for a meaningful meeting with General McChrystal on Afghanistan.
There is no substitute for a face to face meeting with key personnel regarding decisions of consequence. The president is being called upon to make a very heady decision that will define and or redefine the war in Afghanistan and our commitment to it. Whatever decision he makes will be seen as a major milestone of his presidency and test of his ability to lead. It makes good sense for the president to have a man-to-man talk with the general he chose to lead this effort.
We know that, as of Thursday, General McChrystal is already in Europe. It is reported that he was to meet with the Prime Minister of Britain, in addition to the Secretary General of NATO and other high ranking officials. This would be the perfect opportunity for the president to also meet with the leader of our Afghan effort.
It would not be wise for the president to meet with McChyrstal in Afghanistan since such a meeting at a time of electoral challenges there would be dicey at best. Also, the president would most certainly need to meet with President Karzai, a meeting that, at this point, he would surely like to avoid.
If President Obama misses this opportunity to meet with General McChrystal on his visit to Europe, it would be a huge mistake. He would have squandered his time on a ceremonial visit that serves no purpose -- not even offering a decent photo-op.
If, on the other hand, he seizes the day and takes the time to at least meet General McChrystal and get the benefit of his knowledge before deciding on his next steps, very few could argue, that was not a proper use of his time.
Bradley A. Blakeman served as Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04.