Monday, September 21, 2009

Obama’s High Noon

Recent events indicate that President Barack Obama is considering cutting the Pentagon’s “long war” short.

First came his decision to drop the Bush administration policy of demanding that Iran cede its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes as a precondition to diplomatic talks. Then he cancelled Bush’s pledge to deploy a missile defense system that doesn’t work in the Czech Republic and Poland, and promised to replace it with a missile defense system that does work. Pro-war legislators John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Joe Lieberman, John Boehner and others howled like a coven of wicked witches. (What a world! What a world!)

Now it looks like Obama may be seeing the forest among the trees with regard to his Afghanistan policy. As Jason Ditz of noted on September 20, Obama is looking at Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan with skepticism. The Afghanistan question looks to be shaping up as the ultimate confrontation between Obama and the long war mafia headed by Gen. David Petraeus and his lieutenants: Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Iraq commander Gen. Ray Odierno and McChrystal.

The long warriors were openly skeptical of candidate Obama’s promise to end U.S. presence in Iraq. When their allies in Congress and the right-wing media slammed Obama for having voted against the Iraq surge as a Senator, Obama replied that the Iraq surge had drawn attention and resources from Afghanistan. Ever since, the warlords have used their echo chamber to stuff Obama’s words back in his face.

Afghanistan is President Obama’s war, they tell us. He’s the one who sent us there; he’s the one who gave us the strategy. He’s the one, the implication goes, who is making us quit in Iraq so he better let us stay the course in Afghanistan. Republican Senator from Kentucky Mitch McConnell said that Petraeus “did a great job with the surge in Iraq. I think he knows what he's doing. Gen. McChrystal is a part of that. We have a lot of confidence in those two generals. I think the president does as well."

Piffle. Petraeus knows what he’s doing all right; he’s setting himself up to be the GOP’s great white hope come 2012 or 2016. By any real measure, the Iraq surge has been a spectacular failure. Iraq’s government and security forces are corrupt and incompetent, Sunni reconciliation is still a pipe dream and no progress has been made on the Kurdish issue. If McChrystal is a part of that, all the more reason to distrust him as much as we should distrust Petraeus (or Mullen or Gates or Odierno, who referred to the surge’s strategic malfunctions as mere “tactical issues.” That’s a perfect illustration of why I call Odierno the “Desert Ox.” Odierno, by the way, is the point man on pressuring Obama into keeping U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the December 2011 deadline dictated by the Status of Forces Agreement. Thanks to Petraeus hagiographer Tom Ricks, Odie is on record as wanting to see 30,000 to 35,000 troops in Iraq until at least 2015).

McChrystal has become the point man in the Pentagon mob’s unrestricted information warfare campaign against its commander in chief. According to a September 21 Washington Post article by Bob Woodward, McChrystal’s 66-page assessment of the Afghanistan situation “bluntly states” that “without more forces, the eight-year conflict ‘will likely result in failure.’”

McChrystal assessment states that "failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months)—while Afghan security capacity matures—risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

Defeating insurgencies is never possible. The only folks who ever win an insurgency war own a majority share in the local gene pool. For us to “succeed” in Afghanistan would require at least ten percent of us to move there permanently—something that might just happen, come to think of it, if Obama continues to accede to the Pentagon’s demand for escalations.

And there’s plenty of pressure for him to do so. Petraeus says "I don't think anyone can guarantee that it will work out even if we apply a lot more resources. But it won't work out if we don't." That’s a lovely piece of obscuration; we should apply more resources, but don’t blame me when it doesn’t work out.

A September 18 McClatchy piece says that the military is “growing impatient with Obama on Afghanistan” and complaining that “the Obama administration is sending mixed signals about its objectives there and how many troops are needed to achieve them.” This information comes from unnamed “officials” and “senior officers” in Kabul and Washington, who hint that McChrystal might resign if he doesn’t get his way on additional troops.

The McClatchy article reports that “some [unnamed] members of McChrystal’s staff” said they “don't understand why Obama called Afghanistan a ‘war of necessity’ but still hasn't given them the resources they need to turn things around quickly.” I bet you a shiny new Illinois quarter that these members of McChrystal’s staff included his personal public affairs officer, Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, who is one of the Pentagon’s leading propaganda operatives.

McChrystal reports that the Afghan government is riddled with corruption, the same situation that we have in Iraq and the same situation we had in Vietnam. "The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials…have given Afghans little reason to support their government," McChrystal says. Those aren’t the kinds of things we can fix.

During his talk show telethon last Sunday, Obama said, “I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or . . . sending a message that America is here for the duration."

That’s a direct answering shot to the Pentagon’s chief propaganda point: that in order to succeed in Afghanistan, we must promise the Afghan people to stay there forever and then do it. That doesn’t do the Afghan people a whole lot of good—they got along just fine before we showed up—but it gives the Pentagon a never-ending excuse to exist.

It might just be that Obama can reverse the insane tide of self-destructive militarism that Dwight David Eisenhower warned us about during his 1961 farewell speech. “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” Ike said. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Maybe, just maybe, Obama has the political skill and will to put our malignant obsession with war into remission. I sure hope so.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. Lavrenti Beria2:01 PM

    And here we have vintage Obama, not that I object in any way to what's been happening of late. But the fascists are wholly within their rights to express wonderment at Obama's Afghanistanian second thoughts. Its just that its been sympathetic "progressives" that have been on the receiving end of his have-it-both-ways deceptions until now. You know the sequence, out of "Eyerak", into Afghanistan, prosecute torturers but only those torturers that exceeded the limits of how a torturer should carry-out his torture. Never substance, always gesture. So today its no more Die Fahne Hoch on the Potomac? Can we hope?

  2. Anybody really surprised that the "confidential McChrystal Report" was leaked to Bob Woodward, soon after the decision was announced by the White House, to discontinue the worthless "missle sheild" project in Europe?

    Me neither.

    How sweet it is to hear Lieberman, McCain, Graham, et al squeal.

    Maybe it's just taken a while for Obama to get around to remembering who elected him.... and why.

    We can only hope.

  3. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Afghanistan troop increases are to prevent the US losing another no win situation (losing). Brought to you by war profiteers.

    Whatever losing means. Less money from poor kids for rich defense contracts.

    There is nothing in the pentagon troop commitment other than more cost with no strategy.

    That message is clear from the news coverage and will not be covered up by FOX blither or McCain/Boehner triatribes about why the corruption in the pentagon needs to be covered up by US kids dying in Afghanistan and children without health care.

    It is far overdue to demand a strategy to win, and forget this avoid defeat bluster.


  4. More hijinks from our unbeatable military:

    An autonomous fighter jet called a Reaper was shot down over Northern Afghanistan last weekend after it went AWOL and attempted to fly outside Afghan airspace.

    According to USAFCENT Public Affairs:

    The aircraft was flying a combat mission when positive control of the MQ-9 was lost. When the aircraft remained on a course that would depart Afghanistan's airspace, a US Air Force manned aircraft took proactive measures to down the Reaper in a remote area of northern Afghanistan.

    I always wonder how much these little "accidents" cost in dollars. They never seem to say, for some odd reason.

  5. The president is showing more sense than I thought. Just in case, I am sure Lieberman, Graham, Boehner and their press cheerleaders are cooking up the Dolchstosslegende for a new generation.

  6. I think Elderlady has hit the nail on the head there. Make-a-new-plan Stan's release was more than a little suspicious.

    If the "leak" was unintentional, then I'm the Sugar Plum Fairy.

    I don't think these guys have grasped the idea of propaganda, that it's supposed to be subtle, insidious, even subliminal.

    This stuff was accompanied by strobe lights and flashing arrows shouting "Look at me!".

    They did make one good propaganda move, though. They got their message out there first, before the agreed upon release date. They left the other side scrambling for a response.

    Hmmm...military and government on opposite sides. Doesn't sound good.

  7. We've seen this episode before: "Leaving equals losing, so the troops will come home when we win, which we do by staying, and that is called blowing your enemy's mind!"

    Saw the news this week with McChrystal, and had Cdr. Huber's exact response: Defeating insurgencies is never possible.

  8. McClatchy story says.... he (McChrystal may resign if he doesn't get more "resources" --- read: troops.)

    We can only hope. Better that than he lie on the floor and kick and scream until he turns blue.

    After all, how dare the Commander-In-Chief override his ambitions to become so damned "big" he's too big to fail?

    Goldman Sachs --- he ain't.

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