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October 05, 2009

Must Read Post of the Day

I agree with every single word:

... it is remarkable when not simply current U.S. military leaders but former and allied commanders are all on the same page. This simply highlights the untenable spot which the president would find himself in should he reject the advice of the military experts he appointed and whose opinions are so widely shared. On Face the Nation, Rep. Ike Skelton, one of the few lawmakers who might properly be seen as a ”Scoop Jackson Democrat,” had this to say today:

The war really didn’t start until March of this year when the president came forth with a strategy and frankly an excellent strategy. He chose General McChrystal who is the best in the business for this type of conflict. He asked General McChrystal for an assessment. And he got that assessment. Of course that became known — it was public. And in essence, he’s going to be asking for additional resources. . . I sent a letter to the president a number of days ago spelling out in great detail some six pages of a letter, spelling out basically, give the general what he needs. You see you have to have security in Afghanistan. You have to have governance in Afghanistan. If you don’t have both of them, your whole strategy falls apart. [Emphasis mine.]

Skelton is right to point out that what is at stake here is Obama’s own strategy and commitment to prevailing (Obama prefers to shy away from “victory’) in Afghanistan. The president is searching, almost desperately it seems, for an alternative approach to the only one which military experts across the board say is needed. And should he reverse himself by concocting some patchwork counter-terrorism gambit that is a pale imitation of what we have already tried in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it will only been seen as a retreat, a capitulation to the Left of his own party.

Unfortunately, there are indications that this is exactly the course Obama has chosen:

According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.

The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago's unsuccessful Olympic bid.

The LA Times, of course, can't wait to politicize the national security debate by... politicizing the national security debate:

It started in London last week, when Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who heads U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, told an audience at the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that he does not support a new military strategy being floated privately by Vice President Joe Biden.

The idea, under review at the White House, is to withdraw troops from Afghanistan towns and refocus them on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where Al Qaeda forces are headquartered. The alternative strategy also envisions using more drone missile strikes and special forces ops against the terrorist network.

During his remarks in London, McChrystal predicted that such a plan was "short-sighted," that it would produce "Chaos-istan" and that he would not support it.

...in a series of Sunday talk show appearances, Jones, a retired Marine general and former Allied commander in Europe, carried the administration's message that the military -- perhaps conditioned by the Bush administration to expect its opinions to reign -- had better respect civilian command.

"Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command," Jones told CNN. "I think that Gen. McChrystal and the others in the chain of command will present the president with not just one option, which does, in fact, tend to have a ... enforcing function, but a range of options that the president can consider."

I think in military lingo they call that a dressing down.

Ooooh... snap! What the LA Times didn't think the public had a right to know is what McChrystal actually said during the speech in question. Inexplicably, those who actually bothered to review McChrystal's remarks came away with quite a different impression of what he said:

The New York Times piece doesn’t do McChrystal’s performance justice. McChrystal reiterated his position that Afghan population security is necessary for a strategy to defeat al-Qaeda, but not at all in the thumbing-his-nose-at-Joe-Biden way that the Times portrays.

Instead, as I’ve been writing, McChrystal loudly and clearly defended Obama’s strategy review. Like a lot. When questioners asked if Obama needed to make a decision on Afghanistan strategy nownownow, McChrystal replied with statements like, “Sir, I don’t think we have the luxury of going so fast we make the wrong decision.” While the Times quoted McChrystal saying, about his resource request, “I think if you don’t align the goals and the resources, you will have a significant problem. If we don’t do that, we will,” it left off the preceding part of his answer:

I think any decision to go forward will not just be based on resources, it will be based on what are our goals. And I know people are re-looking what our goals and objectives are and redefining and clarifying those, and I think that’s helpful. Once they do that, I think the resources, of course, are linked to that, because obviously you have to have a ways and means match. So, I don’t think that if we align our goals and our resources, we will have a significant problem. Our problem would be as — if we didn’t.

Still not convinced? Want another quote? OK: “This is a necessary process we go through so we come to a clear decision, and then move forward, and I think once we make that decision — once he makes that decision, in concert with our international partners — then I think we’ll be in a much stronger position.”

Or how about this? When asked if he would “circumvent” some caveats placed by European parliaments on the use of their troops, he said, “I’m certainly not going to circumvent any political leadership, because at the end of the day, political leadership and the people are who I work for, and I’m proud to do that. I think the more deliberations we have, the more debate we have, the healthier this is gonna be. Because at the end of the day, we would be in much worse shape to have a decision made without that level of public debate.”

Guess that didn't fit the Left's "insubordination and military revolt" narrative. Oddly, the truth rarely does.

Full marks to those on the Left who are willing to look at a difficult issue honestly. Too bad that attitude is all too rare... but then if your prior opinions about the value of outspokenness from military commanders prove inconvenient, they can always be revised when your guy gets into office.

So much for lying, traitorous Generals and their "failed and discredited policies"! History can be inconvenient at times, no es verdad? In 2007 General Petraeus was accused by the Left of partisan hackery for supporting and executing the strategy set by civilian leadership when his duty was to speak out against it.

In 2009, General McChrystal is reprimanded by the same folks for supposedly speaking out against the strategy set by civilian leadership (even though the record clearly shows that's not what he did). Odd, how the duties of the military seem to shift depending upon who's in office. The only consistency seems to be the willingness of too many on the Left to criticize the military for not falling in with their political views.

Which begs the question: who's politicizing national security?

Posted by Cassandra at October 5, 2009 08:59 AM

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Comments

The awful thing is, it all just seems to be setting up the political signposts that will enable the administration to fire McChrystal for being insubordinant/meddling when he's not, and then reverse direction on Afghanistan..

Posted by: FbL at October 5, 2009 03:09 PM

Hopefully, this headline is accurate: White House: Leaving Afghanistan not an option.

h/t Mark Seavey

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 5, 2009 03:16 PM

I'm not afraid he'll pull out.

I'm afraid he'll leave our guys there until things deteriorate enough to provide him the political cover he needs to withdraw. The problem is that in the meantime, a helluva a lot of good men and women will die for absolutely NO reason.

That's a coward's strategy and I want no part of it. If he decides to try and win this war, I'll back him to the hilt. I doubt that's what he has in mind, however.

He likes to keep anything chancy at arm's length so he can't be blamed if it goes wrong. If Afghanistan deteriorates, he'll say "things changed". That won't be his fault either.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 5, 2009 03:24 PM

It started in London last week, when Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal...told an audience at the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that he does not support a new military strategy being floated privately by Vice President Joe Biden....[GEN James] Jones carried the administration's message that the military had better respect civilian command.

The LA Times *does* realize that Joe Biden isn't in the chain-of-command, right? Ain't no such thing as a Vice Commander-in-Chief...

Posted by: BillT at October 5, 2009 03:34 PM

SPEAK FOR YERSELF, WISE GUY!

Seriously, I love how saying you don't support a policy that hasn't even been adopted by your boss is now "insubordination" ;p

Posted by: Jumpin' Jeneral Joe Biden at October 5, 2009 03:39 PM

Back during the Balkans fiasco, the flag officer in command had his tour "shortened," because he thought the troops were being misused. He was relieved by a yes man who went on to run for President. I wonder if the same is in store for General McChyrstal?

Posted by: RIslander at October 5, 2009 06:25 PM

I'm afraid he'll leave our guys there until things deteriorate enough to provide him the political cover he needs to withdraw. The problem is that in the meantime, a helluva a lot of good men and women will die for absolutely NO reason.

That's what I was trying to say: set up the political signposts so that when things "go bad" becaues they've dithered, they'll blame McChrystal and then eventually pull out (after having left our military men and women hanging out there for who knows how long0.

Posted by: FbL at October 5, 2009 08:02 PM

"The war really didn’t start until March of this year"

What exactly was all that bombing and shooting and stuff that's been going on since just after 9-11?

Posted by: Falze at October 5, 2009 08:23 PM

Biden's plan is pretty clever if losing the war in Afghanistan is not a concern. He simultaneously appeases the left by removing troops from the field and sounds aggressive by relying on a small specops/coin operation backed by an underfunded drone budget. In the short term it will look successful as winter slows ops on both sides.

The action will shift to the bazaars of Pakistan to keep the pressure on Obama to either quit the field entirely or man up and keep the pressure on the taliban and al qaeda. Not only is Obama's hole getting smaller but he is painting himself into a corner of it...so to speak.

General McChrystal is Obama's man. If McChrystal or Petraeus resigns over Obama's failure to make a decision based on sound military policy the failure will be Obama's alone. He won't be able to blame GW without sounding weak.

Obama has lost control of the situation and the new leaders of the Taliban are taking a serious run at him. Ironic that the lefties in Europe are in a weakened state while the lefties in the U.S. are having a freak out because their guy is going back on his promises.

Posted by: vet66 at October 5, 2009 08:25 PM

"Which begs the question: who's politicizing national security?"

The usual suspects, as...usual. This has been going on for a long time; no reason to "hope" for anything to "change" now, campaign rhetoric notwithstanding...

Posted by: camojack at October 6, 2009 12:24 AM

The only consistency seems to be the willingness of too many on the Left to criticize the military for not falling in with their political views.

Of course, those views are *themselves* inconsistent.

Never, *ever* assume the Left is capable of rational thought -- it is a slave to emotion.

Posted by: BillT at October 6, 2009 06:50 AM

Ah, yes, BillT, Nancy Pelosi has had her emotions surgically implanted upon her face.

Posted by: RIslander at October 6, 2009 11:57 AM

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