What Was McChrystal Thinking?

June 22, 2010

The word is out today that General Stanley McChrystal, in charge of operations in Afghanistan, gave an interview to Rolling Stone in which he, and some of his staff, bad-mouthed President Obama, Vice President Biden, National Security Advisor James Jones, the ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, and Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke.

What in the name of God was McChrystal thinking? Rolling Stone, of all magazines, is not going to try to portray the general in a positive light, but they are not to blame here. These mistakes were McChrystal’s own. Regardless of his explanation, he should be, and probably will be, removed from his post.

This is unfortunate because McChrystal is by all accounts a good soldier and a good man, who is trying to do an extremely difficult job without much support from the White House. My guess is that he is correct in his assessment of the Administration. But in the military this kind of public talk about one’s commanding officer, and Obama is the Commander-in-Chief whether we like it or not, can not be tolerated. Douglas MacArthur was correct in his assessment of what to do in Korea, but wrong in his public criticism of Harry Truman. A great American hero, MacArthur deserved to be removed from his post because of his flagrant violation of military protocol. So it is true for General McChrystal, as well.

I have no doubt that McChrystal’s criticisms (and most of the negative remarks came from the mouths of anonymous aides, not the General himself) were because of the frustration he feels in dealing with an Administration that wants to have it both ways in Afghanistan. But frustration is no excuse. Assuming the reports are true, McChrystal needs to be reassigned or retire. Just because the kids are running the show that’s no reason to engage in such a breach of protocol. Sad.

Over at Hot Air, they’re saying that the Rolling Stone article is every bit as bad as they feared.

Obama Promises More Troops, Early Withdrawl

December 2, 2009

The good news is this: President Obama has stepped up and done the right thing by agreeing to send more troops to Afghanistan. If he is successful in getting our NATO allies to send some more, General McChrystal will be getting almost everything he asked for. This was politically brave for Obama. His base hates the war and was hoping that he would start pulling troops out immediately. So for this, Barack Obama, I salute you.

Of course there’s bad news. For starters: number of times the word “victory” was used: 0. It seems that Obama, like the French, has no word in his language for “victory.” Number of times he referred to himself: 987,692 (approximately). My Lord, this man is a narcissist. More troubling, he did his best impression of a teenage boy on prom night, promising to pull out even as he’s making the case for going in.

Some lowlights:

Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban — a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

Three paragraphs into the speech and he has already apologized for America. This may be a record, folks.

Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It’s enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention—and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.

It’s Bush’s fault.

Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we are doing so is a testament to the character of the men and women in uniform. (Applause.) Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people.

This part isn’t Bush’s fault. For the record, I disagree with nothing in those last two sentences. But it might have been nice to mention that this victory was brought to you by Bush’s order to send more troops to Iraq at a time when it was considered political suicide. But no…Bush gets blame for the bad, no credit for the good.

As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service. And that’s why, after the Afghan voting was completed, I insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. Now, let me be clear: There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period.

What a crock. Although no troops were going to be deployed before 2010, if President Hamlet had made his decision three months ago we could have been laying the groundwork for those troops to start heading over sooner, rather than later. To pretend that his dithering didn’t delay the sending of troops is ludicrous. For three months there has been no forward movement when we could have been making preparations and outlining plans.

And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.

So it’s crucial for our national security to do this in an 18-month time frame? I’m aware that this is actually a handout to the Left, a way of telling the Soros Monkeys that he’s willing to send troops but his heart really isn’t in it. But letting the enemy know the date we’re going to give up isn’t a particularly good strategy.

I’ve traveled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place.

And despite the fact that I brought a camera crew with me, this was not a photo-op!

All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars. Going forward, I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I’ll work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.

As the trillion dollar plus health care reform is working through Congress, I can’t believe this was said with anything approaching a straight face.

We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions—from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank—that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes.

Wrapping up…better throw in another apology for good measure.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for — what we continue to fight for — is a better future for our children and grandchildren. And we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity. (Applause.)

As a country, we’re not as young — and perhaps not as innocent — as we were when Roosevelt was President. Yet we are still heirs to a noble struggle for freedom. And now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.

In the end, our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms. It derives from our people — from the workers and businesses who will rebuild our economy; from the entrepreneurs and researchers who will pioneer new industries; from the teachers that will educate our children, and the service of those who work in our communities at home; from the diplomats and Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad; and from the men and women in uniform who are part of an unbroken line of sacrifice that has made government of the people, by the people, and for the people a reality on this Earth.

Excellent. Almost sounds like one of George W. Bush’s speeches was left in the teleprompter.

I really shouldn’t complain too much. The policy is what’s important here, and the policy is correct. The problem to me is Obama’s stubborn refusal to talk in clear terms about victory or “winning” this conflict. It comes through the entire speech that Obama views victory as “a successful conclusion,” and “a successful conclusion” as the withdrawl of troops. Obama made the right decision here, and should be applauded for it. But at the same time, I get the feeling that the decision was based on politics and, rhetoric aside, not because he truly believed it was the right thing to do.

Michelle Malkin has more. Hot Air has an open thread and thoughts from Ed Morrissey.

Will We Lose Afghanistan?

December 1, 2009

I’m not particularly interested in hearing from those people who will complain that George W. Bush took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan in order to pursue a war in Iraq. Generally speaking, I don’t disagree with that sentiment. Had Iraq gone as well as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Bush predicted pre-invasion, this probably would not be true. However, Iraq went very badly, and the Bush Administration was glacier-slow in adapting to the situation. As Iraq deteriorated, Afghanistan became less of a priority though it was arguably the more important war.

Bush finally changed course in Iraq with the surge, and the payoff was quick. Violence started to drop, the political situation started to stabilize. At this point in time, it is fair to declare victory in Iraq and begin methodically withdrawing troops. We have given Iraq a democracy if they can keep it, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin.

President Obama should get down on his knees and thank God every night for the surge in Iraq that made it possible for him to put that war on the backburner and to begin to end it. Now Obama can focus on what he criticized so much during the campaign: the neglect of the Afghan war.

Throughout the campaign, Obama was quick to criticize Bush and, by extension, John McCain, over Afghanistan. Much of the criticism, like pointing out that Bush had taken his eye off the ball, was deserved. Much of it, like claiming McCain had no interest in pursuing Osama bin Laden, was insulting if not downright farcical. Afghanistan was the “good war,” said Obama, claiming Studs Terkel’s description of World War Two for himself.

In March, Obama set a new strategy for Afghanistan: a counter-insurgency strategy similar to the one used in Iraq by General David Petraeus. On June 15, General Stanley McChrystal became Obama’s hand-picked leader of the armed forces in Afghanistan.

It was at that precise moment that Obama…well, took his eye off the ball. Afghanistan became a forgotten issue as the Administration pushed Cap and Trade and Health Care Reform. In August, General McChrystal submitted a 66-page report to the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. In the report, McChrystal made no bones about the fact that the war in Afghanistan could easily be lost with the current number of troops. He requested an additional 40,000 troops. In September, McChrystal told 60 Minutes that since he took charge in Afghanistan he had only spoken with the Commander-in-Chief once.

A funny thing happened to the “good war” since Obama took office. It became less popular, especially among Democrats. This put Obama in the awkward position of trying to appease his anti-war base, and trying to live up to his campaign rhetoric. I have no doubt that in Obama’s Perfect World (the ones where Republicans and Conservatives don’t exist), the pullout of troops in Afghanistan would be well underway by now. But Obama is a savvy political beast, and knows that if he caves in to the Left on Afghanistan, the Republicans will roast him and the entire Democratic party as being “soft on terrorism.”

So Obama has spent the last three months trying to figure out what the best solution to this political conundrum is. Should he declare Afghanistan over and withdraw the troops? Give McChrystal the 40,000 troops he requested? Split the difference? I can see him now, pacing back and forth in Elsinore Wing of the White House, delivering brilliant soliloquies, plotting revenge on the man who killed his father and married his mother, etc.

The delay in responding to McChrystal was unconscionable. McChrystal had specifically stated that the increase in troops (don’t call it a surge…Obama’s anti-surge) was needed as soon as possible. However, the delay is now over.

Tonight, Obama gives a speech where he will reveal the fruit of his months-long meditations. It is expected that he will increase troops by somewhere between 30,000 and 34,000.

Since I rarely have anything good to say about Obama, I will say this: it is a good decision, even with the nickel-and-diming of 6,000 to 10,000 troops. It is expected also that he will call on our NATO allies to make up some or all of the difference. Let’s hope they do.

The bigger question, to me, is what else he will say in the speech.

Will Obama publicly pledge to win the war, or will he shy away from the word “victory”? Will Obama save his (correct) criticism of Hamid Karzai, or will he continue to publicly embarrass our extremely flawed ally? Will Obama promise an open-ended commitment to the Afghan people so that they won’t be counting the days until we cry uncle, or will he come out of the gate with a promise to his base that the war in Afghanistan will be “limited”? Will the speech be focused on defeating al-Qaeda and the Taliban, or on an “exit strategy”?

If Obama chooses the first options in those choices, this could be a high-water mark for his Presidency, one in which I will happily support him. That will, of course, depend on his follow-through. Tonight we find out if the President of the United States has the moral conviction and the steel backbone required to pursue victory in the “good war” or if he’s just the latest in a long line of Democrats who are all too willing to throw in the towel the moment things get tough.

The Unasked Question

June 22, 2009

Like most of us, I’ve been following the events (or as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs calls it, the “vigorous debate”) in Iran. I’m under no illusions that Mousavi is any kind of real democrat. There may be a Thomas Jefferson somewhere in Iran, but he’s not one of the candidates for high office. In prior elections, the presidential candidates in Iran were chosen by the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khameini. There was a choice between this West-hating hand puppet or that West-hating hand puppet. This year, for the first time, the Ayatollah allowed unapproved candidates. And why not? By allowing Mousavi to run it was designed to look like the election was going to be free, but Khameini had the results in the bag the entire time.

What the mullahs did not expect was that the Iranian people would also believe that the elections were free and fair. When the results were called into question, the Iranians felt betrayed by their leaders. With good reason, I might add.

Much to the shock and dismay of the mullahs and Ahmadinejad, protestors took to the streets, demanding their rights to the free election that the Supreme Leader had promised them. Worse for the mullahs and Ahmadinejad, the protestors haven’t stopped despite a government crackdown. Protestors are being killed in the street, internet cafes are being raided for information about people who are trying to get the word out, the internet is being blocked as much as possible, foreign journalists are being “asked” to leave. Yet the protests go on. Summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the streets, boy.

It needs to be stressed that the violence is largely one-sided. The protests were peaceful, and remain mostly peaceful, despite the skulls being cracked by the Iranian police and military. These were not riots that needed to be quelled. This was assembly that was deemed embarrassing by the reigning thugocracy. This is turning into a revolution. Whether or not it succeeds depends entirely on whether the Iranian people can stand up to the mullahs, and whether the police and military begin to side with the people against the government. Already there have been reports of police refusing to “do their job” by beating people’s heads in. There has been nothing like this in the Mideast since 1979, when the Islamists seized power when the Shah was overthrown.

The Iranians are clearly tired of living under Islamist rule. Despite being one of the more “progressive” countries in the Middle East (which it always was), Iran is still a theocracy where women are oppressed and everyone is subject to the rule of Islam as interpreted by fundamentalist crazies.

Much has been made over the youthful demographic of Iran. Iran has a huge number of people under the age of thirty, and media reports attribute the protests to this supposedly young, hip, generation. I’m inclined to think that is our media projecting their cozy view of anti-Vietnam protests onto a foreign country. The fact that so much of Iran is under 30 may play a role here, but I don’t think it is some kind of skeleton key to unlock the mystery of the protests. Those under 30 have never lived under any type of government other than the Islamist theocracy they are now protesting. So where do they get the idea for free and fair elections?

It seems to me that there is a legitimate question here that has, to my knowledge, not been asked by anyone. That question is simply this: What role, if any, have the free and fair elections in Iraq and Afghanistan played in this protest?

Part of the reason for America invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein was this: Iran was a country straining at the leash. Having a free Iraq on one side and a free Afghanistan on the other side, might just inspire the Iranian people chained by that leash to pull a little harder and seek a genuine political process in the governance of their nation.

Clearly the Iraq War was a mess in many ways. The wrong commanders were on the job, Donald Rumsfeld hung on for far too long, and George W. Bush put too much faith in his men on the ground. A lot of lives were needlessly lost because of poor planning. The “surge” changed that.

Advocating the use of more troops in Iraq when everyone was screaming for a full-scale retreat was an act of political courage. That act got John McCain the GOP nomination to be President, and it won a war (albeit belatedly) for George W. Bush.

As things were bad and getting worse in Iraq, largely supplied and funded by Iran, there was no whisper of dissent in Iran. But now, with Iraq largely stabilized and peaceful, with Iraq’s economy booming, with Iraq enjoying a free press, the protestors are out in the streets demanding…well, demanding the kind of elections that the Iraqis have.

If Iran should fall and some sort of democracy take root there, I have no doubt that Barack Obama will take the full credit when he runs again in 2012, despite the fact that until last Saturday the message he was sending could only be interpreted as supporting the current leadership in Iran. But if, and I admit it’s a huge if, some sort of democracy does emerge in Iran, will some small part of the credit rest with the Mideast policies of George W. Bush and the change those policies brought to Iran’s next door neighbors?

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