Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama Keeps Fiddling, Afghanistan Keeps Burning

On October 2, I addressed the issue of the President of the United States posing for pretty pictures while trying to get the Olympics staged in Chicago for his cronies. At the time it was written, Obama had spoken to his commander in the field in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal exactly once in six months, and then staged a hurried twenty minute discussion with the general before leaving Europe. Subsequently, the U.S. came in last in the competition, and we still have no policy in Afghanistan.

Pictured are some recent recruits for the Afghan Security Forces which will guard the country once America has fully withdrawn. Not exactly spit and polish, nor very encouraging. America needs to finish off its mission in Afghanistan so these sterling warriors can maintain the peace in our absence. If the ultimate mission of pushing Al Qaeda out of the country, destroying the war-making abilities of the Taliban, and securing the border regions with Pakistan are not accomplished before America withdraws, it will all have been in vain, and at great human cost.

But a week later, there only seems to be more confusion, more indecision, and more Democratic infighting than there was just a week ago. And except for meaningless speech or two, the president who can't make a decision won't even get control of his own advisers and make a damned decision. Democratic President John F. Kennedy showed what kind of disaster that can lead to, but also learned lessons from it that Obama seems incapable of learning. Kennedy listened to his advisers, and with the CIA leading the pack, the National Security Council made the decision to invade Cuba via the Bay of Pigs. Kennedy abdicated his responsibility, and merely rubber-stamped the decision of others.

That indecision and abdication of responsibility resulted in the USSR boldly putting intermediate range nuclear ballistic missiles in Cuba, figuring that the weak young President had no stomach for a fight. They didn't figure on Kennedy's learning in office and recognizing that Harry Truman was indeed right--"the buck stops here." The CIA, all the joint chiefs of staff, and several of his civilian advisers demanded acts of war ranging from full-scale ground invasion (a unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs) to strategic bombing and tactical nuclear strikes. Only a few of the members of the council sought to avoid war if the goal of removal of the missiles could be accomplished. Against the advice of most of his advisers, Kennedy decided (yes, made a decision) that turned out to be exactly the right one. He went on television, and declared that a nuclear attack on any nation in the western hemisphere would be considered an attack on the United States which would be met with a full retaliatory response. That made the final result clear if the Soviet Union didn't back down and remove the missiles.

Having established that he was not the same man who caved in at Vienna three years earlier, he then overrode his advisers and carefully chose to enact an immediate quarantine on all ships moving into Cuban territorial waters, making clear that it was a quarantine and not a blockade. A blockade stops all shipping from entering the waters of a sovereign nation, and is considered an act of war, leaving the peace avenue closed. But a quarantine would stop, search and release all ships entering Cuban waters which were not carrying materials of war. Thus, the United States could not be accused of trying to "starve Cuba out." Along with some back-channel diplomatic maneuvering, it worked. And America moved back from the brink of thermonuclear war.

In today's world of terrorism and asymmetrical warfare, the situation is quite different, but the underlying need is the same--protect America from a foreign attack. And for God's sake, make a decision. The last time a president took his advice from policy wonks was the guidance Robert McNamara gave Lyndon Johnson. It included incrementalism and avoidance of sufficient boots on the ground. But at least Johnson made a decision.

The lesson to be learned from the two examples is: Half-measures don't work and civilian advisers are useful only up to a point--plus--make a decision before it's too late. It would be nice to say "make the right decision," but that doesn't always happen even under the best of circumstances. But indecision emboldens the enemy, confuses the military, and ends up making a bad situation worse.

So now we come to Obama's ongoing inability to make that decision. His two best war generals have made their desires clear. Both General McChrystal, the commander in Afghanistan, and General Petraeus, the former commander in Iraq, have advised a full-scale surge, accompanied by 40,000 new troops in the war zones. The peaceniks in the administration are saying everything from immediate withdrawal to a "mini-surge." In other words, turn tail and run, leaving the mission a complete failure, or give it another little try, only do it on the cheap. Half-measures, as I pointed out, don't work. Two different sets of advice, of which I prefer the generals' version. But it appears that Obama can't walk and chew gum at the same time. It would be bad enough if there were only two alternatives, but he's been presented with no less than five. And he's gone on shutdown.

His own Secretary of Defense has passed on McChrystal's advice to the president with a full favorable recommendation. And even that has produced a cat-fight. Obama mouthpieces have suggested that McChrystal was too public in his opinion, and that Gates had bypassed the commander's direct bosses in the military chain of command. Now that's interesting. Aren't the Democrats the ones who are constantly whining about civilian control of the military being in jeopardy? Yet when the highest ranking civilian in the Defense Department does his job, he is criticized for not deferring to the military. Well, consistency has never been a liberal trait.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is believed to be leaning towards McChrystal's recommendation. But Vice President Crazy Joe Biden (who opposed both Gulf Wars and has tried to sabotage the efforts in Afghanistan) wants to get the troops out and lob bombs off drones sent from ocean going warships. Obama is said to be leaning toward "McChrystal Lite," the incremental half-measure approach which cost us so dearly in Vietnam. And yet it was Obama who called Afghanistan "the right war, " but apparently he doesn't really want to win it. After all, somebody might get hurt.

Equally telling is the weak advice and poor judgment shown by Obama National Security Adviser James L. Jones which seemed to be leading to his dismissal. But he has been very vocal, and very articulate announcing the Obama hesitancy as in reality being strong, deliberative leadership. He has brown-nosed the president while demeaning the generals, and seems now to be very secure in his formerly weak position. And worst of all, as the press cavils, the administration waffles, decision-making fails, and Afghanistan burns, public support for more troops for the "right war" has dropped to 38 percent. Yet 57 percent want victory and think progress is being made.

That makes the decision both more difficult and more vital, and the sooner, the better. A bold president, knowing that granting McChrystal the troops he needs for a successful surge would be unpopular but would likely produce the exact result the majority still want, would just do it. As a commander-in-chief, he would get high scores for military decisiveness, and as a politician he would get immense political capital, which he sorely needs. But this is Barack Obama. He must deliberate. He must assess every minute detail. He must confer, confer, confer, and keep conferring until somebody tells him where he should go so he can lead.

He holds himself out as a great leader. In fact, he is a weak sister, incapable of giving up the hand-wringing and peace propaganda of his childhood. I haven't mentioned the "kumbaya option" but I'm sure it's been proposed. In everything he has done in nearly ten months in office, he has proven that the buck stops everywhere except on the executive desk in the Oval Office. He never heard (or ignored) the old saying: "Lead, follow, or get out of the way." Doing one of those things would require making a decision--something he has shown himself to be incapable of.

END NOTE: This article was written before I discovered this morning that the idiots at the Nobel Peace Prize Committee had granted the messiah another phony credential. The Euroweenies have finally found a President who will do anything to put America out of the top spot, and sandwich her in with the other weak, impotent, useless, bureaucratic socialistic republics waiting to surrender to Putin and Islam.

Afghans and Americans are now dying in Afghanistan not just because of this horrendous anti-American President's combination of immense ego and complete spinelessness, but now it is apparent that they will continue to do so in order to keep up his image as a great peacemaker, like Neville Chamberlain. Overnight, America has become even less safe than it was before this narcissistic non-entity received the "Surrender and Declare Peace" Nobel Prize. I'm going to write a letter to the Pope and ask him to immediately begin the process for declaring Obama a saint. We might as well add blasphemy and sacrilege to the list of awards this bottom-feeder has received.


JG said...

Hey now, he must be doing something right. He got that Nobel Peace Prize, after all. :/

But seriously, all this has just gone to show how all his posturing about the "real" war being in Afghanistan during the campaign was just that - posturing. And now he's been rewarded for his "indecision" (or, I might pose, the decision to do nothing). I'm not sure what it would take for him to take our fight seriously - to make him realize this is OUR war, not "Bush's war" - but if continuing casualty reports from the front don't do it, I shudder to think what would.

JG said...

Also: I wrote that comment before seeing your footnote. Didn't mean to just regurgitate it there.

LawHawkSF said...

JG: Thanks for your comments. And no need to apologize for the regurgitation. I think we're all going to be doing a lot of regurgitation over the next couple of days. I'm just glad that I hadn't eaten breakfast yet.

AndrewPrice said...

When an active duty general needs feels the need to speak up against policy, then you know something is wrong with the policy makers. Military guys (with rare exceptions) are the epitome of discretion.

Of course, when your commander in chief is a dilettante, speaking up probably becomes a necessity.

LawHawkSF said...


The New Republic is perhaps the last intelligent and reasonable liberal Democratic publication left in America. Although I rarely agree with them on anything, I think they got the Peace Prize award just right. If you don't have time to read the entire article, here's the concluding paragraph:

"At best, then, the award is a mixed blessing. That's why Obama should consider the advice of Chait, Massie [New Republic editors] and others, and in a gesture of humility, refuse to accept it. It would be the right thing to do in principle. It might also be smart politics."

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: I agree. I also get the distinct impression that McChrystal was under the mistaken impression that he had been given the go-ahead to make the public statement. I don't think it was an act of defiance in any way, though if it was, I commend him. I think it's another example of Obama setting up the sacrificial lamb in order to establish his non-existent reputation as the "man in charge."

StanH said...

Grrrr… get’em Lawhawk! Can you imagine how the soldiers feel with Hopey in charge. Barry chose the right man for Afghanistan Gen. McChrystal is a proven war fighter who understands what it will take to win. Don’t you know that this intimidates Barry, a man that’s certain in his belief is the antithesis of liberalism. I expect you’re right like LBJ he’ll go for a half measure that will lead to a creeping defeat, by default.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: Just remember: Peace = Surrender. I still have that damned Nobel Prize stuck in my craw. The largest criticism (even from liberals) is that he hasn't been in office long enough, nor shown any actual accomplishment toward peace other than talk-talk and nostrums. His two sitting presidential predecessors receiving the prize were both in their second terms, and had actually done something.

Then it hit me. Not only has he been in office barely ten months, but he was elected president a mere two weeks before the nominations were closed and sealed. It's obvious "the fix was in," and they had decided that he was their man whether he ever actually accomplished anything or not.

The only two weeks which are relevant were comprised entirely of photo ops, warming the presidential chair, grinning for his TV friends, practicing with the teleprompter, and making the initial steps towards choosing an official White House dog. Yep--that definitely deserves a Nobel Peace Prize! I'm sick to my stomach. Who has the Pepto Bismol?

LL said...

As a peace prize winner, Obama should immediately withdraw the US military from Afghanistan, recall the navy to port, stand down from Iraq, withdraw US forces from Europe, pull all foreign aid (that can be used for or applied to weapons purposes) and allocate the savings to Obama's travel and medal budget.

LawHawkSF said...

LL: And then he could station what's left of our troops in the last hot war zone--the South Side of Chicago.

HamiltonsGhost said...

I am now wondering how much more time this idiot is going to waste grinning with those horse teeth shining over his peace prize. If he actually grew a pair and decided to launch an immediate surge in Afghanistan with the 40,000 new troops recommended by every military commander, would they take his beloved trinket away from him? That's a tough decision for a president with a long yellow streak down his back to make.

LawHawkSF said...

HamiltonsGhost: He's about as likely to make a decision as I am to write a classical symphony. With his complete lack of a spine, I'm amazed he can remain upright. I was born a year before FDR died, and with all the presidents I've lived through, this is the first one I would call a contemptible, unAmerican coward. I've had plenty bad to say about a whole lot of our presidents, but this is the first time I've felt utter contempt for a sitting president. Not one single positive American virtue to be found anywhere in this sniveling thug.

While the Euroweenies give him their adulation, the Putins, Ahmadenijads and bin Ladens of this world are rubbing their hands together with glee. They've never seen victory over America as such a close target before.

Writer X said...

Now that he's been given the Peace Prize (gag me with a spoon), he'll be less likely to do anything decisive in Afghanistan. I feel sorry for the troops, trying to do their jobs, trying to do the right thing. It's like having SpongeBobSquarePants as your commander-in-chief. Even SpongeBob has more of a spine.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: That is exactly my worry. He was already waffling, and with his complete lack of a sense of decency, I can see that prize being more important to him than winning a war that he himself called "the right war."

Tennessee Jed said...

One of the best written asessments of the current president's shortcoming in foreign policy I have seen, Lawhawk. Bravo! As I read this, it ocurred to me just how much this administration resembles some sort of bizarre Mad Magazine satire on liberals vs. conservatives. They are completely cluless in foreign policy and ant-military to the point of being ridiculous, preferring to spend their time raping and re-distributing our nation's wealth.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: Thanks again. There are some tough decisions to be made, and it would take a real leader to make them. Instead we have this effete dilettante mucking around with the adults. The closest he ever got to the military was a childhood GI Joe, which he immediately dressed up as a hippie in a Che tee-shirt. If this cowardly indecision keeps up, we're going to start seeing mass non-reenlistments, minimal new enlistments and officers resigning their commission as we did with Carter and Clinton. It took Bush II almost five years to get our fighter pilot population back to near-normal after Clinton and Rep. Patricia (my hemorrhoids hurt) Schroder diddled around with the Air Force.

98ZJUSMC said...

To piggyback onto TennJed's comment: and NONE of them want to make a decision. Ultimately, of course, it is His Most Holy Telepromter of the Fjords decision to make. It will be half-hearted and insufficient. Afghanistan will go into a 73-79 SE Asian hell. Bush's response to the "Iraq Tet" was the complete opposite of LBJ's, and won. Obama seems content to replay Vietnam 71-75 -and we are closer to '75.

James Jones, *ugh*. Bear in mind that this is a jarhead saying this but, I have far more respect for Gen. McChrystal (Army) than the purely political Jones (USMC). I hate that guy.

Excellent read, Hawk!

LawHawkSF said...

98ZJUSMC: I feel the same way about Hill as I did about Colin Powell. All politics and sensitivity and no military strategy or tactics. McChrystal and Petraeus are gentlemen warriors, but they are not politicians. Yet I have never seen either of them do anything that didn't seem to fit within the parameters set for them by their civilian bosses. I would not be nearly so gentlemanly.

I imagine both of them must have the same feeling toward Hill that Norman Schwarzkopf must have felt when political general Powell told him that Stormin' Norman's fantastically successful drive toward Baghdad had to stop immediately. As a result, we ended up having to fight Gulf War II to get rid of Saddam Hussein once and for all. And still, Powell kept sabotaging the effort. When is that jerk Powell going to join the Democrats where he belongs?

CalFederalist said...

LawhawkSF I had the same thought. Powell was another one of the political generals who thought you could fight a major military action with little bloodshed and no ultimate victory. He was actually horrified that the invasion was so stunningly successful and terrified that a huge victory would offend our fine Arab brethren. The political generals simply don't understand the simple military truth: "There is no substitute for victory." And now we have Obama and James Jones.

LawHawkSF said...

98ZJUSMC: I'm sorry if I confused you. I was thinking of another one of my favorite unfavorites, and accidentally wrote "Hill" in my comment to you when I really meant to write "Jones." My late uncle, a fighting Marine colonel, must be turning over in his grave hearing a Marine general talking about half-measures.

LawHawkSF said...

CalFederalist: I don't know if the story is apocryphal or not, but I remember a story about Norman Schwarzkopf reacting to the order to halt immediately by sitting down and crying. The only thing that could cause a brave warrior to cry is to have his victory snatched away from him for wrong-headed political reasons. The enemy couldn't defeat him, but political-correctness and "can't we all just get along?" generals could.

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