27 thoughts on “It’s not McChrystal’s Criticism, it’s His Bait & Switch

  1. Newt says:

    I bet if I searched enough, I’d find a post of Bruce’s lamenting Bush’s refusal to accept his generals’ counsel.

    What a difference 18 months makes.

  2. Mike Kennedy says:

    Ho Hum. So a general disagrees with the President. What’s new? Stan was just dumb enough to do it in public.

    Maybe he knows something. Maybe the strategy is failing and this is his way out. Maybe he’s got political ambitions. I agree the larger picture is what kind of presence do we keep there.

  3. Joe Loveland says:

    Maybe McSideshow will get everyone refocused on the need to get out. I have the same concern about the war now that I expressed in 2008: “Yes, the world would be a better place if we could wave a magic want and get rid of Afghanistan’s terrorist camps, poppy fields and anti-democratic thugs. But we should know by now that the Pentagon has no such magic wands in its arsenal. The Pentagon is darn good at winning wars, and darn poor at winning the peace. Military occupations just haven’t gone well for super powers over the last century, so why should we believe this occupation will work any better?”

    In Afghanistan, America doesn’t have a McChrystal problem or an Obama problem. It’s more foundational than that.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      Right. But who is best suited to solve the problem? One might think it’s those in the trenches. That said I’m still haunted by Westmoreland’s “light at the end of the tunnel”, the volumes of hopeful thinking that carried us further down the drain in Viet Nam.

      1. PM says:

        Surely you must remember Walt Kelley’s rejoinder–“What if that light at the end of the tunnel is a train heading towards you?”

        How many empires have been buried in Afghanistan?

      2. Joe Loveland says:

        Generals and their soldiers obviously have very important perspectives, but they are very limited perspectives. Generals and soldiers don’t have to worry about the impact of their recommendations on the rest of America — the economy, social fabric, national security needs in other parts of the world, etc. Presidents do. There is a reason why the founding dads made an elected civilian the commander-in-chief. Unquestioned and/or unquestionable military leadership doesn’t work in a democracy.

  4. Jason says:

    The president was unperturbed, Alter writes: “Obama’s attitude was ‘I’m president. I don’t give a shit what they say. I’m drawing down those troops.’”

    Anyone else see that this statement might be part of the problem??

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      Sure, we get it Mr. L. As CEO you have manifold responsibilities and, of all the bright subordinates in your command, you better be the one with the holistic picture in mind. Now, despite generations of misguided foreign policy–hubris–see Beinart’s “The Icarus Syndrome”, in this case, right or wrong, an aggressive military strategy has been determined. You’ve entrusted its execution to General X. Real world conditions don’t support the model devised going in. You’re horribly insulted: “A disengaged diletante” he calls you. We might add something like “the suits in their mohagony-panelled offices don’t have a f….g clue. Do you respect his judgement or dump him?

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        Personally, Dennis, I’d both consider his opinion and fire him. As the President said, “I welcome debate among my team, but I won’t tolerate division.” I think we all agree that the military doesn’t work if privates don’t obey and show respect for sergeants, sergeants don’t obey and show respect for colonels, and colonels don’t obey and show respect for generals. When that chain of command breaks down, the military can’t function. Similarly, constitutional democracies don’t work if the military doesn’t obey and show respect for the person their Constitution says is their commander-in-chief.

  5. Mike Kennedy says:

    The simple fact is that short of blowing up everything that moves in Afghanistan and then rebuilding from scratch — ala Germany, which we won’t do, our aim militarily for years has been to play defense. In other words, we don’t play to win but rather to keep the other side from winning.

    In other words, by containing the crazies in their shit hole caves and mountains and in geographic areas of rural towns and villages, we keep them from exporting their craziness.

    I laugh at all those who bemoan the long term commitment and the “when are we going to get out itis.” Look folks, we’ve been in Europe for upward of 60 years and in Korea for more than 50 — are you kidding me?

    We already have won on many fronts, including cutting off a lot of these fruitcakes’ sources of funds and isolating them in the world. Militarily, there is no way on earth they can defeat us. Isolating them and making them shit in holes in mountains is about all we can do. And that is a test of patience and willpower, most of which we have been sketchy about in the more modern age of warfare.

  6. Joe Loveland says:

    How many soldiers per year die in our European and Korean presence? How do the annual costs of those endeavors compare with Iran and Iraq?

    This analysis finds that the Iraq war is second only to World War II in inflation-adjusted cost. A nation struggling with debt can’t indefinitely ignore the ongoing financial cost of the Iraq/Afghan quagmire, much less the human cost.

    If America’s guiding foreign policy doctrine now is to be Conquer and Indefinitely Occupy Nations To Keep Their Dangerous People Hiding In Shit Holes, we are doing a lousy job executing the doctrine. There are scores of armed, hostile and dangerous people in North Korea, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Mexico, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc…and we aren’t giving them the Iraq/Afghan treatment. Can a debt-ridden country with its military stretched to the brink really have the financial wherewithal to occupy all of the places on the planet where dangerous people are plotting against us? That’s just not a sustainable foreign policy doctrine.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:

      No, we can’t but those countries weren’t the home base that hatched the terrorist organization that just happened to carry out the most deadly domestic attack we’ve had on our shores.

      So yes, it is a sustainable policy to keep them on the run in shit holes around that country and continue to disrupt them. We should do what….pack up and go home and again have them free to plan and launch attacks from there?

      When Mexico and North Korea attack us — then yes. We deploy and fight there. I didn’t say our policy is to conquer and occupy lands. What I said was it’s our policy to keep threatening countries in check by keeping them contained.

      We haven’t had an attack in nearly 8 years. Part is luck but part of it is keeping many of these lunatics busy.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        We’ve recently had attacks on Americans in India, Yemen, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia (several), Pakistan, Tanzania, Kenya… Fifteen of the nineteen September 11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia. If those countries have bad people who attack Americans, why don’t they get the Iraq/Afghanistan treatment?

      2. Mike Kennedy says:

        Yeah, there have been attacks – isolated attacks, as there always have been. Are you comparing them to killing thousands of people in a matter of hours and sending our economy into a tailspin, to say nothing of billions of property damage? I’m sure you’re not.

        The difference is that we knew where the great majority of this was being fomented and where these guys were hiding and the fact that they were being supported by the existing regime.

        So, I assume you opposed the Afghan action from the beginning and would have voted against it had you been an elected official. If not, when would you have exited and on what terms? If any.

      3. Joe Loveland says:

        So it’s acceptable to kill Americans in smaller bunches? I doubt you wouldn’t feel that way if your family member were a victim of smaller scale murders. That’s like saying we’re only going to try to catch, prosecute and punish the really successful serial murderers, not the punks who are only doing driveby shootings here and there.

        The fact that these attacks happen all over the place shows the folly of our approach in Afghanistan. Maybe, MAYBE, after sacrificing trillions of dollars and thousands of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ll be able to freeze the bad guys in Iraq and Afghanistan. But don’t you think there’s a fighting chance that those bad guys, and their successors, will just set up shop in India, Yemen, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Kenya or someplace else where there is an opening? Given that inevitability, do we really have the wherewithal to do this kind of “conquer and occupy for decades” model all over the globe?

        From the beginning, I opposed occupying Afghanistan, because history shows it’s a fools errand. I’m an Obamamaniac, and at the height of Obamamania in December 2008, I criticized Obama’s hawkish stance on Afghanistan and worried it would be his undoing.

      4. Mike Kennedy says:

        So, again, your policy would be…………..continue to let terrorism foment in those countries and brace for the attacks and accept them?

        I’m really not clear on what you would do, if anything. I know what you oppose. But what do you support? Is your answer to buy them off with money, sit down over tea and talk it out or just ignore it?

      5. Joe Loveland says:

        Very fair question, Mike, and I’m not very qualified to give a very smart answer. Off the top of my head, I support taking the trillions we spend on the failing “conquer and occupy” model and redirecting it to: 1) R&D for energy sources that allow us to be less dependent on hostile nations; 2) more foreign aid to help people help themselves out of desperate lives; 3) the best intelligence and special opps for tracking and disprupting plots; and 4) limited, pinpointed strikes in the very limited spots where we absolutely know preparation for attacks are happening…some of the stuff VP Bite Me advocates.

        Is that going to make terrorism go away? No way. But neither is the current nation building model. Some of the things I list at least hold out the hope of long-term improvement. It would sure help if we worked toward a situation where 20-30 years from now we no longer had to defend a huge corporate footprint in the middle east (i.e. oil). That’s going to take an enormous public investment, and we might be able to afford that scale of public investment if we weren’t spending so much on a doomed model. http://costofwar.com/

        Because we were able to conquer, occupy and democratize places like Germany and Japan, I think we sometimes think that model works everywhere. Unfortunately, we’re learning that it just doesn’t work in many parts of the world.

  7. john sherman says:

    As one who remembers the aftermath of Vietnam, what I hear is McChrystal preparing the “the military could have won the war, but the civilian wimps wouldn’t give us the resources” defense. My guess is that McChrystal has figured out that Afghanistan is going into the toilet, and he’s preparing to blame someone else, preferably the non-hawks.

  8. Just what IS the purpose of the Afghan war? To defeat “al Qaeda” ?? The military admits there are fewer than 50 in the whole country. What WOULD constitute “victory” in Afghanistan? Does anyone really believe people living in caves present a realistic danger to us? Outside of Iraq this war might even by stupider and more futile than Vietnam.

    1. PM says:

      Clearly (at least to me) we do not seem to have a good idea of how to fight this “war”. One of the things from the Rolling Stone article that stuck out was the complaint from some in the US military that the rules of engagement do not allow them to fight back. When i hear that, I can not help but think of the brutality of the Russians in their occupation of Afghanistan…which mistake we (thankfully) seem to be avoiding so far. But what approach does work in Afghanistan? We can’t bomb them back into the stone age–they are not all that far away from it in the first place, and the Russians certainly were not successful with that approach. Do we have the patience and funds and experience to try to “nation build” ? And do the Afghans want the type of “nation” we want to help them build?

      Or, another question–are we countering or creating the threat from Afghanistan?

      I wish i knew the answers.

      1. ah – nation building! where does that lead? do we “nation build” everywhere terrorists show up? Without a proven threat from Afghanistan, why shouldn’t we nation build right here at home?

    2. Mike Kennedy says:

      Good questions. I don’t think there is a clear strategy for what constitutes success. This is one of the problems. I agree that as long as they are in caves they don’t pose a threat. I think when they organize and have an entire country from which to operate, it becomes more dangerous by orders of magnitude

      But I do have to shake my head at liberals who backed themselves into a corner by declaring Iraq to be the bad war and Afghanistan to be the good war and now find themselves having to defend this messy conflict –Loveland not included, as he has documented.

      Be careful what you wish for.

      1. I always thought that “good war” “bad war” meme was bullshit from Obama. I didn’t know whether he believed it or nor, and I still don’t. It seemed like political expediency to me in order to gather more of the authoritarian vote (similar to his religious posturing).

      2. Joe Loveland says:

        Mike, you asked me a fair question – “what’s the alternative?” So now I’m going to ask you a question. You and many conservatives say “Obama has no clear strategy.” Well, what’s YOUR clear strategy?

        I contend that a clear strategy can’t exist — whether the C-i-C is Obama or McCain — because “conquer and occupy” is a doomed model for addressing the problem. But maybe there is something I’m missing.

  9. Mike Kennedy says:

    Well, not to put too fine of point on it, but I didn’t say Obama had no clear strategy. What I said was there is no clear strategy for what defines success.

    I know you supported Obama so it’s natural that you are assuming I’m talking about him. But my reference was no clear strategy period. I don’t believe there ever has been one, under Bush or Obama.

    That’s my point. If our strategy is simply keep terrorists on the run, the current level of troops might do it. If we are nation building, it doesn’t seem to me we have enough. I don’t know what the “right” strategy is. But we may have some minds made up one way or another is we had clear idea of what we are doing.

  10. […] It’s not McChrystal’s Criticism, it’s His Bait & Switch « TheBut we should know by now that the Pentagon has no such magic wands in its arsenal. The Pentagon is darn good at winning wars, and darn poor at … You’re horribly insulted: “A disengaged diletante” he calls you. We might add something like “the suits in their mohagony-panelled offices don’t have a f….g clue. […]

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