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“Furious”? Really?

This article by the UK’s Telegraph is typical of the poor journalism we’re subjected too anymore. The headline blares:

Barack Obama furious at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan

The subhead claims that Obama and McChyristal’s relationship has been put under “severe strain” since a speech in the UK.

But when you get into the body of the article, here’s what you find (HT: Mudville Gazzette):

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.

[…]

An adviser to the administration said: “People aren’t sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn’t seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.”

[…]

The remarks have been seen by some in the Obama administration as a barbed reference to the slow pace of debate within the White House.

[…]

A military expert said: “They still have working relationship but all in all it’s not great for now.”

[…]

Some commentators regarded the general’s London comments as verging on insubordination.

Not once is Obama identified by name as being “furious” with McChrystal. As for the “insubordination” charge, I have no idea where they get the idea that dismissing a strategy as one he wouldn’t favor is insubordination. Especially since no one in his chain of command (no, the VP isn’t in the chain of command) has recommended it. However this is one of two placees in the article where a name is named:

Bruce Ackerman, an expert on constitutional law at Yale University, said in the Washington Post: “As commanding general, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements.”

He added that it was highly unusual for a senior military officer to “pressure the president in public to adopt his strategy”.

What Ackerman contends isn’t true – generals often remark on strategy and what they think will and won’t work in their particular situation. That’s what they’re paid to do – assess strategies and pick the right one. The fact that he finds a particular strategy wanting doesn’t mean he’s attempting to apply pressure in public. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and in this case, as I understand it, he didn’t bring the subject up, he was answering a question.

But to the larger point – not one of these people seems to say anything that supports the headline or the contention in the sub-head. The Telegraph even goes to the extent of trying to make the 25 minute meeting with the president into something that was “awkward”, without anything to support that contention:

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.

Gen James Jones, the national security adviser, yesterday did little to allay the impression the meeting had been awkward.

Asked if the president had told the general to tone down his remarks, he told CBS: “I wasn’t there so I can’t answer that question. But it was an opportunity for them to get to know each other a little bit better. I am sure they exchanged direct views.”

I’m sure they did. As stated though, Jones wasn’t there so while it is technically true he didn’t “allay the impression” of an awkward meeting, he didn’t confirm it either. He said he didn’t know. He said he couldn’t “answer that question”.

This is a perfect example of a “journalistic” attempt to spread dissension, or at least claim it exits, where it isn’t clear it exists at all. Afghanistan is tough enough nut without manufactured rifts and dissent being thrown into the mix.

Of course the left has jumped all over this supposed bit of “insubordination” and the “rift” as a reason to get rid of McChrystal – something which would be useful to those who would prefer we not do what is necessary to be successful in the ‘necessary war’.

~McQ

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16 Responses to “Furious”? Really?

  • Did McChrystal include “diplomacy” as one of his Afgahnistan options?

    Well what did you expect?

    • “Diplomacy” is one of the aspects of COIN. COIN is the strategy he’s recommending.

      • I was referring to diplomacy with the enemy. Not the public relations and alliance building aspect.

        I watched the Next Generation Star Trek and found they used ‘diplomacy’ with those in direct conflict as a plot device constantly. And their depiction of diplomacy must be what the left considers to be real world diplomacy. Essentially some conflict between two people can be resolved if just the right words are said in just the right way at the right moment by the right person and you will have peace. They believe its like baking a cake and if you have a good chef you will be successful and if you have a bad chef you will fail.

        Poppycock.

        ‘Diplomacy’ between those in direct conflict is overrated in its importance. If someone has motive to settle out something through an agreement process, they will. If there’s no motivation they won’t. It’s that simple.

        The only way to get agreement when there is insufficient motivation on the other side is to create genuine motivation for them. This is a point lost on the Left.

        • The left does not seem to want real dimplomacy, which in this case would be supported by American power. The left wants us to appease.

  • Great, the left can be rid of their troublesome general and then the failure of Afstan will be all theirs.

    I agree more and more with the SNL skit. The two big accomplishments from Obama are Jack and Squat

  • “Some commentators regarded the general’s London comments as verging on insubordination.”

    Reminds me of what Truman did to McArthur. Except in this case if McChrystal goes, so does Petraeus, and then The Clown™ will have a really big problem on his head.

    And may it fall right on him.

  • I read this headline and the body of the article. I was just as confused.

    To me, the most telling quote in the article was, “To my mind he doesn’t seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.” In the culture McChrystal comes from, speaking plainly is a valued and valuable asset. It is a companion of integrity. When people are called upon to risk more than their reputations, IE their lives and the lives of their subordinates, trust is the coin of the realm.

    I suppose one shouldn’t be surprised that civilians would value knowing “the rules of the game” over clarity.

    What worries me most is the paucity of information. We have been given a fairly detailed outline of McChrystal’s projected strategy but his request for resources has been embargoed. First we were told that he needed 40K more troops. Just today I noticed in several sources that the number is now “up to” 40K troops. Is that a change or just a difference in how multiple observers are reporting the same request.

    I would not be surprised if McChrystal had provided a more “nuanced” resource request. I think the plan (which I won’t label a strategy because I think it’s more “operational art”) not only consists of objectives, but also time lines (or phases) linked to unit resources. A set of resource options which have more to do with time frames. Phase 1 would be the minimum troop level to stop the bleeding and subsequent phases would deal with troop resources needed to expand population defense/control on a projected schedule.

    I think McChrystal, Petraeus and Mullen are smart enough to realize that troop reinforcements have a ripple effect. With over 120K troops tied up in Iraq, you can’t just pull up five brigades and send them to Afghanistan. Do we even have 40K troops in Conus to spare? Yes, you can re-program brigades from Iraq to Afghanistan. But it’s not like turning a switch. Units that are leaning forward in their deployment process will still require some amount of re-equipping and re-training to make them ready for Afghanistan. I’m guessing it would take 60 to 90 days to change from an Iraq deployment to one for Afghanistan.

    From a one over the world perspective is an expansion of forces logistically supportable? You couldn’t have picked a worse place to fight a war. Not only is the country short of infrastructure, our supply lines are dependent on less than reliable “allies”. In the case of Pakistan, they can barely control their own frontier areas, let alone provide security through the Khyber Pass and other choke points. And the ‘Stans to the north are not exactly enthusiastic about our presence. Not being in the Pentagon, I don’t know what our actual limitations are. But given what I’ve gleaned from reading what Gates and others have said, my best guess is that McChrystal will get half of what he asked for. And logistics will be the reason given as the limiting factor. And maybe it really is a limiting factor. We just don’t know enough to assess the situation any better.

  • To steal a line somewhere- For the left it has gone from “LISTEN TO THE GENERALS” (when it could be used to bludgeon Bush) to “SHUT UP GENERALS” now that Baracky is looking to lose A-Stan.

    I have no doubt that Baracky was indeed furious. It’s his way.

  • I guess the open and transparent government thing is out. It would be terrible if Congress or the American people find out about our plans for Afghanistan. National security and all. We can’t handle the truth.

  • Hey Bruce, I wanna give you kudos for not falling for this article like too many have.

    • Thanks Oliver – now tell your compatriots on the left to quite trying out this “insubordination” nonsense and let’s let the CINC and McChrystal have the chance to sort this out – soon.

      And besides, I’m not a conservative blogger so I assume your bosses weren’t referring to me anyway.

  • This is a perfect example of a “journalistic” attempt to spread dissension, or at least claim it exists, where it isn’t clear it exists at all. Afghanistan is tough enough nut without manufactured rifts and dissent being thrown into the mix….Of course the left has jumped all over this supposed bit of “insubordination” and the “rift” as a reason to get rid of McChrystal – something which would be useful to those who would prefer we not do what is necessary to be successful in the ‘necessary war’.

    *snort*

    What kills me is that the very same players who reviled David Petraeus for ‘toeing the line’ and supporting the civilian leadership and the strategy THEY chose are not reviling Stan McChrystal for supposedly daring to dissent from the strategy laid down by the civilian leadership (even though, if you read what he actually said, he did no such thing).

    Some progressive bloggers have noted this. I wish more were that careful and it would be even better if supposedly professional journalists would take the trouble to consult easily found transcripts that are hiding in plain sight on the Internet.

    The thing is, it’s so much more fun to manufacture insubordination paranoia out of thin air.

  • Yikes… “are NOW reviling”

  • I’m reminded of President Truman and General MacArthur. MacArthur went against the President, and so Truman fired him.

    MacArthur was for widening the war in Korea – in fact, in favor of using nukes along the Manchurian border. He was strongly opposed by Truman and by General Ridgeway (second in command under MacArthur). MacArthur went public with his ideas, and eventually, disobeyed a direct order from Truman, who had no choice – and a great opportunity – to fire him. Ridgeway took command.

    If there are any parallels to General McChrystal, they are anti-parallels. In this case, McChrystal is right, and Obama is wrong.

    The only evidence I can supply for that is that Obama knows nothing of war (except perhaps that it’s icky nasty and nobody should do it). McChrystal is a West Point grad, commanded a Special Forces unit at Ft. Bragg, and later commanded a regiment of the 82nd Airborne, then a Ranger Regiment in the 82nd. After that, commander of the JSOC forces, working in Afghanistan and Iraq, where his forces captured Saddam Hussein and killed al-Zarqawi.

    His father was Major General Herbert McChrystal, also a West Point grad, who served in Korea and Viet Nam.