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September 22, 2009

McChrystal: Finally A Leader With Guts, Integrity

You have to love the fulminating hypocrisy of the Left. When Bush was in office anonymous leakers were brave patriots, proudly Leaking Truth to Power. I didn't approve of leaks or the leaky leakers who leak them to the media then.

I certainly don't approve of leakers now, even though I detest the [lack of] leadership and direction the Obama administration has brought to this war. But the fact is, McChrystal's report is out there now and those who once wanted the unvarnished truth about war even if it was obtained illegally now want to shield the President of the United States from the pressures of a job he asked for. When even your own side can't stomach your blatant doublespeak, perhaps it's time to speak truth to power:

I'm lost on President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy—along with most of Congress and the U.S. military. Not quite eight months ago, Mr. Obama pledged to "defeat" al Qaeda in Afghanistan by transforming that country's political and economic infrastructure, training Afghan forces and adding 21,000 U.S. forces for starters. He proclaimed Afghanistan's strategic centrality to prevent Muslim extremism from taking over Pakistan—an even more vital nation because of its nuclear weapons. And a mere three weeks ago, he punctuated his commitments by proclaiming that Afghanistan is a "war of necessity," not one of choice. White House spokesmen reinforced this by promising that the president would "fully resource" the war.

Yet less than one week ago, Mr. Obama said the following about troop increases: "I'm going to take a very deliberate process in making those decisions. There is no immediate decision pending on resources, because one of the things that I'm absolutely clear about is you have to get the strategy right and then make a determination about resources." He repeated that on Sunday's talk shows.

Are we now to understand that he made all those previous declarations and decisions without a strategy he was committed to? Prior to his recent statements, it seemed clear that the president and his advisers had adopted a strategy already—the counterinsurgency one—and that Gen. Stanley McChrystal was tapped precisely because he would implement that plan. The idea, to repeat, was to deploy forces sufficient to clear territory of Taliban threats, hold that territory, and build up the sinews of the country behind that.

Nothing significant has changed to account for the shift from Mr. Obama's confident policy proclamations to his temporizing statements of recent days. The president certainly understood before last week that the situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating. And he knew when he was inaugurated and when he first uttered his colorful "war of necessity" phrase that his party, and the public generally, were increasingly opposed to the war.

Americans are now confused and caught somewhere between remembering the president's insistence on Afghanistan's importance to U.S. security and rapidly rising pressure from his party to bring the troops home.

Finally we have a commanding general who is willing to put his money where his mouth is. For the past 8 years we heard nothing but, "Why won't the White House listen to the Generals!"

"We need more boots on the ground!"

"Why hasn't the President 'sold' the war to the American people?"

"Iraq is just a distraction - the real fight is in Afghanistan!"

When juxtaposed with this administration's dereliction of duty with regard to the Afghan war, the irony of these Lefty mantras is palpable. Today's news just underscores the wisdom of that old adage, "Be careful what you wish for." The Oval Office is occupied by a man who campaigned on the promise that he would withdraw troops from Iraq and send them to win the real war - the good war - a war American can't afford to lose. Earlier this spring when Obama released his so-called plan for Afghanistan, military leadership told him they needed more troops to accomplish the mission.

No amount of retroactive rewriting of history changes the fact that the military didn't get what they needed. In March of 2009, it was widely reported that more troops were needed to "adequately resource" the fight:

In military terms the additional troops designated for Afghanistan this year are "more a down-payment than the final plan," says Biddle.

Campbell and Biddle both note that, even with the 21,000 troops Obama has promised, Gen. David McKiernan, who heads NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, will not have the manpower to defeat a raging insurgency. Until he can get more reinforcements from Iraq, McKiernan will have to adopt an "inkblot" strategy, defending small portions of the country and hoping the security blanket spreads to neighboring areas.

McKiernan is "very likely to apply classical counterinsurgency techniques that we saw in Iraq in 2007 — defend the population, deploy in small, dispersed positions, use minimal firepower," says Biddle. But even a cautious military posture will "unquestionably lead to higher casualty rates."

The historical revisionism among Obama supporters is not just unintentionally funny. It's downright contemptible. Their candidate - Barack Obama - campaigned on the promise that he would fully resource the Afghan war and deliver increased multinational support to the fight. Eight months later, none of that much ballyhoo'd international support has materialized. Britain and Canada - two of our strongest allies - have been alienated and marginalized by this administration. He has fired one general for being naive enough to believe he was expected to actually carry out the Obama administration's 'multilateral strategy'.

So much for soft power and honeyed diplo-speak. They've gotten us exactly nothing. But even this increasingly disenchanted Marine wife was unprepared for the disgusting gutter tactics of the anti-war Left. Just as they basely attacked David Petraeus when he tried to do the job he was hired to do, now they've turned on Stanley McChrystal.

Let's get one thing straight here: General McChrystal has said NOTHING about resigning. But based on nothing more than a leak, Democrats are piling on in their unseemly haste to assassinate the character of an Army General who has the thankless task of carrying out a strategy everyone knows he lacks the resources to implement. It is McChrystal's job to tell Congress and the President what is needed to implement the strategy he's been handed.

Back in March, Obama had already been told Afghanistan needed thousands more troops. His administration's response was to tell the men and women who are putting their lives on the line, "Talk to the hand." McChrystal is in a no-win position here. If he caves to Obama's bullying, he betrays tens of thousands of young men and women who are counting on him to tell the truth.

And if he tells the truth, he's accused of "blackmailing the President".

Andrew Sullivan: "He shouldn't push his luck".

He should be fired.

You have idiots wanting to apply "economic analysis" to the preservation of American lives.

This one's priceless: McChrystal is playing "management games".

These people need to take a good, long look into the empty place they call their souls. When the endless parade of retired Generals gutless wonders who were "too scared" of Darth Rumsfeld to do their duty came swarming out of a cozy retirement to say they'd known all along we needed more boots on the ground in Iraq (but they hadn't spoken up), the Left embraced them with open arms.

Where is that laudable concern now that it's Obama whose clueless and unprincipled leadership is being exposed by a brave, truth-to-powering General? Those whose scruples conveniently went AWOL until they retired - who risked precisely nothing when it mattered most - were greeted as heroes once they finally managed to locate their principles. A General who is bravely speaking up when it still matters?

He's a blackmailer. And the brave leakers who were so celebrated during the Bush years are now traitors.

Today my husband leaves to join a war his Commander in Chief still hasn't decided is worth fighting. If Obama had half the integrity Stanley McChrystal has in his little finger, he'd man up and give the troops what they need or admit he has absolutely no intention of winning this war.

It's called leadership, Mr. President. Eight months into your Presidency, we're still waiting for you to show up.

Posted by Cassandra at September 22, 2009 11:33 AM

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Comments

"Americans are now confused"
I would venture that only those Americans who voted for The Won in the first place are the ones who are in a state of confusion.

Having made that bold statement, let me say, off the record, that I really can't accept any factual information on my supposition at this time. However, I may be in a position to accept a report on it in a month or two... Maybe...

Vaya con Dios is my wish for your Unit.

Posted by: bthun at September 22, 2009 03:21 PM

Are we now to understand that he made all those previous declarations and decisions without a strategy he was committed to?

Yes.

Posted by: BillT at September 22, 2009 04:08 PM

I wouldn't mind the suggestion that we apply "economic analysis" to the request, if they actually offered any. If they've got an analysis that shows a path to victory without more military resources, they might trot it out.

Or, alternatively, if they want to say, "Let Afghanistan go; we need the money more so we can afford our new health plan for all Americans plus all our newly-legalized illegals," they can say that too.

Posted by: Grim at September 22, 2009 04:58 PM

The fact is, they can and will say anything they want. It was NEVER about Afghanistan. It was always about fashioning a sharp too against George Bush and then John McCain.
It was about people with no real notion of what our commitments mean to other people around the world. It will be the consequence of newer, better, more thoughtful foreign policy.

Horseshit. Now is the time to let the Afghans that supported us hang out to dry, and twist in the wind.

When the going gets tough, the Progressives get going, with a lot of faulty rationalizations to cover up for the abysmall cowardice.
***************************
Now that I've cleared the bile out of me, let me say something meaningful.

Godspeed to the Colonel.....

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 22, 2009 06:20 PM

Tough choices, here. Hard terms. But I can't comprehend how an unending comittment of military forces in Afghanistan will turn the hearts and minds of a people that have so clearly and resolutely proved themselves incapable of understanding personal freedom. Why so much western blood has been spilled in pursuit of this particularly western dream of democracy and human rights in Afghanistan is beyond me. There is no no race of people now better armed than that living in the Afghan hills and dales. Should the locals choose to thwart a coup by the Taliban, they are in far better position to decapitate the movement's regional elders than any U.S. armored division.

Let them go, I say. Let the Afghans form the theocracy, democracy, autocracy, idiocracy, that best suits them. The West cannot alone improve the political lot of an isolated and ignorant population so long as it also refuses to extend its power to replace, by force if necessary, those despots that would refuse to educate their subjects as to the choices that we in the West take for ganted. Personally, I do not think the game in Afghanistan is worth the cost of the candle, and prefer that we concentrate on containing the evil forces withing that natiopn by use of off-shore and predator-drone technologies. Until the Afghan people figure it out for themselves that the Taliban must be destroyed, then the rest of our world must make sure that the disease remain quarantined, regardless. That's a damned hard calculus to justify for the victors, but a damned sight more personal result for the victims.

Posted by: spd rdr at September 22, 2009 07:01 PM

I'm curious what the problem with understanding McChrystal as a manager is. He's a human being, and he does what all human beings who manage large organizations do. We should understand him in that light. To understand him as acting within the incentives our system gives him is no insult.

These incentives were not a factor in Eric Shinseki's comments that we needed more troops in Iraq. He wasn't in charge of managing the project which he said would require more resources. So it's more reasonable to take Shinseki's claim that we'd need more boots on the ground in Iraq as an objective view of the situation, and less reasonable to regard McChrystal's Afghanistan claim in the same way.

Also -- retired generals are "gutless wonders"? These people have served our country well. Even if you disagree with them, I don't think that's the right way to describe them.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf at September 23, 2009 02:42 AM

Why doesn't McChrystal resign NOW. Same applies to EVERYONE in the military. Every single soldier in the military NEEDS to resign. These soldiers need to say NO to giving citizens the poison [soul condemning] swine flu shots and say NO to the NWO fags.

If people would just seriously WAKE THE HELL UP NOW, the NWO can be DEFEATED. There is STRENGTH in numbers.

Posted by: ace at September 23, 2009 07:55 AM

Also -- retired generals are "gutless wonders"? These people have served our country well.

Cassie was referring to those who suddenly appeared as "military experts" to pontificate on the aetherwaves concerning the *quagmire* in Iraq -- it's hardly a testimony to their courage that they waited until their first retirement check cleared before they became vocal about the need for an increase in the number of shooters on the ground.

And, while I have served under (and known) several flag-rankers who served their country well, I've also served under (and known) an equal number whose entire military career was devoted solely toward advancing to the next higher rank.

Posted by: BillT at September 23, 2009 08:03 AM

I'm curious what the problem with understanding McChrystal as a manager is.

You need to read the linked piece more carefully.

The thesis put forward was that McChrystal was asking for more troops - EVEN THOUGH HE DOESN'T NEED THEM TO COMPLETE THE MISSION - because that's what managers DO. That is not only insulting but factually inaccurate.

Afghanistan is a far larger country than Iraq. It has worse roads and is full of mountainous, remote regions. Counterinsurgency doctrine (the heart of Obama's so-called strategy) is resource intensive. You can't do it on the cheap.

There are a lot of folks who are have no ethical issues with making colossally stupid and uninformed statements that fail to even consider the match between the mission as set forth by Obama himself and the resources needed to accomplish that mission.

When we Surged in Iraq liberals predicted that American casualties would soar.

They were wrong. They declined, despite the fact that US troops were far more exposed than they had been before. The difference was that we had the right number of people - we weren't spread so thinly that today's gains were reversed the next day.

And if we are to take some of these generals - the ones who only came forward when it was too late, not all retired generals - at their own word, they manifestly did NOT serve their country well. General grade officers have responsibilities that go along with the privileges of rank. Perhaps the most important responsibility a general officer has is honesty and candor. If he believes a mission cannot be completed with 50000 troops he has an ABSOLUTE DUTY to say so.

To take these men at their OWN word, they did not do so. That is inexcusable, as it means you are willing to send young men and women to die in a mission that has no chance of success. If you think it's "ethical" to mislead civilian leadership, you need to revisit your idea of what ethics is.

As a general, your military retirement is already secure. The only risk that goes with telling the truth is that you may be forced to retire sooner than you wanted and you will have to give up the prestige and deference associated with your rank.

Which begs the question: if they really thought we were dangerously under resourced, why didn't they do the right thing?

Posted by: Cassandra at September 23, 2009 08:09 AM

Should the locals choose to thwart a coup by the Taliban, they are in far better position to decapitate the movement's regional elders than any U.S. armored division.

If they were united, properly-trained, properly-led, and properly-armed, they sure could.

But they're *none* of that -- which is why we're there, and what we're trying to do...

Posted by: BillT at September 23, 2009 08:13 AM

If they've got an analysis that shows a path to victory without more military resources, they might trot it out. Or, alternatively, if they want to say, "Let Afghanistan go; we need the money more so we can afford our new health plan for all Americans plus all our newly-legalized illegals," they can say that too.

The Democrats won't say that because they know it would hurt their chances of being re-elected, Grim.

This is no different than the NSA wiretapping brouhaha, where the Dems grandstanded about civil liberties and illegality and yet refused to take the very simple step that would have brought the program to a screeching halt.

Defunding it.

Notice that it's still going on :p And Gitmo is still open. And only 7% of the inmates have been transferred. And no one seriously believes the administration has a snowball's chance in hell of making its own January deadline for closing the place down!

Do you hear Democrats or the media grandstanding about ANY of these things? Nope. Not a word, because in every way that counts, Obama has continued the policies of the Bush years.

The thing is, people are beginning to see that they never meant any of that blather. They are like children who demand to be kept safe but don't want to know exactly what is required to protect them.

And that's how Obama is running this war: he wants credit for trying to protect our national security interests but reserves the right to denigrate his predecessor's methods even as he uses them himself (ineffectually, I might add). If we're going to effect a compromise between our so-called "highest ideals" and our security (harking back to Obama's idiotic inauguration speech), it might be nice to actually keep America secure while we're doing it.

The thing is, they want the benefits without paying the price. But then that seems to be the modus operandi of this administration: someone else always pays the bill.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 23, 2009 08:21 AM

The Democrats won't say that because they know it would hurt their chances of being re-elected, Grim.

Yeah, what annoyed me about the pieces you linked was that refusal to discuss it. 'Hey, there's a lot going on right now; McChrystal should have to justify his budget same as Health and Human Services. We need an economic analysis.'

Well, OK: let's see one. 'If we choose to lose the war, we can afford....' is fine. What's not fine is coming to a "fish or cut bait" moment -- as McQ at BlackFive put it -- and demanding that we fish, without the bait.

Posted by: Grim at September 23, 2009 08:32 AM

What's not fine is coming to a "fish or cut bait" moment -- as McQ at BlackFive put it -- and demanding that we fish, without the bait.

Agreed. That's precisely what I've been saying about Afghanistan. If this is truly a war of necessity - one America can't afford to lose - then put your head down and fight to win.

But if that's all just cynical pandering, then you're asking American men and women to risk death, disfigurement or dismemberment in a cause even you don't believe in. That is inexcusable.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 23, 2009 09:13 AM

- then put your head down and fight to win.

Which is what we did in Vietnam -- meaning "we who were there."

...asking American men and women to risk death, disfigurement or dismemberment in a cause even you don't believe in...is inexcusable.

Which is why there were no tears shed among us for the shade of Robert Strange McNamara. It wasn't that we resented being sent to fight, but that he *believed* we couldn't win it and sent us anyway.

And when I left, we *were* winning it...

Posted by: BillT at September 23, 2009 10:49 AM

when I left, we *were* winning it...

BLASPHEMER!!! The Tet Offensive was a huge defeat for the forces of evi... ummm... Amerikkka!

Besides, what do you know? You are just a pathetic dupe of the military industrial complex.

Posted by: Walter Crankite at September 23, 2009 11:26 AM

Walter,

Shaddddap!

Go haint the wind generators in the bay or something.

Posted by: Dan Blather at September 23, 2009 03:11 PM

Geez, Walter, yer still carrying a grudge for that time we CS'ed ya at My Tho?

Not our fault the wind shifted away from the bunkerline...

Posted by: BillT at September 23, 2009 03:29 PM

Victory, Bill, is, and has always been, a sunny approximation of the bitter calculus born by grieving mothers.

Win it. Or be won by it.

Posted by: spd rdr at September 23, 2009 04:12 PM

The first thing any mother of sons learns is that she did not give birth to malleable puppets with strings, but human beings with minds and wills of their own.

We raise our children, but that does not give any parent the right to choose for them. Given that no one (at least of whom I am aware) joins the United States armed forces under duress, I am not sure in what way a mother's tears can or should outweigh freely given commitments made by adult sons.

And in any event, the day female tears are taken seriously will mark a first in human history. They simply do not signify, and never have.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 23, 2009 05:01 PM

Ok.

Posted by: spd rdr at September 23, 2009 05:41 PM

I meant to say "I'm ok with that."

Posted by: spd rdr at September 23, 2009 05:43 PM

it is my conjecture that the manly part of teh won ended up as a stain on the sheets of his mothers bed.

He is immoral and unprincipaled. He has no goal except greater glory for teh won. It shames me to say I still serve know that he is my CinC, but I hold out hope that someone with a large pointy toed boot will give him a good swift kick so his anal orifice appears to be his collar.

Spartan Wives and Spartan Mothers supposedly said "With your shield or upon it." Teh won needs to understand that he is treading dangerously close to civil insurrection from many quarters, and that the axiom "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" can make strange bedfellows. I wish him no physical harm, but his actions are pushing many otherwise normally docile and sane people to their limits.

When government becomes too strong, it is up to the people to correct the problem. It appears as though if we stay on our present course, the rocks and shoals are in our path; our Captain has morons for his crew, and he is going to take us all down. His ego and narcisissm are more than we need.

PS - I too will pray for fair wind and following seas - or the Marine equivalent - for your Unit Cassandra. You have many people who are with you.

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at September 23, 2009 05:47 PM

War is a hard thing.

I've known a few men (personally) who were really at war, not just in uniform serving during a war (which was patriotic and valuable, not withstanding). A man I used to work with did four combat tours as a Marine in Viet Nam, and was lucky to come home in one piece. He had friends who didn't, or destroyed themselves when they couldn't adapt back to peacetime life.

There is nothing glorious or heroic about war. It is license to kill your fellow man. Commit murder, sometimes on a scale that beggars the imagination. In WWII, whole cities were incinerated; men, women and children. That was the 20th century face of total war. No sane man would eagerly embrace that. Yet it was a hideous necessity to resist and defeat the cruelty and evil behind the face of our enemies at the time. The alternative to not fighting was too terrible to contemplate.

But unless a people or tribe or nation are willing to live as subjects or slaves, or frankly be exterminated, fighting and war are a consequence of the failure of men to govern themselves, and solve problems and conflicts justly and fairly. And war has been the consequence since the dawn of history.

You can parse any war or armed struggle any way you wish, but it is cruelty and murder, plain and simple. That's what W.T. Sherman said, and I think he was an honest man.

War itself is not glorious or noble, but there are CAUSES for which it is worth fighting a war. And the men who bear the burden of this horror and do so willingly on our behalf deserve a lot more than just "thanks", a museum and a parade once or twice a year.

I don't know how much Afghanistan is worth to us, Americans. There was, I think, a clear reason to go there in 2001, and wage war. There was a clear reason to try and rebuild the country afterward, and continue the fight against the Taliban. I think there is a clear reason to repel the Taliban and their allies today, but now the reasoning begins to get dim, because many of us are having second thoughts about a lot of things.

We are a free people, and are allowed to have "second thoughts". "Second thoughts" and rethinking our policy is not a sign of cowardice, or "un-American". Brave men, quick and dead, have paid the price for us to have the freedom to re-think what we should do as a country.

But we should not allow the presently serving brave men and women, who volunteered to serve this country, "to place themselves between their homes, and the war's desolation", to fight for a cause which so many seem to doubt or believe in half-heartedly, as BillT remembers Viet Nam and Robert McNamara. The elected leadership should prosecute any war to WIN, as whatever WINNING is, defined as a national goal.

What we seek now is clarity. What we have lacked for years has been clarity and honesty. The Bush Administration made several key mistakes in Iraq, but President Bush never wavered in his belief in the ultimate value of victory in Iraq.

That was clarity.

Many hated him for this. Barack Obama intimates that he liked GWB, but thought him unhinged in his belief in the war in Iraq.
Maybe.
Maybe not.

Now, after Candidate Obama told us he would fight this "necessary" war in Afghanistan, President Obama seems in doubt, after about 8 months of "war". What is the cause? The bloodshed, the loss of life, the financial cost, the doubts of his political allies?
Nothing has changed in the war, the nature of war, or the fundamental situation in Afghanistan, except the passage of time as Barack Obama as President, and the weight of the responsibility of the war on him.

The question of the day is whether we will persevere in Afghanistan. But the larger, more troubling question is, what does our President think IS worth struggling and standing up for?

A withdrawal from Afghanistan can be rationalized and explained in a logical fashion, but there will be consequences. If the Taliban and Al Qaeda are still intact after this, and we withdraw with them still holding some part of the battlefield, then this so-called "Long War" with Salafist Islam will not be over, and we can expect more of the same in the years to come.

We either persuade them that an armed struggle with the United States is a bad idea, we kill them trying to resist, or we leave them to resume their struggle as they began it years ago. There is a fight here, a war, and we have to decide if we are going to wage it. "Nation building" may be one tool to help us reach a strategic goal, but in and of itself it cannot "win the war".

"A thousand years for revenge" is an epithet from the tribes of Waziristan. What is the slogan within the Obama White House for this "necessary" war? What is the core belief within the Obama Administration regarding this once called "necessary war"?

Mr. President, time to man up and make a decision.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 23, 2009 08:44 PM

There may be little good in total war, Don, but this is not that. What we did in Iraq really was noble and glorious: we freed a people from tyranny, and then helped them resist the new tyrants who wanted to wrest that freedom from their grasp. You saw bad things, especially in the acts of our enemies, but also sometimes when our own let down the cause. Yet these were not the main thing.

We built schools, roads, bridges, in defiance of the wicked. We put an end to the use of rape as state policy. We are seeing the reconciliation of old wounds, and tribes and sects beginning to come together after years of being played against each other. We're seeing pilgrims marching in millions on roads long closed by fear and by tyrants. We're seeing children, small yet, who will never have known the fear that their parents took with their mother's milk.

Afghanistan has the chance to look like that too. It would need a lot of time, and a lot of cash -- all of this is expensive. There will be hard and ugly moments as well. But it can be a good thing, in and of itself. It has the chance to be a very noble cause, worthy of the courage and sacrifice that our soldiers and Marines pour into it.

If it cannot be that -- if the politicians will only waste their sacrifice -- then let us end it. Yet there is a chance it can be the kind of good thing that a man would be proud to say he helped to do, and the kind of fight he would be proud to say he helped to fight.

Posted by: Grim at September 23, 2009 09:20 PM

Grim
I recently (this year) read Bing West's book "No True Glory", about the fighting in Fallujah, to rid the city of the Jihadi factions.
The fighting in this war in Iraq has not been "total war", as in WWII, but I'm sure to the Marines and GI's on the ground in Fallujah it was a reasonable facsimile.
And per Mr. West's title, the only glory that will ever be bestowed on the brave veterans of OIF will come when more Americans recognize the difficulty of that struggle and how hard our guys labored to achieve the limited victory we were allowed to have.

I hope that Iraq turns out well. We have spent a lot of blood and treasure there. The Iraqis have spent a lot more blood there. I know that your were there,too.
I think the Iraqi people deserved better than Saddam, or people like him. A friend of mine grew up in Saddam's Iraq, and I have pretty fair idea of just how bad it was. I would never denigrate the effort to liberate Iraq from Saddam's tyranny and try to help build a better place there.

I don't really think, though, at this time, that Afghanistan can be like Iraq, in the broad sense. It is too poor, too tribal, too different. But something of value can be formed out of that clay that will give those people a chance to build a better future.
My clearest notion of the consequences of our leaving is a film clip from the heyday of the Taliban, in the 1990's. I saw a Taliban guy blowing off the head of a woman in a complete burqua (no face, anonymous) with his AK-47, because of some idiotic transgression of harsh Islamic law.

Choices, yeah, we got choices to make.

I guess my point is that no matter who or what the cause is about, war is unbearably cruel and harsh. I think Mr. Obama shies away from it because of the nature of his character; as I think most sane people would shy away from war. It is hideous, up close and personal.

His talk of the necessary war in Afghanistan was just that; talk. His job is to dispassionately decide what is in the best long term intersts of the United States. I dont't know how those two disparate ideas connect right now.

Perhaps we will all survive this fearfulness and sensitivity, but this country that "ain't gonna make war no more", and seems bent on beating all our swords into plowshares, may be in dire peril from those folks without that learned sensitivity.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 23, 2009 10:20 PM

I haven't read any books about Fallujah, but I've known a few men who fought there. No doubt it was tough fighting. They ought to be allowed to tell the story their way, and I hate to speak for them. I never met one, though, who told me it wasn't worth doing.

Of course, the ones I met are the ones who came back for more. That's a self-selecting group; though, so are Marines.

Posted by: Grim at September 23, 2009 11:04 PM

I saw a Taliban guy blowing off the head of a woman in a complete burqua (no face, anonymous) with his AK-47, because of some idiotic transgression of harsh Islamic law.

She was a widow. Her transgression was going to market to buy food for her children without being escorted by -- her husband.

Posted by: BillT at September 24, 2009 01:45 AM

You need to read the linked piece more carefully.

Maybe I should! But then again, I'm the one who wrote it :)

I think you're right that a successful counterinsurgency that fully destroys the Taliban will require more troops and more money. The debate within the Democratic Party right now is whether that goal is actually worth that blood and treasure.

Here's the other option: do a scaled-down mission that protects key areas and prevents the Taliban from ever ruling Afghanistan as they did in the Mullah Omar days, but doesn't totally root them out. This second way has its drawbacks -- the Taliban will still commit horrific human rights abuses in remote areas -- but it saves us money that we could use to save even more lives. For example, I'd bet that spending on preventing infectious disease in the Third World and other global public health initatives would save a lot more lives per dollar than running a military operation against the Taliban. The Afghan War is slated to cost $65 billion in 2010. That buys you a whole bunch of food, antibiotics, mosquito nets, and condoms.

Whatever you think about the tradeoffs here, it's important to note that the nature of McChrystal's position prevents him from making the tradeoffs in any reasonable way. As the guy in charge of the war, he isn't going to say 'Let's do half the work for a quarter of the price, and spend the money somewhere better'. As I say in the post, we lack any efficiency metrics here, so he's not going to be graded on efficient resource use. He's going to try to do the maximum job, so he'll ask for the maximum troops and money, even if our real needs and the needs of humanity are better met by something less.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf at September 24, 2009 04:39 AM

The Afghan War is slated to cost $65 billion in 2010. That buys you a whole bunch of food, antibiotics, mosquito nets, and condoms.

But doesn't solve the problem of Salafists trying to kill us. Somehow, I'm not feeling any better about that suggestion.

...even if our real needs and the needs of humanity are better met by something less.

We're not trying to save humanity, here, just trying to get a certain segment of it to stop killing the remaining segment over a theological belief. Which is, come to think of it, serving humanity's needs pretty darn well...

Posted by: BillT at September 24, 2009 06:10 AM

Bill, there's two different justifications I hear for these military engagements. One is to save our lives. Another is to prevent the Taliban from doing horrible things to people in Afghanistan.

If you're more interested in saving our lives than global humanitarian goals, I'm sure you can modify my argument to find some US lifesaving use for the billions of dollars we'd save with a scaled back mission. (This includes all sorts of nonmilitary things like NIH research on cancer and other diseases that kill Americans.) And my point is that if it isn't centered around Afghanistan, McChrystal isn't positioned to take it into account.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf at September 24, 2009 07:00 AM

it's important to note that the nature of McChrystal's position prevents him from making the tradeoffs in any reasonable way. As the guy in charge of the war, he isn't going to say 'Let's do half the work for a quarter of the price, and spend the money somewhere better'. As I say in the post, we lack any efficiency metrics here, so he's not going to be graded on efficient resource use. He's going to try to do the maximum job, so he'll ask for the maximum troops and money, even if our real needs and the needs of humanity are better met by something less.

My friend, I happen to agree with you that we need to decide on the scope of the mission (though I thought that was the point of Obama's strategy review this Spring). It isn't McChrystal's job to decide what that strategy is - just to tell his bosses what is required to effect it.

On the matter of asking for the max troops he can get, I don't agree at all there. Having watched various troop allotments come up the chain for the last four years from the Marine side, that's not at all how I've seen it work.

Asking for a whole lot of troops isn't cost-free, either politically, to families, or in real dollars. The Army in particular is facing some pretty severe resource constraints. They can't just send people right back over who have already been deployed. Right now they were supposed to have 12 months of dwell time and Gates wants to increase that to 30 months. So it's not as though they have piles of people on tap.

There are also equipment issues, at least in the Marine Corps. A lot of things get broken on deployments. We may have x number of commands over there at any given time, but they need equipment too. Normally they would take it back with them when they rotate back home, but that means the incoming unit has to bring whatever they need. All of this costs money.

The services have actually been pretty reluctant to ask for more troops. That is why what McChrystal is doing is such a big deal, and why I'm so impressed that he's doing it, especially after watching his predecessor get sacked for the same "offense" and after being pressured NOT to ask for more people.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 24, 2009 07:09 AM

But there is a far more important question here:

What, exactly, is an "ethical werewolf"? Do you go all ethical when the moon waxes full?

Posted by: Cassandra at September 24, 2009 07:25 AM

Either way Mr. President, Afghanistan is your buck and it stops on your desk. Be a chicken or a hawk, but do not waffle at this critical time.

That is how I feel.

Posted by: Anna Puma at September 24, 2009 07:55 AM

Bill, there's two different justifications I hear for these military engagements. One is to save our lives. Another is to prevent the Taliban from doing horrible things to people in Afghanistan.

As long as Al-Qaeda remains aligned with the Taliban, they're splitting the same hair.

If you're more interested in saving our lives than global humanitarian goals...

A false argument, since we have the resources to do both, in an ideal world. However, in the *real* world, we need to insure our lives will be reasonably secure before we can set about saving the rest of the world, which we'll never be able to do as long as the status of politics in most of Africa remains quo.

...I'm sure you can modify my argument to find some US lifesaving use for the billions of dollars we'd save with a scaled back mission.

I can think of lots of things -- but your position seems to be that a scaled-back mission at this point in time is feasible and will produce desirable results. My position is that your position is unrealistic.

Posted by: BillT at September 24, 2009 08:14 AM

Certainly, there's some number at which McChrystal starts facing serious consequences if he asks for more troops. The question is: what happens if the optimal mission strength requires a number of troops well below that number? I mean, sometimes "Let's close up shop, send the locals money and stuff, and them handle it" is going to be the smart call. But for a variety of personal and institutional reasons, it's not the kind of thing that military commanders will be inclined to say.

As for the name! I'm a philosophy professor, and my area is ethics. I also identify with werewolves, most recently Oz from Buffy and Remus Lupin from Harry Potter. I think it'd be pretty awesome if I turned into a gigantic beast every full moon and roamed about doing socially beneficial deeds. That's basically it.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf at September 24, 2009 08:45 AM

I think it'd be pretty awesome if I turned into a gigantic beast every full moon and roamed about doing socially beneficial deeds.

*snort* :)

One of my daughters in law is in the process of writing her doctoral thesis in philosophy. Her field is more

The question is: what happens if the optimal mission strength requires a number of troops well below that number? I mean, sometimes "Let's close up shop, send the locals money and stuff, and them handle it" is going to be the smart call. But for a variety of personal and institutional reasons, it's not the kind of thing that military commanders will be inclined to say.

I'm not sure the emphasis is right here. It's not that they're not inclined to say something like that. It's more like, "That's not their job."

Military commanders aren't in the business of deciding strategy or setting goals. They are given these things by the civilian leadership. Their task is to report back on the resources required to do that job - not to suggest other policy options. Sometimes they're given a few options, all of which must be evaluated, and they report back on what it would take to accomplish each task.

My beef with Obama right now is simple. He gave McChrystal the strategy this Spring. McChrystal has come back and said, "Well buddy - if you want me to do X, it will take more troops than we currently have allotted to the mission."

This is no surprise, by the way. Obama was told the same thing early this Spring.

If Obama wants to change the mission, so be it. That's a separate discussion. But to criticize McChrystal for providing a candid resource assessment for a job description he didn't devise misses the point.

And what is "optimal mission strength'? The best resource level/mix can't really be divorced from a whole array of overarching considerations:

1. What is the number, below which we can't possibly accomplish the mission (as defined by the civilian leadership, not McChrystal) under the best case scenario?

2. Given that we can't count on the best case scenario, what is a reasonable contingency buffer? If you want to succeed, you have to plan for unexpected reversals, especially since it takes so long to get troops and equipment into the theater.

3. What level of casualties are we willing to accept? Possibly we can accomplish the mission with fewer troops but that would make us more vulnerable to attacks. Are we willing to accept lower resourcing and far higher casualties?

This is where we are now. Casualties have soared and yet we are losing ground - both are indicators that the current mission is under resourced. We are in the process of pulling out of remote areas controlled by the Taliban and concentrating on high density population centers. My gut feel is that we don't really have the troops to accomplish this retrenched version of the mission either.

4. What time frame have we been given by the civilian leadership?

I work in software. In my business, if you want to compress the schedule artificially, it is almost always necessary to add more people (even though there are serious costs associated with this strategy, not all of them monetary). But tradeoffs are inevitable.

Obama has imposed an artificial 12-18 month window on the military. No one seriously believes a counterinsurgency strategy can be effected in that time frame, nor do they believe we can train up sufficient Afghan forces in that amount of time.

Add to this the requirement that we combat the Taliban while minimizing collateral damage and winning hearts and minds! IOW, don't fight the "efficient" way - fight the ethical way (if there is such a thing).

Both the compressed time frame and the ROE create the need for more people. And that is just what Obama doesn't want to provide.

I really think McQ nailed it: fish, or cut bait. But don't ask us to fish with no (or not enought) bait. Especially when we're being shot at.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 24, 2009 09:23 AM

I mean, sometimes "Let's close up shop, send the locals money and stuff, and them handle it" is going to be the smart call.

Absolutely correct. But until such time as the Afghan Army and the National police have sufficient numbers and proper training, that's unrealistic.

But for a variety of personal and institutional reasons, it's not the kind of thing that military commanders will be inclined to say.

Quite the contrary -- a military commander *wants* to be able to say that, because it will mean that he has accomplished his mission, and one of the most important tasks that leader has is to insure he has properly trained his replacement.

Posted by: BillT at September 24, 2009 09:25 AM

We are in the process of pulling out of remote areas controlled by the Taliban and concentrating on high density population centers.

Which is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. The surge worked because we had sufficient troops to provide security for the population *and* for the troops who were training the Iraqi army and police.

It's probably no consolation that we threw out the exact same counter-insurgency lessons we paid for in Vietnam just as rapidly...

Posted by: BillT at September 24, 2009 09:38 AM

Which is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. The surge worked because we had sufficient troops to provide security for the population *and* for the troops who were training the Iraqi army and police.

BINGO. And all the nonsense about the election being a game changer is just so much smoke. If the government can provide security and basic services, confidence in the government and its legitimacy will follow. Without security, the government can't even begin to provide basic services.

So the notion that somehow there 'isn't a military solution' is crap. The military solution has to come FIRST. The other may or may not follow but it's a sure thing it won't happen without security, and that means more troops.

We never learn, Bill.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 24, 2009 11:41 AM

I mean, sometimes "Let's close up shop, send the locals money and stuff, and them handle it" is going to be the smart call.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Either way it's not the military's job to make that call. That's the POTUS' job. Any if Obama is punting that decision back onto the military then he is showing himself to be unfit for the position.

Furthermore, if Obama tells the military "We must do X" and their response is "Then I'll need Y", then Obama telling them "NO! But you'll have to do X anyway" is also showing himself to be unfit for the position. If Y is unacceptable then he needs to abandon X as well.

Either way Mr. President: Do, or do not! There is no Try!

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 24, 2009 12:06 PM

We never learn, Bill.

Some of us not only learn, we remember, too. Unfortunately, we're not the ones who write the policy or collect the MSMs for doing so.

But sometimes we can pass the lessons to those who need them most -- the troops in the line units...

Posted by: BillT at September 24, 2009 12:19 PM

Do, or do not! There is no Try!

You know, I think that should have been the winning caption.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 24, 2009 03:05 PM

Back to judging the contsts on a timely basis?

*pulling the fainting couch out from behind the ormolu screen in anticipation of Cricket's reaction*

Posted by: BillT at September 24, 2009 03:44 PM

*the Hun dials 911 so as to pre-stage the Swoonbulance-EMS teams*

Posted by: bthun at September 24, 2009 03:57 PM

/smack!!! :)

Posted by: Cassandra at September 24, 2009 04:06 PM

If Obama wants to change the mission, so be it. That's a separate discussion.

Good. Really, that's the discussion I'd like to see more of. I'm particularly critical of the media reception of McChrystal's remarks, and the way they're portrayed as being about that discussion rather than the issues you mention.

When he says that we'll fail if he isn't given enough resources, we have to remember that that's failure relative to the original mission, which involves a very high bar of actually wiping out the insurgency and setting up a strong central government. This fact isn't reflected in the New York Times headlines on McChrystal's report, which talk about failure without getting clear on what that means in concrete terms. (Whether McChrystal wrote his report in a way that would guarantee that kind of media coverage is probably a discussion for another day.)

One of my daughters in law is in the process of writing her doctoral thesis in philosophy. Her field is more

I was curious how this sentence was going to end! (I assume it wasn't a way of saying that she's doing some kind of semantics project on quantitative terms.)

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf at September 24, 2009 10:24 PM

Sorry about the disconnect. I am down with some kind of virus, so the brain housing group has been pretty much hit or miss lately.

Her field is more (at least as I understand it, and I'm not sure that I do) justice/natural law. I think her thesis has to do with Locke's theory of distributive justice. She and I are pretty much at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but oddly our values are not at all dissimilar.

I've found that with a lot of my friends who are Democrats. We agree on perhaps 75 - 85% of things, but when we get to that critical area when we have to make a judgment call (weigh the priorities of various beliefs) we part ways.

It's as though we use a different scale: you can load the same items into theirs and mine and get a different weight.

The only theory I've ever seen that comes close to explaining this is Haidt's moral psychology factors. Anyway, boring stuff I realize :p

re: Afghanistan. I am not sure that we need a strong central government there, and I agree that is unlikely. Afghanistan has never had a strong central government and yet it has had periods where (broadly speaking) the rule of law was fairly well established.

I get frustrated when people define "success" as western style democracy. Their culture is very different from ours. So, for that matter, is Japan's and yet democracy works there. It just works very differently and the results would not be acceptable to Americans.

Their criminal conviction rate was close to 100% last time I checked. This year they are taking a stab at re-instituting the jury system abrogated in 1943. It will be interesting to see what effect that has on their society.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 24, 2009 10:59 PM

I've just followed Mr. Werewolf's link, and discovered that he is a co-blogger with Nicholas Beaudrot. Good lad, Beaudrot. Back during the ugly days of the Iraq debate, he and I were able to come up with some metrics we could agree on across the aisle for judging the success of the Surge. This was before it was yet apparent that it would be a success, and some parties who shall remain nameless were declaring that the Iraq war was lost.

My compliments to the gentleman, when you see him next.

Posted by: Grim at September 24, 2009 11:10 PM

CardinalPark had an interesting post up on Afghanistan over at Tigerhawk. Here's the link:

http://tigerhawk.blogspot.com/2009/09/afghanistan.html

I agree with his reasoning on the relative importance of winning Iraq vs. Afghanistan. I am skeptical of the notion that we can wage war by Nintendo from offshore. I will keep my snark to myself on that topic however.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 24, 2009 11:27 PM

Hey, I taught some of that Locke / distributive justice stuff to some honors students last semester! It's a bit outside my specialty but still good stuff.

I agree that success = Western democracy is really not going to work, at least in the near term. The kinds of social circumstances you need to build our kind of democracy -- among them, people being used to the idea that losing an election doesn't mean that you're going be treated like the conquered party in war -- are really hard to develop.

Hi Grim! Nick's really smart, and a great guy to be blogging with.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf at September 26, 2009 03:18 AM

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