Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Why The UN Will Love Obama’s Speech (updated)

It appears that today is the day for rather scathing assessments of President Obama in the British press. This one by Nile Gardiner. He points out that the third-world debating club, known as the UN, will certainly deliver a standing ovation to their favorite US president in a while. But, says Gardiner, we should understand the context of that ovation:

Obama’s popularity at the UN boils down essentially to his willingness to downplay American global power. He is the first American president who has made an art form out of apologizing for the United States, which he has done on numerous occasions on foreign soil, from Strasbourg to Cairo. The Obama mantra appears to be – ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do to atone for your country. This is a message that goes down very well in a world that is still seething with anti-Americanism.

It is natural that much of the UN will embrace an American president who declines to offer strong American leadership. A president who engages dictators like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez will naturally gain respect from the leaders of the more than 100 members of the United Nations who are currently designated as “partly free” or “not free” by respected watchdog Freedom House.

And, frankly, he fits there much better than he does here, because the UN is a palace of speeches with little or no action. It is becoming clear to many of us that the proper job for Barack Obama isn’t President of the United States, where you’re actually expected to turn your speeches into action, but Secretary General of the UN, where speechifying is the ultimate action – well, that and spending donor money, covering up for peacekeepers who rape those they’re there to protect or “oil for food” type scandals, and generally denouncing the UN’s host country.

I mean, as Gardiner points out, Obama’s perfect for the job.

Simply put, Barack Obama is loved at the UN because he largely fails to advance real American leadership. This is a dangerous strategy of decline that will weaken US power and make her far more vulnerable to attack.

At a conference in Russia recently, former Secretary of State Madelyn Albright said that the US no longer wants to be first among nations. Barack Obama will make that clear again today, I think. I’m not sure why that’s important to them, but I do know, as Gardiner points out, in the realm of global politics, showing weakness is a very dangerous game to play.

UPDATE: Wow … exactly on form. Obama is becoming predictable. Give me a venue and I can pretty much predict what he’ll say. If it is the UN or a speech before an international group, he’s going to apologize for the US. And of course, Qadhafi will love it.


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Liked But Ineffective?

I saw this on CNN’s Political Ticker this morning about NY’s Gov. David Paterson:

A new poll suggests that nearly three out of four New York State voters like Gov. David Paterson — but don’t think he’s getting the job done.

The Siena College Research Institute survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that more than six out of 10 say Paterson doesn’t have the leadership skills to be governor and feel he’s not effectively dealing with the problems facing New York.

The irony is the guy who has told him he shouldn’t run for the governorship seems to be thought of in much the same vein, not that you’d ever read that here. But the Brits, even in left-wing papers like the Guardian, aren’t at all shy about making the charge:

Many leaders and supporters are beginning to wonder what is causing this growing gap between the Barack Obama that many people saw on the campaign trail, and the Obama they see in the White House? Beyond Obama’s oratorical skills, which excited not only American voters but people all over the world, he is mostly untested as a politician. His previous experience was only a few years in the US Senate and a few years more as a state senator. A sinking feeling is arising among many that President Obama may not be up to the task, that he may not possess the artful skills needed to accomplish even his own goals.

Suddenly the left discovers his lack of experience and realizes he has absolutely no leadership experience and has demonstrated no leadership skills since assuming office.  Wow, where have they been?

But the sparkling speeches have continued, haven’t they?

Of course, being a left-wing rag, the Guardian tries to make excuses for Obama by citing the Senate as a reason Obama has been able to move his agenda. Apparently the author is unaware that the Senate has been around since the creation of the government and other presidents have managed to get their agendas passed.

Yes, we’re back to the leadership question (or lack thereof).

But, back to the point, you have to appreciate the delicious irony of one liked but ineffective politician telling another liked but ineffective pol not to run for office. You can’t help but wonder, assuming things continue on the path they’re now on, if such a message will be conveyed by someone to Obama in 2012? Perhaps it will be delivered by Hillary Clinton when she throws her hat in the ring?


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CBO Fact Checks Obama – Again

Yes those party poopers at the Congressional Budget Office are at it again. This time they’ve found the Obama claim that “seniors won’t see any of their Medicare benefits cut under the planned health care reforms” to be, well, not true.

The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare’s managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee.

The bill would cut payments to the Medicare Advantage plans by more than $100 billion over 10 years.

Elmendorf said the changes would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries.

My guess is Doug Elmendorf will probably not make the White House Christmas list this year.


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NEA Fallout: White House Responds

Jake Tapper reports the White House response to the Big Hollywood scoop:

An August 10, 2009 National Endowment for the Arts conference call in which artists were asked to help support President Obama’s agenda — a call that at least one good government group called “inappropriate” — has prompted the White House to issue new guidelines to prevent such a call from ever happening again.

“The point of the call was to encourage voluntary participation in a national service initiative by the arts community,” White House spokesman Bill Burton told ABC News. “To the extent there was any misunderstanding about what the NEA may do to support the national service initiative, we will correct it. We regret any comments on the call that may have been misunderstood or troubled other participants. We are fully committed to the NEA’s historic mission, and we will take all steps necessary to ensure that there is no further cause for questions or concerns about that commitment.”

It’s not clear why new guidelines are necessary. Is the Obama administration trying to suggest that the old guidelines are to blame?

White House officials say they are enacting specific steps to make sure such a call never happens again.

Today White House officials are meeting with the chiefs of staff of the executive branch agencies to discuss rules and best practices in this area, a conversation during which they will be told that that while White House lawyers do not believe that the NEA call violated the law, “the appearance issues troubled some participants,” Burton said. “It is the policy of the administration that grant decisions should be on the merits and that government officials should avoid even creating the incorrect appearance that politics has anything to do with these decisions.”

Well that should be an easy task:

Step 1 — Don’t call potential grant recipients and “ask” them to push your political agenda.

Step 2 — See Step 1; yes, even if you think you can get away with it.

Step 3 — Really, we know that the media won’t care, but there’s always some crybaby concerned citizen who will blab, so just go back to Step 1.

Step 4 — My, you are persistent, aren’t you! Please see David Axelrod for reassignment. We think he’ll find you to be a real “Winner”.

Step 5 — You aren’t the person we thought we knew. Please find room under the bus.

In any case, now that the White House has acknowledged at least some cause for concern over the conference call, the MSM has sprung into action. Here’s a list of the articles fr-om your major news organs:

New York Times — N/A
Washington Post — N/A
Los Angeles Times — N/A
ABC News — N/A (although, the Tapper article above can be found if you root around the site long enough)
CBS News — N/A

That’s your intrepid Fourth Estate for you. Meanwhile, there are tons of questions left to be answered, such as why Buffy Wicks (with the White House Office of Public Engagement) was involved on the call, and what her supervisor, Valeria Jarrett, knew about it. Why was an employee of Winner & Associates on the call? And, again, what was wrong with the old guidelines that they need to be revised? Moreover, what about the $2 Million in grant money doled out by the NEA (about $1 million of which was from stimulus funds) finding its way back to Washington in the form of political donations and lobbying expenses?

Digging deeper i-nto the grants only reveals more disturbing questions. Among the recipients of the grants, in this case, $50,000 fr-om the stimulus package, is a group named Americans for the Arts. According to federal records published at, Americans for the Arts has already dedicated $250,000 to lobbying expenses this year alone. The president of Americans for the Arts is an Obama donor and the affiliated political action committee gave $48,000 to congressional Democrats in the last election cycle. According to NEA records analyzed by The Washington Times, donors to the PAC received more than an additional $500,000 in stimulus funds.

Surely there is some story to be written there.

Most interesting of all is that questions regarding the legality of the NEA propaganda push have all but been swept under the rug. Tapper reported that “White House lawyers do not believe that the NEA call violated the law,” which apparently suffices for the rest of the press corp.

All I can say is that if Breitbart decides to go public with one of his media ventures, I would rate that stock as a serious “buy and hold”.

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McChrystal To Resign If Not Given Afghan War Resources

One of the things military officers do more regularly than they like to admit is play “you bet your bars”. The ‘bars’ referred too are usually captain bars, but it applies at all levels of command. Essentially it means you find yourself in a situation where you lay your career on the line with a decision you make. If the situation works out well, then it’s all good. If not, you’ve “bet your bars” and lost and your career is most likely over. They aren’t all life or death situations. Sometimes they’re situations in which you cannot morally or ethically continue to do what you are being ordered to do because you cannot support the mission as structured. You feel ethically obligated to take a stand.

General Stanley McChrystal is in a “you bet your stars” situation as the commander in Afghanistan. Bill Roggio is reporting that word is out that if McChrystal doesn’t get the “resources” he’s requested, he’ll resign his command:

Within 24 hours of the leak of the Afghanistan assessment to The Washington Post, General Stanley McChrystal’s team fired its second shot across the bow of the Obama administration. According to McClatchy, military officers close to General McChrystal said he is prepared to resign if he isn’t given sufficient resources (read “troops”) to implement a change of direction in Afghanistan:

Adding to the frustration, according to officials in Kabul and Washington, are White House and Pentagon directives made over the last six weeks that Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, not submit his request for as many as 45,000 additional troops because the administration isn’t ready for it.

In the last two weeks, top administration leaders have suggested that more American troops will be sent to Afghanistan, and then called that suggestion “premature.” Earlier this month, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “time is not on our side”; on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged the public “to take a deep breath.”

In Kabul, some members of McChrystal’s staff said they don’t understand why Obama called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” but still hasn’t given them the resources they need to turn things around quickly.

Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he’d stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy.

“Yes, he’ll be a good soldier, but he will only go so far,” a senior official in Kabul said. “He’ll hold his ground. He’s not going to bend to political pressure.”

On Thursday, Gates danced around the question of when the administration would be ready to receive McChrystal’s request, which was completed in late August. “We’re working through the process by which we want that submitted,” he said.

The entire process followed by the military in implementing a change of course in Afghanistan is far different, and bizarrely so, from the process it followed in changing strategy in Iraq.

Read the whole Roggio article.

Some may find such a “leak” of his intentions to be an act of petulance. Far from it – if his staff didn’t know this about McChrystal, I’d have been more surprised. After all it was his staff who was integral in putting together the confidential assessment that was leaked to the press.

What this underscores is the depth of feeling and commitment to their plan that McChrystal and his staff have. McChrystal is laying it all on the line and I’m not at all surprised to find out that if his minimums are not met and he’s not given the tools he thinks he needs to succeed, he’ll refuse to be a party to what he would consider a decision to fail and resign.

I’d expect nothing less from him. The politicans may be comfortable with putting more soldiers and Marines at risk, but he’ll refuse to be a party to it. Frankly, his soldiers would expect nothing less from him.

Politically this leak may be viewed as disloyalty. I’m not sure how, but it wouldn’t surprise me. If I were CINC I wouldn’t want a general in a major command who wasn’t willing to “bet his stars” in a situation. I would expect this to be his position. Gen. McChrystal’s professional assessment is his word and bond. He stakes his professional reputation in such a document, saying if given what he requests, he’ll succeed. He takes full ownership of the battle at that point.

But he also bluntly points out that if the request is denied, failure will result. In that case, he has no ethical requirement to simply salute and go down with the ship. In fact, his professional ethics require him to stand up and refuse to participate in something he thinks will not only fail but get his soldiers needlessly killed while doing so. That refusal will come via his resignation from command.

I respect that very much. I’m going to be interested to see how this is handled now, politically. But this adds a new dimension to the politics of the situation and it puts even more pressure on an untried and inexperienced CINC. We’ll all learn much more about the man in that position as this plays out. Despite my ideological differences with him and his agenda, I’m hoping there’s something within him that makes him step up to the plate on Afghanistan and lead. He has got to decide very soon what the strategy the US will follow in Afghanistan will be – commit to McChrystal’s plan or pull out. No other strategy is acceptable. It is one or the other. None of this status quo while politicians debate whether or not to commit to a strategy. The status quo isn’t working and it is getting good men and women killed while they dally.

President Obama must clearly commit to either “success” as defined by McChrystal’s plan or pulling out in an orderly fashion and leaving Afghanistan to its own devices.

Unfortunately, to this point, I’ve seen nothing to indicate he understands that or that’s he capable of making such a monumental decision in the timeframe necessary.


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Obama OK But Congressional Democrats In Trouble

Charlie Cook, one of the most respected of the political prognosticators, continues to sound the alarm for Congressional Democrats. Since August, Cook has been telling them they’re headed for electoral disaster in the 2010 midterms if they don’t change their ways.

Most of the erosion of support has taken place among independents. Although the country still seems willing to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, at latest for the time being, they’re not willing to extend that to Congress. The threat to the Democratic majority in the House, unsurprisingly, comes in the districts of the Blue Dogs:

I am becoming convinced, based on this and other research, that although many independent voters are disappointed in specific things that Obama has done, they still hope that he will do well and believe that he might. To be sure, red America has already given Obama the thumbs down. And blue America just wishes he would be more liberal. But it’s purple America, the independents who voted for Democrats in the 2006 midterm election by an 18-point margin, that makes the biggest difference right now. Most House Democrats live in blue America and show little awareness that their party has a problem. However, the Democrats’ majority is built on a layer of 54 seats that the party picked up in 2006 and 2008 that are largely in purple — or even red — America. Democrats ought to keep in mind that 84 of their current House members represent districts won by President Bush in 2004 or John McCain in 2008.

A whopping 48 of those Democrats — eight more than the size of their party’s majority — are from districts that voted for both Bush and McCain. That America is very different from the Democratic base in blue America, and it sees many major issues very differently.

Two things to note – as Cook notes, the number of Blue Dog districts comprise more than the Democratic majority in the House. If independents continue to desert Democrats in the numbers they have, it is not at all inconceivable that they could lose every one of those districts (all of which voted for Bush and McCain).

Secondly, the other point to understand is the leadership comes from the “blue” side of the tracks – safe blue districts – consequently they’re most likely not going to back off on their more liberal agenda (Pelosi’s claim that the health care bill will not pass the House without a “public option” being a perfect example). That could end up mortally wounding Democrats chances in those 84 districts that are traditionally red districts – enough so the Republicans regain the majority.

The political tea leaves continue to point to trouble from Democrats as well:

The 17-point advantage that Democrats enjoyed in the January Gallup Poll (when “leaners” were included) shrank to 5 points in August. Their edge on the generic congressional ballot test has vanished, according to most national polls. For three years, Democrats enjoyed high single-digit or low double-digit leads on this question — a very good indicator of which direction (and how hard) the political winds are blowing as a congressional election nears.

Of course the question is “can Democrats recover before November, 2010?”

What we are seeing is an electorate growing just as disgusted with the Democratic majority as it did with the Republican one in 2006. The mounting ethics problems of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., combined with ongoing allegations about House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., and others on his panel threaten to make matters still worse for their party.

Despite Nancy Pelosi’s promises to have the “most ethical Congress ever” when Democrats were swept into the majority in Congress, she’s shown no stomach for actually taking on the tough ethical problems the House Democrats face. Cook is implying that unless they do (and they won’t), that combined with their agenda and the growing disgust among independents with both, could doom their chances of maintaining their majorities in 2010 (much less likely in the Senate, but the Democratic majority may be much less than at present by the end of election night).

Some Democrats are beginning to see the possibility of such an occurrence. Joe Biden said recently that the agenda the administration is pursuing is over if Republicans win in 2010.

We can only hope Cook is correct – mixed government would be a God send given this president.


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The Drought Is Certainly Over In Atlanta

Metro Atlanta went through a deluge yesterday and right now you can’t get out of town in certain areas. Western Atlanta received up to 15″ of rain yesterday (20″ since Friday) and I-20 on that side of town is closed as the Chattahoochee has flooded it out. The Yellow River has also jumped its banks (as well as Sweetwater Creek) to make the metro area a mess. The ground is saturated and more rain, not the volume of yesterday thank goodness, is expected today. 8 have died in the flooding.


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Back To the Real World

I‘ve been to Alaska, and seen the glaciers, bears, eagles, whales, and about 30 inches of rain.  But, now I’m back, and regular blogging about motorcycle goodness will begin in due course.

In the meantime, I leave you with this little video I slapped together earlier this evening.  It’s still a bit rough, but I put it together in about an hour.  I’ve got hours of video, so more will be forthcoming.

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NEA = Ministry of Propaganda (Update)

As teased last night, Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood has a bunch of new articles up today regarding the NEA efforts to push Pres. Obama’s agenda through propaganda:

Should the National Endowment for the Arts encourage artists to create art on issues being vehemently debated nationally?

That is the question that I set out to discuss a little over three weeks ago when I wrote an article on Big Hollywood entitled The National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion?”

The question still requires debate but the facts do not.

The NEA and the White House did encourage a handpicked, pro-Obama arts group to address politically controversial issues under contentious national debate. That fact is irrefutable.

But some have claimed that the invite and passages, pulled from the conference call that inspired the article, were taken out of context. Context is what I intend to establish here.

In addition to the Patrick Courrielche article above, Breitbart has a series of others dissecting and analyzing the NEA and White House actions on the Big Government site. While other than complete transcripts and audio of the conference call, not a whole lot new is revealed in these reports. There is a good rundown of the facts versus White House claims, as well as a link to some prior investigation into the money angle. However, I think Patterico cogently sums up the importance of this (still developing) story:

It would be a mistake to dismiss this story as unimportant because there is no jaw-dropping angle like ACORN staffers’ apparent complicity in trafficking in under-age children for prostitution. Consider what is happening: the NEA is encouraging artists to create propaganda for a president’s policy initiatives. This is a corrosive precedent — and what’s more, it illustrates the overarching danger of the Obama administration: government, by increasingly taking over various aspects of American society, threatens to bend society to the will of a single man.

It would also be a mistake to dismiss the story as old just because the basic contours of the story were revealed in August. Since then, the NEA and the Obama administration have denied pursuing a legislative agenda in the call; today it is clear that they lied. What’s more, they tried to cover it up with the reassignment of Sergant. And the media played right along, for the most part acting as though that was the end of it.

From a politics standpoint, the potential illegality involved here is the paramount issue, and the use of federal funds for propaganda runs a close (and closely related) second. However, from where I sit it’s the all-out assault on the traditional media that’s so interesting. Breitbart has now twice invited to MSM to look behind the curtain to see what they’re protecting, and twice they’ve passed. He forced them to cover the ACORN story. Will he do it again with the NEA scandal? Keep in mind that Breitbart has darkly hinted that there is more to come:

Everything you needed to know about the unorthodox roll out of the now-notorious ACORN sting videos was hidden in plain sight in my Sept. 7 column, “Katie Couric, Look in the Mirror.” ACORN was not the only target of those videos; so were Katie, Brian, Charlie and every other mainstream media pooh-bah.

They were not going to report this blockbuster unless they were forced to. And they were. What’s more, it ain’t over yet. Not every hint I dropped in that piece about what was to come has played itself out yet.Stay tuned.

Does that mean that there is yet more to come on the NEA promoting propaganda in support of the president’s agenda? It’s hard to say. If it turns out that some laws were broken, however, expect Breitbart to rub the MSM’s noses in it with as much publicity as he can muster (which is likely a tremendous amount).

UPDATE: While the Obama administration is busy using the tax-payer funded NEA to push its agenda, it’s also using its police powers to harass those who speak out against its agenda (via HotAir,):

The government is investigating a major insurance company for allegedly trying to scare seniors with a mailer warning they could lose important benefits under health care legislation in Congress.

The Health and Human Services Department launched its investigation of Humana after getting a complaint from Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a senior lawmaker usually viewed as a reliable ally of the insurance industry.

“It is wholly unacceptable for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject — particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health care reform,” Baucus said Monday, disclosing the HHS investigation.

Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is cooperating with the investigation and stopped the mailer earlier this month, company spokesman Tom Noland said Monday.

Now, you can call me a conspiracy theorist if it makes you feel important and wise, but how else other than “totalitarian” would you describe “free speech for me but not for thee” enforced at the end of a gun? Does that necessarily mean that we’re headed for gulags? No, but don’t let the failure to cross that line fool you. The Obama administration is putting on a full court press to pass its agenda, and apparently has no qualms about using every resource within its power, legal or otherwise, to accomplish that goal.

[This post is authored by Michael Wade. Because of technical difficulties, it has been posted under my account – McQ]

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Afghanistan – It Is Fish Or Cut Bait Time

As someone who just said goodbye to his son this weekend as he deploys to Afghanistan, I’m much more interested in that war than I might usually be. As it happens, General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment has been excerpted by Bob Woodward in the Washington Post. It is a rather blunt assessment – he needs more forces or we risk “mission failure”.

Let me begin this by saying I don’t care if you are for or against our being in Afghanistan – we’re there. Staying or leaving are obviously the two options we have at this point. The present political leadership told everyone who would listen as they were campaigning for the job that Afghanistan was the “good war” and the “necessary war” and we needed to prosecute it with an eye on eliminating the threat al Qaeda posed and removing the country as a safe-haven. Given the circumstances and situation there that is a very difficult mission fraught with not only danger but obviously requiring a real commitment in blood and treasure.

Faced with a growing and more adept insurgent foe, a corrupt and incompetent host nation government, and a neighboring state under both duress and threat from the same enemy, the situation that confronts both the military and civilian leadership is an extremely difficult one. But, as McChrystal notes, “While the situation is serious, success if still achievable”.

Note that the word used is “success”, not “victory”. I’m not one to quibble about those words. Victory is used in a military sense. Victory is success. But we all know that while the military is an integral part of any success we might have there, ultimately it can’t “win” the day by itself. Success will be defined as leaving a sovereign nation capable of governing and defending itself when we eventually leave. We may not like that definition, we may not like the fact that we’re again engaged in nation building and we may not like the fact that such an endeavor is going to take years, possibly decades to achieve – but that is the situation we now find ourselves in. If we were to abandon Afghanistan now, we’d see it quickly revert to the state it was in 2001 – ruled by Islamic fundamentalists and a safe-haven for our most avowed enemies.

We have to decide now whether or not we’re going to commit to the “long war” to achieve the success I’ve outlined or whether we, like many nations before us, will leave Afghanistan to its fate and suffer the consequences such an abandonment may bring in the future.

It Is “Fish Or Cut Bait” Time

Our national leadership must now make that hard decision. This is no time for equivocation. It is no time for years worth of study and debate. General McChrystal makes that very clear in his assessment:

“Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

And he makes clear another very important point, one that the civilian leadership needs to understand.

“Further, a perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents.”

Prior to the surge in Iraq, the same sort of perception existed within the Iraqi population. Until we made a firm commitment to stay and protect them, Iraq did not begin to improve. Gen. McChrystal is simply noting the same dynamic understandably exists in Afghanistan. He’s also tactfully saying that we must quickly prove to the population of Afghanistan that we are committed to protecting them while they do what is necessary to empower themselves, their government and their military to a level that they can protect themselves.

Step one in that process is to quickly ensure that the commitment to do that is clear and the forces necessary to do it are forthcoming. That has got to come from national leadership and it has to be said in precise and unequivocal language. Unfortunately, given this weekend’s performance, our national leadership has claimed to be “skeptical” about the need for more troops in the country.  The time for debate is rapidly coming to a close.  A decision must be made, and in relative terms, it must be made quickly.  Whatever it ends up being it should be aimed at one of the two options I’ve outlined – successs or abandonment of the effort.

What Has To Change

Obviously that is all dependent upon the decision reached by the national leadership, however General McChrystal recognizes some rather daunting problems in the situation within the country and how we’re fighting the war.

He notes:

The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF’s own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government.”

All of those things, then, must change for the positive. As our experience in Iraq tells us, that’s a very difficult and time consuming job, especially when we talk about changing the culture of governance, stopping corruption and abuse of power and connecting the government to the people. As you might imagine, that’s not a job for the military, but, instead the State Department and various of our other government agencies. So the question isn’t just are we willing to commit the soldiers necessary to effectively conduct COIN, but are we willing to commit the civilians necessary to properly establish a functioning government in a nation which has never had one?

Without that sort of commitment, we can send all the soldiers we have for as long as we want too but we’ll never achieve the success necessary to leave Afghanistan.

McChrystal further notes:

“Afghan social, political, economic, and cultural affairs are complex and poorly understood. ISAF does not sufficiently appreciate the dynamics in local communities, nor how the insurgency, corruption, incompetent officials, power-brokers, and criminality all combine to affect the Afghan population.”

Our civilians must understand that too because it all combines to result in a “crisis of confidence among the Afghans” per McChrystal. Until that perception is changed, the crisis of confidence will remain the most difficult roadblock and continue to make Afghans “reluctant to align with us against the insurgents”.

McChrystal also addresses the Afghan prison system which he claims has become a breeding ground for terrorists:

In a four-page annex on detainee operations, McChrystal warns that the Afghan prison system has become “a sanctuary and base to conduct lethal operations” against the government and coalition forces. He cites as examples an apparent prison connection to the 2008 bombing of the Serena Hotel in Kabul and other attacks. “Unchecked, Taliban/Al Qaeda leaders patiently coordinate and plan, unconcerned with interference from prison personnel or the military.”

The assessment says that Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents “represent more than 2,500 of the 14,500 inmates in the increasingly overcrowded Afghan Corrections System,” in which “[h]ardened, committed Islamists are indiscriminately mixed with petty criminals and sex offenders, and they are using the opportunity to radicalize and indoctrinate them.”

Noting that the United States “came to Afghanistan vowing to deny these same enemies safe haven in 2001,” he says they now operate with relative impunity in the prisons. “There are more insurgents per square foot in corrections facilities than anywhere else in Afghanistan,” his assessment says.

Obviously segregation of terrorists and/or terrorist suspects is the short term solution, but the fact the situation exists simply underscores how poorly run the civilian government of Afghanistan is at the moment.

The Military Plan

Gen. McChrystal bases his plan on this premise:

“Pre-occupied with protection of our own forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us — physically and psychologically — from the people we seek to protect. . . . The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves.”

That has then put the ISAF in the situation that it is “not adequately executing the basics” of counterinsurgency by putting the Afghan people first. … ISAF personnel must be seen as guests of the Afghan people and their government, not an occupying army” … “Key personnel in ISAF must receive training in local languages.”

He believes that the military operational culture must change:

He also says that coalition forces will change their operational culture, in part by spending “as little time as possible in armored vehicles or behind the walls of forward operating bases.” Strengthening Afghans’ sense of security will require troops to take greater risks, but the coalition “cannot succeed if it is unwilling to share risk, at least equally, with the people.”

McChrystal warns that in the short run, it “is realistic to expect that Afghan and coalition casualties will increase.”

It is here, however, where we bump up against what is a key political point. Is the current leadership willing to accept that increase in casualties to do the necessary job? The word is there is little support for increasing the troop strength in Afghanistan within the Congressional leadership. That will only make the job harder and more dangerous for those who are there. If the operational culture is changed and we see what troops are in country outside the wire and more exposed, the casualty counts may increase anyway, with or without the additional troops.

The last and equally as important a task as protecting the population is expanding and standing up a competent Afghan army and police force:

He proposes speeding the growth of Afghan security forces. The existing goal is to expand the army from 92,000 to 134,000 by December 2011. McChrystal seeks to move that deadline to October 2010.

Overall, McChrystal wants the Afghan army to grow to 240,000 and the police to 160,000 for a total security force of 400,000, but he does not specify when those numbers could be reached.

He also calls for “radically more integrated and partnered” work with Afghan units.

As we learned in Iraq, this is an exceptionally difficult job that requires extraordinary effort on the part of our trainers.

The Broader War

McChrystal also gives a very detailed assessment of the insurgency. A couple of interesting points:

Overall, McChrystal provides this conclusion about the enemy: “The insurgents control or contest a significant portion of the country, although it is difficult to assess precisely how much due to a lack of ISAF presence. . . . ”

The insurgents make money from the production and sale of opium and other narcotics, but the assessment says that “eliminating insurgent access to narco-profits — even if possible, and while disruptive — would not destroy their ability to operate so long as other funding sources remained intact.”

Or, let’s not get sidetracked with a war on opium when all it will do is further alienate the population and make no difference at all to the war effort.


While the insurgency is predominantly Afghan, McChrystal writes that it “is clearly supported from Pakistan. Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, are linked with al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan’s ISI,” which is its intelligence service. Al-Qaeda and other extremist movements “based in Pakistan channel foreign fighters, suicide bombers, and technical assistance into Afghanistan, and offer ideological motivation, training, and financial support.”

Or, Pakistan is a critical key to any success in Afghanistan and should be worked just as hard as any effort in Afghanistan.

But the most important point to be taken from the McChrystal assessment is one that is found throughout the document:

“Failure to provide adequate resources also risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs, and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure.”

The ball is now in the civilian leadership’s court and the future of our effort in Afghanistan must be decided very soon if we’re going to commit to “success”.


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