June 28th, 2011
07:30 PM ET

Letters to the President: #890 'The unexpected'

Reporter's Note: President Obama is being updated on the latest attack in Kabul. Meanwhile, I’m sending my latest letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

This is not the first day that I was so busy I was not sure I could write to you, but it certainly has been a barn burner. Seems like the moment I arrived things started cranking, and it’s been steadily uphill since.

And this attack on the hotel in Afghanistan has certainly added to the sense of urgency. I suppose it has done the same at your office. Here it was just days ago that your team was talking about movement toward talks with the Taliban, and now this.

Related: Bombers attack luxury hotel in Kabul

Some of your critics will undoubtedly leap onto your back like wild squirrels to call the attack evidence of your naïveté. They will suggest you were foolish to imagine that the Taliban could ever be trusted. After all, this is a brazen hit on a major hotel in the capital city of the country!

Maybe they are right. Maybe they are wrong. For my part, I simply take it as confirmation of one of the immutable laws of the universe: Just when you think you understand how things are, remember…you don’t.

Circumstances change, people change, moods change, and all of that can turn the best laid plans upside down. A deal that everyone thinks is equitable at sundown, might suddenly strike one side as inherently unfair when reconsidered in the morning light. Small factions that are willing to be bullied by their larger comrades one day, may suddenly take a stand the next.

The point is, I think, especially when dealing with radical groups like the Taliban, a wise leader constantly expects the unexpected - that is, after all, the stock in trade for groups that specialize in terror or guerilla warfare. And that same leader must be very careful about suggesting progress is being made with such a group, unless it is progress he knows we can count on.

Anyway, good luck with it all. Call if you can, but I may not be able to answer; have to get back to work.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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