Ross Douthat, who I rarely quote, manages to nail it in terms of Libya and the left:
In its opening phase, at least, our war in Libya looks like the beau ideal of a liberal internationalist intervention. It was blessed by the United Nations Security Council. It was endorsed by the Arab League. It was pushed by the diplomats at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, rather than the military men at Robert Gates’s Pentagon. Its humanitarian purpose is much clearer than its connection to American national security. And it was initiated not by the U.S. Marines or the Air Force, but by the fighter jets of the French Republic.
One minor correction, there is no – none, zip, nada – connection, not even a tenuous one, to American national security and the war on Libya. There may be afterward, if Gadhafi survives and decides he needs to find a way to strike back at the US in the “long war” he’s promised to wage. But going in? Nope – none.
The quote above fought with this other Douthat quote for top QotD honors:
But there are major problems with this approach to war as well. Because liberal wars depend on constant consensus-building within the (so-called) international community, they tend to be fought by committee, at a glacial pace, and with a caution that shades into tactical incompetence. And because their connection to the national interest is often tangential at best, they’re often fought with one hand behind our back and an eye on the exits, rather than with the full commitment that victory can require.
And keep in mind that once the first Tomahawk flew, whether we call our participation limited and of short duration, we’re into it up to our hips as far as the Arab world is concerned. So whatever happens there which might turn the “Arab street” against the US yet again, any argument made by the administration that most of the mission has been conducted by others isn’t going to change a single mind.
Also keep in mind, as Douthat implies, that this “consensus war” depends on the committee who are conducting it staying together. Can’t have them deserting and then renouncing the Western powers committed to seeing this through – can we? Already the Arab League is a bity antsy.
Finally – watch for mission creep. The ostensible reason for this little foray is humanitarian. But then, so was Somalia, Kosovo and Yugoslavia.
I predict there will be boots on the ground, whether ours or others. It will become necessary if I have any read on Gadhafi at all. Why? Because he will precipitate a humanitarian crisis of some sort – on purpose.
Then what? What if he forces a “put up or shut up” moment?
Well the fair weather supporters will go home, that’s a given. And those who see a downside risk politically will go home. And I promise you the Arab members will say bye bye.
And who will that leave to deal with it?
The two quotes from Douthat are very instructive in understanding the liberal philosophy of war and why it is dangerously utopian, likely to fail and not at all in the best interests of this country, or any country, to pursue.
If you haven’t met your irony quotient for the day, here’s our present Secretary of State while a former Senator talking about the “civil war” in Iraq and how we should not take part in what is going on no matter the level of the violence:
“No one wants to sit by and see mass killing,” she added. “It’s going on every day! Thousands of people are dying every month in Iraq. Our presence there is not stopping it. And there is no potential opportunity I can imagine where it could. This is an Iraqi problem — we cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."
Of course that was then … apparently Libya is an international problem, not a Libyan problem, and we can save the Libyans from themselves, unlike the Iraqis.
Of course …
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Is this our next humanitarian intervention?
52 people were killed and hundreds wounded – civilians that is – by their own government.
Isn’t that our and the UN’s new standard for intervention?
Three generals have come out in support of the protesters, many diplomatic personnel have resigned in various Yemeni embassies around the world.
But Saleh is not showing any signs of resigning, the source said.
"I’m bracing myself for military clashes," the official said.
That too sounds very familiar.
Is the Security Council scheduling a meeting? Is a new R2P resolution being readied?
Just wonderin’ …
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Like much of what this particular president has said over the past 3 years, both as a candidate and President, we have another example of a promise or statement that turned out to be “just words”. Actions have not matched the rhetoric so many times. And the attack on Libya is no different. From candidate Obama:
That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power…. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors…and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
One assumes we’ll soon be hearing from Barack Obama as he explains to the nation what “imminent and direct threat to the United States or its neighbors” Libya posed. And I further assume he’ll tell us why he believed Saddam could be “contained” regardless of what he did to his citizens, but Gadhafi couldn’t.
And one more point to make – given the Obama paradigm (based on the UN’s “new” principle of the “right to protect” (R2P)), he can no longer call Iraq a “dumb war” or a “rash war”, can he, since one of the reasons in the AUMF was to stop him from perpetrating violence on the citizens of Iraq.
Of course adherence to this new doctrine (It is no longer necessary to base military action on a imminent and direct threat to the US), means we should be gearing up for humanitarian interventions all over the globe … no?
This is an excuse to be selectively applied for whatever benefit politically those in power can see it garners them. Pressed to intervene on humanitarian grounds, our so-called leaders folded, backing away from his own standard for committing our armed forces to war and doing precisely what he had formerly denounced.
But then, that’s really nothing new with this guy.
I assume we can expect the anti-war left to denounce this as another “war of choice”, just as they denounced Iraq – right?
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Lots to talk about, both domestically and internationally in terms of reaction to the No Fly Zone imposition.
First and foremost is the effect thus far. Seemingly not much if some reports are to be believed. Apparently 112 tomahawk missiles were launched against around 20 targets. If you’re wondering why so many against so few targets, the answer is the type of targets they were used against. My understanding is they were fired against air defense missile batteries. Those type targets are spread out with command and control in one place, acquisition radars in another and the actual launchers in even another area. So “servicing” such a target with 5 t-hawks is not excessive.
But, that said, there are reports that Gadhafi’s forces are still advancing into Benghazi and other areas.
Secondly, and this was almost predictable, the Arab League has criticized the US and allies for the initial campaign. Yes, the same Arab League that has been calling for the establishment of an NFZ for a couple of weeks. Reason for the criticism? The strikes are reported to have killed … civilians. Of course the primary reason for the NFZ was to prevent further killing of civilians by troops loyal to Gadhafi.
Arab League head Amr Moussa told reporters Sunday that the Arab league thought the use of force was excessive following an overnight bombing campaign that Libya claims killed at least 48 people.
"What we want is civilians’ protection, not shelling more civilians," he said.
Hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but tomahawks are an area type weapon that really aren’t at all discerning about the target. They’re told to go to a particular place and do their thing. Whatever is in that area is not going to like the result. The problem, of course, is if your intel isn’t good and it goes to a place full of civilians, well, the result will be dead civilians.
That apparently has happened in the case of some of the t-hawk missiles launched yesterday.
We all understand "collateral damage", but when the entire purpose of the mission is to prevent such "collateral damage", it doesn’t do well for that mission to then cause it. Should it continue, we’ll see a dwindling coalition, especially among the Arab faction. And you can count on Gadhafi to propagandize the results to the max. Think Saddam’s "Baby Milk Factory".
Here at home, well, it has been an interesting set of reactions. Most Congressional Democrats, to include Nancy Pelosi, have held their nose and backed the President’s decision. But not all of them. The anti-war Congressional liberal caucus has condemned the decision.
A hard-core group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya, with one lawmaker raising the prospect of impeachment during a Democratic Caucus conference call on Saturday.
Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Mike Capuano (Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Rob Andrews (N.J.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) “all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president’s actions” during that call, said two Democratic lawmakers who took part.
That’s quite a coterie of liberals. Of course I’m pretty sure the war powers act covers the Constitutionality angle, however, Obama can certainly expect to hear from these people in the coming days and weeks. Kucinich thinks that firing the missiles are an impeachable offense.
And liberals fumed that Congress hadn’t been formally consulted before the attack and expressed concern that it would lead to a third U.S. war in the Muslim world.
I especially enjoyed Charles Rangel’s point about all of this:
"Our presidents seem to believe that all we have to do is go to the U.N. and we go to war," Rangel said
I expect those who didn’t agree the Congressional Authorization to Use Military Force for Iraq constituted a declaration of war to be much more upset by this. Firing missiles into Libya at the behest of whatever global body “authorized” it is still an act of war. In the case of both Iraq (in violation of the cease fire) and Afghanistan (harboring the NGO that attacked the US) there was a much firmer basis for going to war in each place than in Libya. We’ll see how far those who prosecuted this line of argument against the Bush administration do the same with the Obama administration.
Full disclosure – I’m not anti-war, I’m anti-this war. I see absolutely no compelling national interest that should involve us in Libya. I say that so I’m not lumped in with the next two goofs.
Michael Moore and Louis Farrakhan. Now there’s a pair to draw too. Moore took to Twitter to vent his displeasure:
It’s only cause we’re defending the Libyan people from a tyrant! That’s why we bombed the Saudis last wk! Hahaha. Pentagon=comedy
And we always follow the French’s lead! Next thing you know, we’ll have free health care & free college! Yay war!
We’ve had a "no-fly zone" over Afghanistan for over 9 yrs. How’s that going? #WINNING !
Khadaffy must’ve planned 9/11! #excuses
Khadaffy must’ve had WMD! #excusesthatwork
Khadaffy must’ve threatened to kill somebody’s daddy! #daddywantedjeb
Moore comes from the terminally naïve “war is never the answer” club. I certainly agree in this case – it’s not the answer for us. That said, funny how, as usual, Bush became a source for Moore’s displeasure at the Obama decision. Although this next Moore tweet did at least make me laugh:
May I suggest a 50-mile evacuation zone around Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize? #returnspolicy
By the way, the article about Moore’s pique mentions the irony of the fact that the strikes in Libya come on the 8th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war.
Meanwhile in Farrakhan land, a question was asked of Obama:
FARRAKHAN: "I warn my brother do you let these wicked demons move you in a direction that will absolutely ruin your future with your people in Africa and throughout the world…Why don’t you organize a group of respected Americans and ask for a meeting with Qaddafi, you can’t order him to step down and get out, who the hell do you think you are?
Well, George Bush, of course. /s
Andrew Sullivan points out that this is an action that breaks yet another of Obama’s campaign promises:
My point is that Obama made a specific distinction on this in the campaign. And I quote again:
"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
My only point on this is that the decision to commit military forces in North Africa – made on a dime in one Tuesday meeting – is a direct breaking of that campaign promise.
And, in this case, Sullivan is actually right – there is no “actual or imminent threat to the nation” from or concerning Libya. None.
Times Square in NYC saw a sprinkling of anti-war protesters outside a military recruiting station:
An anti-war demonstration in Times Square that was meant to mark the eighth anniversary of the Iraq invasion quickly became a protest against the military strikes on Libya Saturday.
About 80 protesters gathered near the U.S. military recruiting center in Times Square, chanting "No to war!" and carrying banners that read, "I am not paying for war" and "Butter not guns." A quartet of women in flowered hats who called themselves the Raging Grannies sang: "No more war, we really mean it!"
Of course they should have been staging their protest outside of Hillary Clinton’s home since she apparently was the moving force in taking us to war while the SecDef Gates opposed it.
Finally, and this is just another example of poor leadership – you don’t commit your nation to war, and make no mistake that’s precisely what this is- and put young American men and women in harm’s way and then gallivant off to Rio.
As they like to say nowadays, it’s the “optics” of the thing. And in this case, the optics are poor. He’s decided that the priority for our nation is to attack Libya, but his priority is, instead of postponing a trip that could be conducted another time, to continue on to Brazil even while his nation goes to war.
Yeah, about that, not good. Not good at all.
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The new Bob Woodward book – or at least leaked parts of it – is causing a bit of a stir in the blogosphere today.
One of the versions I read was Steve Luxenberg’s piece in the Washington Post. The book, entitled “Obama’s Wars” is, per Luxenberg, not about the wars (plural) in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead the war in Afghanistan (the supposed “good war” that we had to fight) and the war within the administration.
However, the whole of the debate – i.e. the parameters in which it was conducted – was pretty much dictated by Obama’s desire to get the heck out of there:
"This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan," Obama is quoted as telling White House aides as he laid out his reasons for adding 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation. "Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room."
Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. "I’m not doing 10 years," he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. "I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars."
Now I have some sympathy for the "I’m not doing long-term nation-building". And I have even more for "I am not spending a trillion dollars".
However it should be noted that he’s not necessarily averse to spending a trillion dollars so much as he is to spending it on "the good war". And I’d also bet, given "long term" for any politician is "how long until the next election", that "long term nation building" means after November 2012.
Obama’s entire focus was on "getting out" of Afghanistan. I can’t help but believe the reason for that isn’t just a campaign promise – as I recall, Iraq was the war he promised to end – as the fact that Afghanistan is a distraction for a president who’d much rather focus on domestic problems.
And, with the recession, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, given the fact that his entire focus was on passing health care by hook or crook, you can’t even rationalize his domestic focus. It certainly hasn’t been the economy or jobs he’s made a priority (unless you believe the old Dem principle "if we throw enough money at it, it will take care of itself" was considered "addressing the problem").
Another thing that struck me:
Obama told Woodward in the July interview that he didn’t think about the Afghan war in the "classic" terms of the United States winning or losing. "I think about it more in terms of: Do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end?" he said.
This is pure, metered politics. This is a man carefully avoiding anything that can come back on him. Obviously a “country being stronger rather than weaker at the end” is the difference between victory and defeat. His equivocation is simply to cover his rear end so if, when he hastily pulls out before the 2012 election, the country falls to the Taliban he has some wiggle room.
I assume learning the CIA is running a 3000-man paramilitary counterterrorism force made up of local Afghans is gong to cause the left some heartburn. But it isn’t the disclosure that should have the Glenn Greenwalds of the left upset. How about these:
–Obama has kept in place or expanded 14 intelligence orders, known as findings, issued by his predecessor, George W. Bush. The orders provide the legal basis for the CIA’s worldwide covert operations.
— A new capability developed by the National Security Agency has dramatically increased the speed at which intercepted communications can be turned around into useful information for intelligence analysts and covert operators. "They talk, we listen. They move, we observe. Given the opportunity, we react operationally," then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell explained to Obama at a briefing two days after he was elected president.
After all the caterwauling by the left about the Bush administration this is interesting. I wonder when they’ll start referring to him as “W Jr.”?
Finally, the surge decision – it was, per Woodward – exactly what many of us feared. An attempt to please competing sides and, in the end, pleasing no one.
In the end, Obama essentially designed his own strategy for the 30,000 troops, which some aides considered a compromise between the military command’s request for 40,000 and Biden’s relentless efforts to limit the escalation to 20,000 as part of a "hybrid option" that he had developed with Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The 40,000 figure was McChrystal’s minimum figure. Instead of listening to the commander on the ground, he included "General Biden’s" desires. Result – more than Biden wanted (not pleased, or was he – see below) and less than the generals wanted (not pleased). Additionally Obama added the June 2011 withdrawal date which essentially negated anything positive about the plan – it essentially told the Afghans, “we’re going to go through the motions for a year, but you’re really not worth the effort.”
The Afghans have responded accordingly.
But one thing that can and will be said of the strategy, given the Woodward disclosures, is no matter how it turns out (and my bet is on poorly) there’s no doubt now whose strategy it is. And “General Biden’s” role?
Well according to the NY Times account, he was just part of the plan to lower the number of troops the military would get by providing an alternative, no matter how absurd, that the President could trade off of:
I want an exit strategy,” [Obama] implored at one meeting. Privately, he told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings, and while Mr. Obama ultimately rejected it, he set a withdrawal timetable because, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”
Or said another way – “my mind’s made up, I don’t really care what the military says or wants, I just have to find a plausible way to seem like I’m being responsive when I’m really not because, you see “the whole Democratic Party” is much more important than prosecuting a war I said was important”. Or words to that effect.
Obama also laid out his strategy objectives in a 6 page memo, but, per the WaPo article, “took the unusual step of stating, along with the strategy’s objectives, what the military was not supposed to do.” Apparently the memo is reproduced in the book and Luxenberg claims the “don’ts” were mostly aimed at preventing “mission creep”. I’d guess it involved more than just that.
As for the rest of the article it details some of the politics and pettiness among the administration staff. Nothing new there – administrations have always been the parking place for massive egos and such egos are constantly bumping into and bruising each other.
What a wonderful world.
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Democrats are particularly fond of that meme because it provides them the opportunity to again shift the blame for something on their arch enemy, George Bush. It is also a convenient way to claim they’re blameless for all of these trillions of dollars in deficit spending that has taken place over the years.
But a funny thing happened on the way to using this convincingly. The real numbers simply don’t support it. In fact, they show us something a lot more believable to be the cause of our new and huge deficits. And it is certainly not anything the Democrats want associated with them.
Randall Hoven at American Thinker does an excellent job of dismantling the myth that the Iraq War and George Bush’s decision to prosecute the war (with the permission of Congress – to include almost every Democrat) are the reason we’re suffering these huge deficits today. And he uses the CBO’s numbers and the Federal government’s own budget figuress to prove that it wasn’t Iraq that put us in the poor house, but the Democrats.
Take a look at this chart:
According to the CBO’s numbers, the Iraq war has cost $709 billion. Not the wild estimates by some on the left (to include the absurd claims by James Carville and others that the war cost $3 trillion). And look carefully at the added cost of the war on top of the federal deficit spending shown in red.
Notice anything? Now think back – who was in charge of Congress from 2003 – 2007? And what was the trend in overall deficit spending – including the cost of the Iraq war – through 2007. Any impartial observer would point out the trend was downward. The party in charge of Congress at the time was the GOP.
Who took over the Congress in 2008? And what has happened to deficit spending since? Certainly the cost of Iraq has increased the deficit somewhat, but in comparison to the deficit spending since the Democratic Congress has been in session it pales in comparison.
And now, that war is essentially over and we’ve pulled the last combat brigade out, costs will certainly come down and eventually be quite small. But the trillion dollar yearly deficits – the Obama budget for 2011 is $1.4 trillion dollars – aren’t coming down at all, are they?
Be sure to read Hoven’s piece – he shows his work and provides a powerful tool to debunk the left’s “Iraq is why we have a huge deficit” canard. It has, instead, been the spending of the Democrats in Congress. Hoven’s work easily puts lie to the Democrat’s attempt to once again shift the blame for their own profligacy on to George Bush and the Iraq war.
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It is the annual Hiroshima remembrance in Japan and the usual cries of "outrage" and demands for an “apology” fill the air.
My father fought against the Japanese in WWII on Saipan, Leyte and Okinawa. I have studied the war in detail. I’ve been particularly interested in the planned invasion of Japan.
Okinawa was the first indicator of what that would have been like – it was and is considered a Japanese “home island”. My father was slated to be with the first wave of divisons landing on Kyushu. The technical description of their anticipated condition after a day or so was “combat ineffective”. That means those initial divisions would have been destroyed and unable to continue to fight.
The assumed number of casualties for that first big fight – and it wasn’t even on the main island – was about a million men on both sides. Don’t forget that they had a regular army home defense force of well over a million men and a home defense militia of 14 million. They had with held thousands of kamakazi aircraft and boats back for the expected invasion. And they planned to make a last stand and take as many invaders as possible with them.
Remember also how the territories the Japanese conquered were treated. Korean women forced into prostitution as “comfort women”. The rape of Nanking. Babies tossed around on bayonets.
So when I read things like this –
Moments before the atomic bomb was dropped, my mother’s friend happened to seek shelter from the bright summer sunlight in the shadow of a sturdy brick wall, and she watched from there as two children who had been playing out in the open were vaporized in the blink of an eye. “I just felt outraged,” she told my mother, weeping.
– I had difficulty summoning any outrage myself. The Japanese people supported the war, cheered the victories and reveled in the spoils it brought. They were brutal and murderous conquerers. And they refused to surrender.
After the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese war cabinet of 6 split in their vote, refusing to surrender. After Nagasaki, they still refused to surrender until, in an unprecedented move, the Emperor intervened and essentially ordered them to do so.
If those who survived the atomic bombings at Hiroshima feel “outrage”, they should look in the mirror. They enabled and supported a regime that “outraged” the world. They cheered and shared in the spoils of a war they started which devastated much of Asia. They supported a brutal, murderous and criminal militaristic war machine that raped and murdered at will. If anyone should be “outraged”, it is those who suffered under the horrific but thankfully short Japanese rule of that time. If anyone should be apologizing yearly, it is the Japanese.
UPDATE: Richard Fernandez also discusses the subject.
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Seriously. President Obama thinks if we work really, really hard and do a great job, Afghanistan can be a success – just like Iraq!
And if you look at what’s happening in Iraq right now, we have met every deadline. By the way, there was a timetable in place, and we are – we have – by the end of August, will have removed all of our combat from Iraq. We will maintain a military presence there. We will maintain military-to-military cooperation. And we are providing them assistance, but we’re meeting this deadline.
And I think it is worth the extraordinary sacrifices that we are making – and when I say “we” – not just the United States, but all coalition members – to try to see a positive outcome in Afghanistan, as well.
Of course the "timetable" he’s touting was the one put in place by the SOFA agreement negotiated by the Bush administration.
But you have to admit it is kind of ironic to see the guy who, when a Senator, declared the war in Iraq a lost cause and derided the general he’s now putting in command in Afghanistan, using Iraq as an example of a “positive outcome” don’t you think?
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Coinciding with and probably as a result of the McChrystal firing, a lot of questioning has been directed toward the Obama administration about its previously announced decision to begin the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2011. That was originally announced by the President when he outlined his new strategy about a year ago. Since then, as administration officials have been questioned about the date, mixed messages have been the result. VP Joe Biden has said the date is “firm”. SecDef Robert Gates has said it would be based on “conditions on the ground”.
Critics have rightfully said that announcing a firm withdrawal date is a strategically self-defeating thing to do. It gives the enemy a finish line they simply have to survive long enough to make. It also isn’t great for the morale of those US soldiers there now fighting in this war.
So it was interesting to hear the president – who originally announced the withdrawal date for next year –deny it was what he said it was:
“We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us,” Obama said. “We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.”
Well that’s not exactly how it was interpreted then (light switching and door closing were certainly implied). Nor was that interpretation of the date then ever denied by the president or his staff – until now.
The announcement above is actually a change. White House spinmeisters will most likely characterize it as a “clarification”. But the bottom line is, the “firm” July 2011 withdrawal date announced by the president last year is much less “firm” with this “clarification”.
And, if I know my wars, the ANA and Afghan government are far from being ready to “transition” into taking “more and more responsibility”.
That, in fact, is why critics in the Senate are telling the president that the problem lies not with the military side of the house, but with the civilian/State Department (and other Departments) side of the house.
Until a credible and competent diplomatic staff is assembled in Kabul and is able to begin to do what was done in Iraq, there will be nothing to which to hand this “transition” off.
Yes, there’s corruption. Yes, we don’t like it. But Afghanistan isn’t the US and corruption and the like have been an integral part of their lifestyle for centuries. Is our goal to make them a mini-US, or to have them develop a functioning government and security apparatus that can hold the country and keep terrorists from basing there and threatening the US?
Two things to take from this – this is a mild presidential rebuke to the “this is a firm date” crowd (*cough* Biden et al *cough*). That may have further implications down the road. And it is also a case where strategic ambiguity – at least in this specific area – is a help and not a hindrance.
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Actually, Gen. McChrystal should have quit. The big news today will be about his and his staff’s insolent interview with Rolling Stone Magazine (pdf) wherein they lay waste to the current administration:
The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has been summoned to the White House to explain biting and unflattering remarks he made to a freelance writer about President Barack Obama and others in the Obama administration.
The face-to-face comes as pundits are already calling for McChrystal to resign for insubordination.
McChrystal and his top aides appeared to let their guard down during a series of interviews and visits with Michael Hastings, a freelance writer for the magazine Rolling Stone.
The article, titled “The Runaway General,” appears in the magazine later this week. It contains a number of jabs by McChrystal and his staff aimed not only at the President but at Vice President Biden, special envoy Richard Holbrooke, Karl Eikenberry, the ambassador to Afghanistan, and others.
McChrystal described his first meeting with Obama as disappointing and said that Obama was unprepared for the meeting.
National Security Advisor Jim Jones is described by a McChrystal aide as a “clown” stuck in 1985.
Others aides joked about Biden’s last name as sounding like “Bite me” since Biden opposed the surge.
McChrystal issued an immediate apology for the profile, advance copies of which were sent to news organizations last night.
Frankly, there is probably much in McChrystal’s criticisms to agree with, but this just isn’t the way you do it, especially during a war. What’s especially disturbing is that his staff also appears to feel free to take potshots at the Commander in Chief (a violation of the UCMJ as I understand it), and one can only wonder how far down into the ranks that sort of behavior exists. When the highest officer in theater is openly dismissing the chain of command, things can not be good.
In fact, just two months ago, Michael Yon was reporting on the lack of trust in McChrystal to handle the job and how his orders were being ignored:
McChrystal’s actions have underlined what I was starting to tell officers and NCOs, who mostly agreed with me that McChrystal can’t handle this war. Experienced people have contacted me and asked me to keep the fire on McChrystal. (Menard is already dead in the water.) I can say with certainty that some of McChrystal’s orders are being disregarded. McChrystal controls embeds. Embeds and access are separate matters. McChrystal has zero control over access. My access is extreme and wide. And with that, it can be said that units in various provinces are disregarding McChrystal’s ROE and believe he is not acting in the best interest of our troops. Officers are disregarding orders from McChrystal. (I am not a journalist and will not provide evidence. Am not asking anyone to take it on faith. It is simply a fact and has been stated.)
Speculation: Weeks before the disembed, I told a person close to McChrystal (intelligence type) that McChrystal isn’t the man for this job. Was it related to that? Simply don’t know, but I do know that officers are disregarding some of McChrystal’s orders and this is happening in various places. McChrystal is not in full control of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
I really can’t comment on McChrystal’s ability to handle the war in Afghanistan, but his Rolling Stone comments would seem to underscore Yon’s reporting. If he’s so willing to disrespect his superiors, then it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the rank and file operate the same way.
Substantively, McChrystal has much to complain about. The Obama administration’s lack of interest in Afghanistan is rather apparent (despite making some laudable decisions), and we are definitely in danger of losing there altogether. Perhaps he thought that simply resigning and reporting his complaints to Congress (or the media) would not have the same effect in drawing attention to the problems he’s encountering. By sounding off loudly in Rolling Stone, McChrystal may be accomplishing what he thought he could not do if he had followed the correct course of action.
Even so, the general should still be fired. If his gambit works, and greater attention is given to actually winning in Afghanistan, then he will receive much deserved praise. Considering the fact that the big story right now is all about his insubordination, however, that’s not likely to happen.