Saturday, October 24, 2009

Four-Star Wars

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has supposedly cautioned his generals against publicly challenging the White House, but it looks like Stanley McChrystal didn’t get the memo. McChrystal’s unrestricted information warfare against President Obama continues.

The rift between the Pentagon and the administration has grown so wide it may never close during the Obama’s tenure. This has been coming for some time; President Obama’s failure to clean house at the Department of Defense when he took office is catching up to him.

The military and its supporters have been maneuvering Obama into a box trap since before the election. Gates, Gen. David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen all spoke out against Obama’s campaign pledge to get U.S. troops out of Iraq within 16 months. Gen. Ray Odierno, now commander in Iraq, went on record with Tom Ricks as wanting to keep 30,000 or so troops in Iraq until 2015, years after the 2011 withdrawal deadline called for in the Status of Forces Agreement. He did so in March 2009, after Obama had taken office. Only recently, Odierno noted that the insurgency in Iraq might drag on for another five, ten or fifteen years.

In an Oct. 20 story in Rupert Murdoch’s TimesOnline, Odierno said he might not be able to live up to Obama’s withdrawal pledges due to increasing levels of violence in Iraq. This pronouncement came out the same day Obama promised Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that he would pull troops out on schedule.

McChrystal has been openly derisive of Joe Biden’s idea to go with a small-footprint, counter-terror strategy in Afghanistan.

As Professor Andrew Bacevich notes, Afghanistan is a “war we can’t win.” Unfortunately for us, it’s the only war the military has to bank on for its Orwellian long war strategy, one that hopes to keep us in a constant state of low level conflict in order to preserve the military institution and its supporting infrastructure. As President Dwight Eisenhower cautioned us, the unwarranted influence of the military industrial complex has persisted. It has become our national monster.

Even more alarming is how our supposedly “mainstream” media have contributed to the latest surge of militaristic propaganda. McChrystal has enjoyed five-star celebrity status ever since his Senate confirmation hearing. He’s gotten a complete pass for his involvement with torture and his part in the cover-up of the Pat Tillman scandal.

The obvious leak of McChrystal’s “assessment” on Afghanistan to Bob Woodward, the hagiographic 60 Minutes puff piece, the 13 pages of oral sex Dexter Filkins gave him in the New York Times Magazine: these are signs of a savvy information operative. (Filkins appears to have turned into McChrystal’s press slave, much in the way Thomas E. Ricks became a journalistic concubine for David Petraeus. McChrystal’s personal public affairs officer is one-star admiral Gregory Smith, a career bull feather merchant who has been awarded medals they wouldn’t give to Sergeant Rock.)

The four-star junta—Petraeus, Odierno, Mullen and McChrystal—presents the greatest challenge to our constitutional government that we have seen in our history. Gates figures into the equation, sort of, but he’s a bureaucratic twit.

The junta wants to keep its long war going. Objective, decisive evidence provided by the good folks at the Rand Corporation tells us that our best approach to counterterrorism is to “Minimize the use of U.S. military force.”

That kind of talk doesn’t sit well with the junta. If they don’t have terrorism to fight, they don’t have anything to do. Russia and China, whose defense budgets are about ten percent of ours, aren’t going to challenge us militarily. Iran, whose defense budget is less than one percent of ours, doesn’t amount to a pimple on history’s heinie.

McChrystal, and the rest of the junta, aren’t trying to “win” the war in Afghanistan, any more than they’re trying to win the war in Iraq. They just want to keep them going. If we can’t fight in Iraq, we’ll fight in Afghanistan. Or Pakistan. Or Iran. Or Eastasia. Or Eurasia. The important thing is to stay in fights that aren’t much of a fight to justify our budget.

The pismire wars we’re fighting now are a boon for the military-industrial-congressional complex. We can’t win them: Clausewitz and Sun Tzu are clawing at their coffin lids that we’re bothering with them. Nothing good will come from the runoff elections in Afghanistan. Iraq’s parliament can’t even agree on legislation on its upcoming elections. We’re at war with countries at war with themselves. What lunacy.

As I’ve said before, Obama should have called for the resignation or retirement letters of everyone on the department of defense who wears eagles or stars on their collars of has the word “secretary” in their job titles. That wouldn’t have been politically doable, alas. If you thing the right-wing noise generator is blasting Obama now, imagine what would have happened if he canned Petraeus, Odierno, and Gates on his first day in office.

But it’s getting to the point where he needs to stomp on the necks of his subordinates in the military, and to tell the war mafia to take a hike.

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. Amen Jeff. BHO needed to fire himself a whole mess of four stars on Day #1. In fact, he needed to fire down thru the 3-star ranks (all politically selected by the Cheney Administration and confirmed by the compromised Senate) as well as each and every Assistant Secretary of Defense, Deputy ASD and Schedule C employee in the DoD.

    He did not.

    And when given a second opportunity to roll some insubordinate heads, he failed again. So disheartening.


  2. Anonymous9:07 PM

    IN 1963 Kennedy sent Mc Namara to Vietnam to check out the strategic hamlets and the other dog and pony shows the 1960's perpetual war crowd showcased so he would think they were making progress.

    This is nothing new, the difference is the news cycle, Sheehan had to get hos reports to Toyko to get to the presses inthe US.

    Now Murdock gets the stuff direct and out fast.

    The truth tellers again are the underfunded ridiculed.......


  3. Anonymous10:54 AM


    You continue to amaze me at the lengths that you go to create controversy.

    First, do you have proof that the report leaked was done so by either the military or McCrystal himself? Why not a staffer in the administration which has the same ability and to a Washington beltway star at that.

    Second, being a retired military officer, I find it interesting that you think or feel, not sure there is a lot of thinking going on right now, that the military wants wars to continue. Last time I checked, the military members from the Private to the most senior General really don't like to engage in wars. They know what it takes and what can happen whereas most of the public and the administration can only guess and read about it since very few of them has even been in uniform.

    Lastly, what you are implying is tantamount to treason and/or perhaps munity. What proof do you have besides a reporters take on what was said. Where is the context?

    You of all people should know that as of now, Gen Odierno has a stated mission from the Commander in Chief and he is talking I presume based on that mission and the parameters that he has been given. If he cannot meet that mission, he is obligated to tell his boss.

    What would you have him do, refuse his sworn duty?

  4. Anonymous,

    It's pretty obvious the report got leaked by the military and not the WH.

    The military does want the wars to continue. Their long war doctrine implicitly states that.

    The body of what McChrystal and the rest of them have done makes it quite obvious they want an open confrontation wiht Obama.

    If Odierno has an issue with Obama, he should be talking to Obama about it, not the press.


  5. Yikes! Great catch on the Lieberman thing.


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