« Jon on Surge(s) | Main | OTB Radio - 23 June 2010 »

22 June 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Patrick Lang


SM has no rights invested in the job. he serves at the president's discretion. pl

clifford kiracofe

"he serves at the president's discretion"

This is the bottom line and I hope our Commander in Chief makes this quite clear as Truman did.

We are at war and the last thing we need is for our President's authority to be undermined through insubordination.

Personally, I would like to see the President be himself. I voted for him because I wanted a change, a real change. I thought his approach to Iran was good, his approach to the Iraq war was good, his Cairo speech was good and his expressed desire for a serious peace process was good.

Somehown, he has gotten boxed in by advisors who are doing him and the country a grave disservice. Stan the Man and Petraeus being two examples.

Orzag seems to be out and Rahm seems to be leaving. This is all to the good. The country needs more of a shake up in the White House and Administration.

We need to get back to the Obama we all hoped he would be. Himself. Terminating McChrystal would be a good step forward to reclaim and refurbish this Presidency.

We are in two wars and we need some serious leadership out of this Administration to get us, and our troops, through and home.

Having voted for President Obama, I am going to continue to support him, although criticize where I think needed. In 2012, I will weigh the situation and will vote for him again if confronted by the Petraeus-Palin ticket.

But Stan the Man needs to go now.



I saw Andrew Bacevich on Boston television last night, and I was surprised to see him support the proposition that McChrystal should be dressed down and then sent back to Afghanistan until December 2010 when the first full assessment of The Plan is scheduled... and that he should then be fired "if" the results are unsatisfactory... and that "if" increasingly seems like a "when", especially given the suggestion that McChrystal & Co. were already considering how to ask for more troops in 2011 rather than prepare for a drawdown, however modest...

I've been thinking about this all day and night and have come to the conclusion that this was no accident - that the General and his coterie have realized that they had their backs against a wall that they had constructed themselves hastily and that was falling on top of them...

Three relatively unrelated questions come to mind:

1) They would never admit that this strategy and/or its execution has been fundamentally flawed, would they? Is there any precedence for this in the history of the United States military?

2) How good can a strategy predicated on the contribution of a single individual be? This goes for Karzai as well as for McChrystal, imho... especially when you consider that Karzai has had eight years to get his act together!

3) If fired, how long will it take for those who called for his removal to turn the rock over and place the failure of the strategy on the President's shoulders alone rather than also on those who were central to its formulation? I am 100% confident that Obama will, and should, accept the responsibility for having signed off on the policy, but that does not mean that he formulated it alone...


an aspect to this that i'm curious about, is if mcchrystal & aides were this uninhibited with comments to a rolling stone reporter, just what were they saying to the courtiers of the major newspapers/magazines (and why no revelations from those reporters). not to mention what types of discussions they are having among themselves. this is very dangerous territory.

Patrick Lang


Bacevich has a right to his opinion. I respect his views.

I think he is mistaken. The constitutional implications of keeping McChrystal are overwhelming. Obama will effectively lose control of the military if he does not relieve him. People can become very "deaf."

There is nothing special about this general. there are many others waiting in the wings.

Promote McMaster and put him in command. pl


A precision, if I may...

"3) If fired, how long will it take for those who called for his removal to turn the rock over and place the failure of the strategy on the President's shoulders alone rather than also on those who were central to its formulation?"

... Because I am referring to Murdoch's Media (Fox News, WSJ, etc.) and in the GOP. In n, this will be a good indicator of their seriousness.

I do not, however, expect it in your forum.


Obama is "himself"
Take a look at:
Gulf spill;
Federal budget;
Border (in)security.
This is all the result of an empty suit (who has never managed a lemonade stand) in WAAAYYY over his head....
The voters wanted change; they got it.
How's that "hope and change" bumper sticker working out?


A few observations 24 hours after the Rolling Stone flap first broke: In several interviews, Michael Hastings, the author of the Rolling Stone article made perfectly clear that McChrystal and his team knew perfectly well what they were saying on the record. It was not gaffe. It was premeditated. They knew the article would appear in Rolling Stone. Whether or not they crossed the line of Article 88 of the UCMJ is being debated by people far better informed on the ins and outs of military law than I am. But it is crucial, I believe, to realize that McChrystal did this interview, fully aware of what would likely come out in print.

There are clearly internal disputes within the ranks of the military, over COIN, over how to exit from Afghanistan, etc. and Hastings made those differences clear in his article, as well. But as I hear it from a number of active duty and retired military and intelligence officials, there is an overall sense that the armed forces are going to be sandbagged by Obama, as he moves more and more into the reelection mode. They have noted, from the outset (since the Oct. 2009 AfPak review) that the President supported a limited surge of 30,000 troops, but has stuck to the idea that a drawdown will begin in the Summer of 2011--an obvious political objective tied to reelection strategy. Now, in recent months, the White House message on Afghanistan has shifted. Victory is now defined as defeating the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That is a pretty radical downshift, vis. mission. It is being seen by many in the military as an indication that Obama is looking for a "victory" narrative for his reelection, and has no strategic comprehension of military appreciation of just how tough the situation in on the ground in Afghanistan. It's all about domestic reelection politics. Whether that is a fair assessment or not (I happen to think it's fair), a large grouping of military brass see this and are very unhappy with Obama as Commander-in-Chief. We don't do military coups in America, thank God, so there are various ways that military brass express their dissatisfaction, almost always involving falling on the sword, rather than "drinking the Kool-Aid." McChrystal, the warrior monk, seems to be acting on behalf of a larger attitude among the military, and has thrown down a gauntlet to Obama, personally, which puts the broader issue of Afghan strategy on the table.

Anthony Cordesman, who is a pretty astute analyst and former Marine officer, told NPR on Tuesday that Obama's problem, if he fires McChrystal, is finding another general who is going to want to take the job, and who can do as good or better than McChrystal.

Regardless of what happens today, this is a lose-lose situation for the President. It puts the more fundamental issue of the Afghan situation and Obama's own intentions under a public spotlight, that won't go away after the White House wood-shed session later today.

This Afghan confrontation does not occur in a vacuum. More and more, people are finding serious fault with Obama on a range of issues, the BP oil spill being the most dramatic and serious.

Patrick Lang


there is no divided responsibility here. Only Obama is responsible. Staff help in making decisions does not carry responsibility with it. The buck stops in the oval office. pl

Al Spafford

"...McChrystal and his team show up...a 45-minute discussion with some 2 dozen soldiers. The atmosphere is tense...He spends 20 minutes talking about COIN, diagraming concepts on a whiteboard...but it's not winning any hearts and minds of the sholdiers..dduring the question and answer the frustration boils over...The session ends with no clapping, and no real resolution. McChrystal may have sold Obama on COIN, but many of his own men aren't buying it..." Rolling Stone. I have not noticed in the subsequent media reporting this part of the article discussed--the REAL insult to our military.



I agree with the basic you lay out, however the military, or more precisely the US Government (and our allies) spent most of a decade, close to $1 trillion and over a thousand (US) lives and to what effect? The 'surge' that worked in Iraq was paying the tribes to fight for us. See the recent comments on the Gizab region. There's no reason it won't work in Afghanistan, too.

Now, because the constitutionally elected representatives of the American people are implementing a change in strategy the military is resentful of sandbagging and downshifts in policy?

"We don't do military coups in America, thank God, so there are various ways that military brass express their dissatisfaction…"

I think Ollie North set the standard for conduct in this realm. He received a presidential pardon. His colleague in Iran Contra - Elliot Abrams- got the same, then a new job with the Bush administration - the same administration that failed to 'win' this war, regardless of how one defines 'victory'. Yes, it's lose-lose for Obama. To damn bad for him. I can only imagine what the military would be saying about VP Palin had the election turned out differently.


Obama has pretty good self-knowledge, knows he's no Eisenhower (or Lincoln or FDR) in dealing w/ military matters. So he did the lawyerly thing - leveraged process & appealed to experts. He forced the stakeholders to establish & execute a consensus - the fruit of our current generation of best & brightest groupthink.

Turns out the group ain't so wise (despite obvious skills at suspension of disbelief & water-carrying). We are witness to a similar approach for deciding McCrystal's future.

Whatever he determines, he protects himself politcally by staying their course. We'll see how that works out for him.

If ever there was a case for shared guilt for a dubious course of action, this is it. We have met the enemy & it is all of us, even if the Pres is first among equals.



Re Obama, commitment to Afghanistan and politics

Maybe I'm naive but I don't see politics as the main driver here. Whatever the Administrations's thoughts and motivations were in 2009, I think it's pretty clear in mid-2010 that we have to reduce our military commitments, and pronto.

The employment and economic situation are just not improving and the deficit is growing bigger.

Things are bad here at home and our actions have to start reflecting that fact. That includes our military actions too. I think the idea of "winning" has faded away for many people, it sure has for me. Now I think the goal is more like let's continue doing what we have to do overseas re terrorism but bring the rest of the people home ASAP.

I'd also make the argument that we need to do less abroad so we can take better care of our armed forces personnel. I'm sure many in the military would dismiss this as weak civilian thinking. but if we're paying the warlords and Taleban $4 million a week in protection money, I think the handwriting's sort of on the wall anyway, isn't it?


McChrystal 'likely' to Resign Wednesday is the rumor

Nancy K

Graywolf, You call President Obama an empty suit. I'm more concerned that the teabaggers are empty heads, but that does not seem to concern you.



I agree about Obama accepting responsibility directly and without qualification and I believe that he will... but it is important, and I think you would agree, that how these decisions were made is central to the matter (and for what it's worth, I would have been very comfortable if you and/or Bacevich and/or Ambassador Freeman had been retained in that process...).

As for a replacement for McChrystal, if such is the decision, I obviously agree that no person should be indispensable if only because there are so many ways the leadership can be derailed by unforeseen forces whether self-inflicted, incidental, or "Majeur".

For what it's worth, I was leaning toward General Mattis but am doubtful that you would agree or that he would be willing... but McMaster could be a great choice, especially if the President is beginning to reconsider COIN on the middling scale currently underway...

We should know, I think, soon enough.



If a strategy is not working, does the US still have the ability and flexibility to change it?

The gentlemen in the military brass have not been stellar performers this past decade. If they don't like what is happening they can resign. Al Spafford's 10:25AM post raises the question whether the enlisted are dissatisfied with them.

This is Barack Obama's moment of truth. We will see what he is made of.

Thank you for the insightful comment.

Patrick Lang


People can't seem to get the words straight.

Military officers do not "resign" unless they want to leave the service without retired pay.

The president can relieve Stan of command but he can not "fire" him from being an officer. That would have to happen in a legal way under UCMJ. That won't happen.

The president can order that he be placed on the retired list immediately if he chooses to so.

Mattis would be my first choice. The Army screwed this pooch. Mcmaster would make a great deputy for him. pl


What is the name of the planet you are living on?
"Just fine" if you're a government bureaucrat with pension, benefits, NO accountability/responsibility and an all day coffee break.
The rest of us aren't "just fine."


Nancy K:
What do "teabaggers" (an ignorant pejorative, BTW) have to do with Obama's underwhelming ineptness?



Where do you think Petraeus fits in here? Seems to me that combined with the Canadian Bernards escapades, that the command in AFG is less than professional as a rule. Doesn't Petraeus have some responsibility here as well?


Promote McMaster and put him in command. pl

Easily the best idea I have seen yet to solve this one.

Promote him right to 4 Stars and give him the writ. Any complainers or otherwise careerist uniformed detractors can be shown the exits. There are many, many combat tested field grade officers learned and ready to take on this challenge and finish the job quickly.



So is this good? Part good??

President Obama has removed Gen. Stanley McChrystal from his command, a White House official tells POLITICO.

Gen. David Petraeus will succeed McChrystal as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.



If the reports on NBC that I am watching are accurate, with McChrystal relieved and retired and Petraeus taking over, then my first impression is disappointment...

... but maybe it is better for the President to order Petraeus to finish the job that he and McChrystal put together and promoted against the opposing judgment of others. As Bacevich put it last night, there are only six months before the first planned review and that that should be the decisive moment (... and could other options be developed better in the meantime?)

All I will add, with all due respect, is that I wish they would stop saying that Petraeus "wrote the book on counterinsurgency"... rather than the more accurate statement that he rewrote it for the umpteenth time...

Carl O.

I just finished reading the article, and while the contempt for Obama and company figure in the early part of it, that's not the major theme. The major theme is the failure of the COIN strategy, itself. The COINistas' response is to want more time, and as I long suspected and as the piece suggests, more troops. They're beginning to sound like Gen. Westmoreland, who, even though he had the farthest thing from a COIN strategy always wanted more troops. THis damn thing is unwinnable, no matter who you put in charge, and I would hate to see someone like Mattis or McMaster put in there and sullied by it. It seems to me the only thing to do is to find an honorable way out, and contain the thing from the outside, but you know that there's a lot of folks who would be against that, in large part, becausing containing it from the outside would require cooperation with all of Afghanistan's neighbors, including Iran, which the neocons (and perhaps some people around Obama, too) would rather bomb, thereby making an even bigger mess.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad