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29 September 2010

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William R. Cumming

The hesitation is based on "inexperience" IMO!

Jake

"Why the hesitation now?"

The Political inexperience of the President along with the mid-term elections and the stupidity of the American voter not just to understand these things. But to allow the media and special interest to meld with their minds...

Its called political gutlessness....

ex-PFC Chuck

As Marcy Wheeler connects the dots in a post this morning, the Long War has been and is being perpetuated "Because all those Commander-in-Chief powers both Republicans and Democrats have grown to love so much depend on it continuing. . . Our men and women are risking their lives in Afghanistan at this point to make indefinite detention more legally 'plausible'.”

batondor

Pat,

I have not read the WaPo articles carefully and certainly have not read Woodward's book yet, so this question should make sense:

Just who are the "dissident generals" who Powell "almost" suggested that Obama should have fire?

- Lute, Eikenberry, & those who saw an overloaded cart behind a hobbled horse?

- Petraeus, Mullen, & Gates who probably defends them, in the end?

I'm pretty sure I know the answer (the latter), but your unintentional ambiguity is probably what was (and still is) brewing in Colin Powell's mind...


If I may add another minor critique: yes, Truman fired Macarthur rather than see the conflict expanded into total war, whatever that might have meant... but combat did continue for two more years... and, in fact, has the war ever really ended?

And was that not (and does it not remain) Obama's central conundrum: there is no armistice imaginable that comes close to the arrangements established at Panmunjom and that have more or less endured to this day...

PS: For what it's worth, I do agree with idea that Obama had a more radical option of a major change in the chain of command and the strategic direction of the war in Afghanistan and that he could have, and should have, taken it... come hell or high water (politically speaking, that is...).

jr786

"They successfully maneuvered the president against his judgment". Did they? I reckon politics is involved in that somewhere.

If let himself get played he did it to cover himself politically, in which case he deserves all the scorn we can muster.

We're an empire now. It's just a question of good and bad emperors.

And a Praetorian Guard.

Jose L Campos

Honorius had Stillico killed. Valentinian III had Aetius killed. What good came out of that?. In the first case the Alaric sack of Rome in the second the Genseric sack of Rome. I realize that people put a lot of sentimental power on civilian control of the military, but the military know that they control the supreme and final power. They can shoot me.
Perhaps the military feel now that the country is in such straits that they must command. Perhaps.
Reality actually dispenses with mental creations.

FB Ali

The recent statement by Gen Petraeus (reported in the NYT on the 27th) is interesting. As far as I can recall, this is the first time a senior US figure has unequivocally supported reconciliation with the Taliban (not reintegration - bribing foot-soldiers to defect - but the big-level stuff). It also seems he was way ahead of the Afghans; government spokesmen were obviously taken aback by his version of how far the situation had developed.

It is possible that Dodgy Dave has decided to switch tracks. It is likely that after his recent trial balloons about a war without end, he got the word from the White House that Obama was going to hold him to the categorical assurance he had given about achieving the set goals by the July 2011 deadline. So he decided to do an 'Iraq' again.

If serious talks begin with the Taliban, the Afghans would require a de facto ceasefire. With operations suspended, Petraeus could say he wasn't needed in Afghanistan any more. He could then depart claiming victory (as he did in Iraq), and let someone else handle the mess when things go to hell later, as they are likely to do.

Andy

There are two points I'd like to make on this topic:

First, while his current crop of Generals may have sealed off his escape, the President drove himself into the box canyon he now occupies. His hesitation, I believe, is the political price he would pay by failing to live up to his central foreign policy campaign promise, which was ending the war in Iraq so resources could be diverted to "win" the war in Afghanistan. As early as 2007, the President promised to send more troops to Afghanistan and he's never publicly wavered from that pledge.

So now he finds himself in a political pickle. Getting out of Afghanistan or reducing or changing our commitment there is easy - dealing with the political repercussions to Obama's Presidency is not since his Generals have not provided him with a politically acceptable strategy.

Secondly, I have thought for a long time now that the war in Afghanistan is driven almost wholly by domestic political considerations. Woodward's book confirms this view in my opinion. The President, understandably, doesn't want our effort there to be perceived as a failure. He was hoping the Generals would provide him with a plan that would both provide an exit strategy and also be perceived as "successful" in the sense that no political cost would have to be paid. In short, he wanted to replicate the effects of the so-called "surge" in Iraq.

While the "surge" failed to address any of the substantive problems within Iraq, it was a success in that it bought domestic US political space to allow a withdrawal under honorable and politically favorable conditions. That withdrawal is so politically uncontroversial today that that both parties take credit for it. I think that's what the President really wants for Afghanistan - the difference between the effects of an Iraq withdrawal in 2007 and a post-"surge" withdrawal.

The problem, of course, is that Afghanistan isn't Iraq. The variety of factors which serendipitously converged to produce the "surge" are not evident in Afghanistan.

So where does that leave the President? His current Generals are unable or unwilling to provide him with a politically viable exit strategy. In this case he only has one option and his General's motivations are irrelevant: Whether his Generals simply lack the imagination to come up with a plan or whether they are pursuing an agenda, the choice is the same: The President must replace them. There, too, though, he's boxed himself in by choosing Petraeus as ISAF Commander which will make replacing him that much more politically costly.

Patrick Lang

Jose L. Campos

Dramatically incorrect. These generals are not anywhere near that point yet. That is why they have to be fired. pl

Patrick Lang

batondor

before you comment you should read the WP articles. There is nothing ambiguous about my comment. pl

J

Obama always has the UCMJ ace card at his disposal, rather than retiring the 'dissidents'. Given their level of insubordination, maybe it would be better if the President used the UCMJ, to set an example, and prosecute Gates as well.

Castellio

This today in the Huffington Post:

During a dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Afghan President Hamid Karzai in May, Gates reminded the group that he still feels guilty for his role in the first President Bush's decision to pull out of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, according to Bob Woodward's new book, "Obama's Wars." And to express his commitment to not letting down the country again, he emphasized:

"We're not leaving Afghanistan prematurely," Gates finally said. "In fact, we're not ever leaving at all."

Woodward notes that the group was shocked by the blunt comment: "At least one stunned participant put down his fork. Another wrote it down, verbatim, in his notes."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/29/bob-woodward-robert-gates_n_743409.html

So there you have it. A permanent military presence in Afghanistan: as in Germany, South Korea, Japan, Iraq...

Gates represents the imperium... the imperium rules. Obama is window dressing.

Norbert N, Salamon

As an outsider, excuse if I overstep decorum, I believe that J above is right, and the list should include Adm Mullen, and any other General Officer who is mouthing off re Iraq withdrawal.

It is time for the USA to live byh international commitments, wherein it is in black and white that there is totla withdrawal.

Russ Wagenfeld

Hi Pat,
The analogies of Honorius and Stilicho and Valentinian and Aetius might be appropriate to the future era prior to our ultimate collapse. Today’s Byzantine climate, however, may prove more analogous to Justinian’s relations with his generals (Belisarius and Narses).
Regards,
Russ

Harper

The problem I see is an inept and purely politically motivated President, who knows nothing about command decision making, and has very little interest in his role as commander in chief. He is also too close to people like George Soros, and too much of a generational ideologue to see the logic of knocking out the opium trade, which finances both the insurgency and the governmental corruption. You want to give some legacy to Afghanistan as we depart? Remove the opium operations, which will greatly improve cooperation from Russia and even Iran, which has the highest opium addiction rate of any country in the world.

The generals who put forward this strategy for both the US and NATO have been marginalized by the dominant long-war COIN advocates, including Petraeus.

The military has legit criticisms and complaints about Obama, and Obama has legit complaints about the lack of options he's gotten from his top generals.

This deadlock is not going to be broken with Obama in office and playing his silly permanent-campaign games. He goes off to stage rock concerts at Madison to try to stir up a few student votes for November, and the economy and Afghanistan and Iraq go to hell.

Thomas

"Why the hesitation now?"

Playing Satan's sidekick, my arguement would be he is setting the stage for the December review to be the moment of truth. The election season will be over and a new congress will be arriving beginning a new two year political cycle. At that time he can hold the generals' accountable to the agreements they reached and say "It is not working, we are altering the strategy, are you in?"

Politically Obama appears as a wuss, diplomatically (and unseen) he appears as a shrewd fighter. In Iran, Bazaari strikes have recommenced, the currency is devaluing today, and the economy is grinding down. Could the sanctions have worked without China, Russia, and Europe helping the US?

kao_hsien_chih

After Truman fired MacArthur, Eisenhower, despite being from the other party, did pick up where Truman left off and brought conflict in Korea to a conclusion.

Will there be another Eisenhower in 2012? I hope there is...but I am skeptical.

walrus

If Woodwards observations are correct, then Obamas reported behaviour is consistent with the narcissism I assert he suffers from.

The Afghanistan policy in Obamas mind is not about the interests of America, the American people, let alone the Afghan people, let alone the military of the future of the Democratic party, or "world peace", it is all about Obama right here, right now.

The adulation this poor man must have each day can only be provided by those closest to him - the circle of his advisors, Congress, the military and perhaps the occasional visiting Head of State.

Why would Obama risk the mental anguish of firing senior officers unless it would enhance his reputation right now? The answer is that he would not, unless his advisers convinced him that such "direct action" would reinforce his authority and add to his reputation right now. Without that stimulus, his own cowardice would do the rest.

Considerations of "the long term" just do not enter into it. Further evidence for Obamas total lack of empathy, a key characteristic of his disability, with his base builds daily. Not content with trashing them at a $30,000 a plate dinner, Obama now calls them "irresponsible" for being less than enthusiastic about getting out the vote in light of their dissatisfaction with his achievements. (references below.)

My prediction, based on personal experience of these type of folk, is that Gen. Lute and Amb. Eikenberry will be fired or retired very shortly for the supreme crime of telling the truth as they see it, without consideration of Obamas narcissism.

To put it another way, as Jr786, Castellio and others have suggested, perhaps the American military is now a domestic political constituency in Obamas mind, if not the nations? Col. Lang might wish to comment?

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/09/28/obama/index.html

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/09/17/obama/index.html

J

Norbert,

IMO they [dissident generals] need to be busted down to slick sleeves, every last one of them. Insubordination is something that cannot be tolerated 'militarily', by our nation's [civilian] leadership ranks -- period. If they don't like it they can opt to retire from the military, but if/when generals/admirals step over that line and become insubordinate then that is the time to use the UCMJ and bust them down to slick sleeves.

Our system is that our military is Answerable/Accountable to the elected civilian leadership, not the other way around!

Bobo

Obama is a "Deer in the Headlights" type of guy. One that needs to be pushed around a bit before you get a reaction. He is being pushed around a heck of a lot, right now. Hopefully the reaction is not a major over reaction.

J

Norbert,

Our military is tasked with following the policy order of our nation's civilian leadership, not the other way around. To do otherwise is 'insubordination'. Now there is a caveat to that, so long as those civilian orders/policy are not illegal or immoral. WWII showed the German civilian leadership giving both illegal and immoral orders/policy to their military, unfortunately for Germany and mankind as a whole they carried out those illegal/immoral policies/orders and wound up paying for it with their keesters on trial at Nuremberg for War Crimes.

Fred

Based on this article I'd say Obama's got plenty of time.
http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,720156,00.html

How could they possibly still be paying reparations for WWI?

SAC Brat

Wouldn't Robert McNamara's picture be more appropriate?

frank durkee

One of the axioms of the community organizing center in which Obama was trained is: "No permaent enemies, No permanent friends." Generally "CO's" operate from a situation ofrelative weakness and seek to build sufficent strength on any given issue to move the situation to the betterment of their client group. so there are no permanent solutions. One is always working in the context of an established set of powers who control at least a signifcant part of what you are seeking. Hence compromise and accepting what you think you can get are operational principles. The focus is on power, where it is, how to influence it, how to develop countervaling power and how to use it.
I view Obama as operating in great part out of this paradigm.

Ian

I realize that people put a lot of sentimental power on civilian control of the military, but the military know that they control the supreme and final power. They can shoot me.

That is precisely why we need civilian control of the military. It's that or tyranny, and it's not at all a matter of my sentiments if American soldiers do in fact take their oaths seriously.

(Canadian soldiers only swear fealty to the Queen and her successors. Sigh.)

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