Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Obama can't vote "Present" this time

From the Telegraph:

The relationship between President Barack Obama and the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan has been put under severe strain by Gen Stanley McChrystal's comments on strategy for the war.

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

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

In an apparent rebuke to the commander, Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, said: "It is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations, civilians and military alike, provide our best advice to the president, candidly but privately."

When asked on CNN about the commander's public lobbying for more troops, Gen Jim Jones, national security adviser, said:

“Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command.”

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."

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."

In London, Gen McChrystal, who heads the 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan as well as the 100,000 Nato forces, flatly rejected proposals to switch to a strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces operations against al-Qaeda.

He told the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that the formula, which is favoured by Vice-President Joe Biden, would lead to "Chaos-istan".

When asked whether he would support it, he said: "The short answer is: No."

He went on to say: "Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support."

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.

Gen McChrystal delivered a report on Afghanistan requested by the president on Aug 31, but Mr Obama held only his second "principals meeting" on the issue last week.

He will hold at least one more this week, but a decision on how far to follow Gen McChrystal's recommendation to send 40,000 more US troops will not be made for several weeks.

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.

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".

Relations between the general and the White House began to sour when his report, which painted a grim picture of the allied mission in Afghanistan, was leaked. White House aides have since briefed against the general's recommendations.

The general has responded with a series of candid interviews as well as the speech. He told Newsweek he was firmly against half measures in Afghanistan: "You can't hope to contain the fire by letting just half the building burn."

As a divide opened up between the military and the White House, senior military figures began criticising the White House for failing to tackle the issue more quickly.

They made no secret of their view that without the vast ground force recommended by Gen McChrystal, the Afghan mission could end in failure and a return to power of the Taliban.

"They want to make sure people know what they asked for if things go wrong," said Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defence.

Critics also pointed out that before their Copenhagen encounter Mr Obama had only met Gen McChrystal once since his appointment in June.

During the Bush administration there was a "shadow government" operating out of the State Department, CIA headquarters and the Pentagon which sought to undermine the war effort though leaks and through "creatively" writing summaries to reports which told a different story that the body of the reports did.

This was done in order to sabotage the presidency of George W Bush and was actively aided by the mainstream media which abandoned everything but the most microscopically thin pretense of objectivity and became enthusiastic advocates for the left-wing of the Democrat party.

What this cabal of Bush haters did was treason because America was (and is) fighting a war and their efforts to damage the president also damaged American chances for victory.

What Gen. McChrystal is doing is insubordinate but not treasonous.

The General is insubordinate because he is going outside the chain of command and making public statements critical of his commander-in-chief.

The General is not treasonous because he knows that if the President continues on the course that he seems bent on that American troops will remain deployed in Afghanistan fighting and dying in a war which National Command Authority has no intention of allowing them to win.

Gen. McChrystal is placing his career on the line to force the President to either commit to a course of action which will bring about victory in Afghanistan or else withdraw completely. And he is making sure that both the public knows the consequences of withdrawal and that the President knows that they know.

The ball is now in Barak Hussein Obama's court. He is absolutely within his legal rights to fire McChrystal as Truman fired MacArthur. But if he does he will be telling the nation, our allies and (even more importantly) our enemies that he has no real interest in winning the war.

For a soldier to reach the rank and position which McChrystal has attained requires a lifetime of dedication and hard work and one does not do it without a great deal of ambition. There are many men who would place the furtherance of their career ahead of the lives of the men under their command, ahead of the lives and freedom of the people who it is his mission to liberate and even against his nation's long-term interests.

That McChrystal is willing to fling his stars into the nearest dumpster along with his hopes of closing out his career as the chairman of the JCS speaks volumes about his character.

The man is a hero, albeit and insubordinate one.