Thursday, October 01, 2009

The McChrystal Problem

It has become obvious that the Pentagon and its supporters are waging information warfare against the commander in chief, President Barack Obama. Right-wing echo chamberlain John L. Perry of escalated the conflict in a Sept. 29 article in which he states that “There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the ‘Obama problem.’”

Perry’s article is a classic slice of right-wing nut roll that falsely accuses Obama of doing everything the Bush/Cheney regime did, most notably ravaging the intelligence community and using the Constitution as a personal hygiene product. In another American century, Perry’s assertions would have been laughable. In the American century of Bill Kristol and the neoconservative movement, we have to take the ravings of Perry’s breed as seriously as the specter of a Sarah Palin presidency.

Perry is part of an ever-expanding media network that seeks to erode America’s cognitive skills and exploit its underlying fear factors. We can’t say that Perry was directly involved with the rest of the velvet coup that’s attempting to force Obama into making Afghanistan the new crown jewel of its “long war.” It’s safe to say, though, that Perry plays an important role in the radical right’s media strategy.

There was once a difference in tone between the high-end and low-end of conservative media. You wouldn’t mistake William F. Buckley for Sean Hannity, or the Wall Street Journal for the Washington Times. Today, the lowest common denominator dominates the spectrum. Some of Glen Beck’s biggest fans are affluent white-collar professionals.

Perry’s article is the latest phase of a campaign that, as best I can tell, began with a Sept. 18 McClatchy article that alleged the military is growing impatient with Obama on Afghanistan and implied that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander in that theater of operations, might resign if Obama doesn’t grant his demand to further escalate the conflict. The media campaign kicked into warp velocity with McChrystal’s blatantly insubordinate infomercial with David Martin on the Sept. 27 episode of 60 Minutes.

Our military problem, however, goes back much further, probably to the end of World War II when the armed services, used to getting their way, teamed up with Congress and industry to keep America in a perpetual wartime economy. President Dwight D. Eisenhower cautioned us about the inherent evil that a robust arms industry would lead to in his 1961 military-industrial complex speech, but his warning did little good. Today, local economies and political careers are wholly dependent on defense spending, and military procurement professionals are well versed in the art of ensuring that big-ticket contracts like the B-2 stealth bomber project distribute Mom and Pop’s tax dollars to every state in the union (and hence trickle back down to Mom and Pop).

Compounding the damage has been the military’s aggressive approach to propaganda. It was around the time of Operation Desert Storm that I began hearing the phrase “We’re losing the public affairs war.” This was a lament among naval aviators that the Air Force was getting all the credit for the air war success in that conflict. The Navy established the Chief of Naval Information (CHINFO) office to catch itself up with its wild blue competitor.

By the time the Kosovo War came around in the late 90s, the Navy had become the bull feather merchant marine corps. The nuclear carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt entertained more members of the press corps than the number of air sorties it contributed to the conflict.

Donald Rumsfeld established the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) after the 9/11 attacks to muster public support for the war on terror. He eliminated OSI after negative publicity about it hit the media, but he didn’t eliminate its function. Propaganda cells are now so rampant within the Department of Defense that it has transformed into an Orwellian ministry of truth.

The “embedded reporter” system employed during the initial phases of the Bush administration’s Iraq invasion was a prime example of how the Pentagon has managed to hammer the mainstream media into promoting its agenda. This led to the sort of access poisoning that turned virtually every military correspondent and pundit into a barracks-load of Pentagon Nancy boys. If you cover the five-sided puzzle palace beat, you better push the company line or your career gets napalmed. There is no discernable difference between the lunatic press and the mainstream media. Sanctioned leakers have total freedom of action to dump crafted, pro-war brainwash into our major news outlets, as they did to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

War is big business, the biggest business America has. Our official defense budget exceeds that of the rest of the world combined. Credible estimates indicate that hidden security spending soaks up more than half of the federal budget. Mammon trumps all other considerations, especially among “values” charlatans who claim to have a monopoly on God’s ear.

The current crop of Pentagon hoodoo says that if Obama doesn’t bow to McChrystal and give him whatever he wants, we will be up to our eyebrows in evildoers, that we’ll be kung fu fighting with them in the streets of Chicago and New York and Los Angeles.

What bosh. Nobody—including the Russians and Chinese combined—could ever invade and occupy America. That the 9/11 attacks, pulled off by 19 Islamo-hooligans (none of whom came from Afghanistan, by the way) occurred at all was a result of the self-pleasuring culture of the homeland defense agencies that should have rounded up the culprits long before they boarded an airplane.

I still have some hope that sanity will prevail in our foreign policy process, but I’m not overly optimistic. The war mafia may, by now, be an invincible phalanx.

Let’s pray otherwise.

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. Anonymous9:45 PM

    Incisive, biting, dead-on article Mr. Huber. To bring this home--down to the high school where-we-live- level: my daughter went to the first meeting of the Wounded Warriors Club in her high school. When she arrived she was accosted with "What are you doing here??You are a Democrat, aren't you?" This is on the day I was celebrating because I had worked hard on a project to keep our military out of jail after deployment in a combat zone and we had just been awarded the grant to make it so. The partisanship is gawdawful and we have to find some way to make it stop.

  2. Anonymous10:50 PM

    Mc Chrystal needs to resign. He has no plan other than to escape impending doom and put off defeat, somehow, very expensive.

    He does not appear to agree with the CinC and therefore the course open to him is resignation.

    Once out of uniform McC can spout all he likes maybe get a regular gig on FOX.

    The issue with the MICC is not its potency but its evolution toward expensive, late, trashy glitz.

    Thank your lucky stars that all the US need worry about is kung fu fighters in LA.

    A first world military to conquer the incompetent pentagon and MICC could be built in a year or two.

    Not only must Mc Chrystal go but the entire Potomoc crew who could not plan a picnic without a trillion bucks needs to be delegated to the trash heap of history.


  3. Yeah, the "fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" line was always BS. Why should foreigners try to occupy America? In another ten years or so they'll own it, lock, stock and barrel.

    The Iran stuff just keeps getting weirder:

    The national security adviser for former President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, gave an interview to The Daily Beast in which he suggested President Obama should make it clear to Israel that if they attempt to attack Iran's nuclear weapons sites the U.S. Air Force will stop them.

    "We are not exactly impotent little babies," Brzezinski said. "They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? ... We have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a 'Liberty' in reverse."

    Nice to know we're not "impotent little babies." Hard to tell sometimes with Americans.

  4. Anonymous11:39 PM

    >The issue with the MICC is not its potency but its evolution toward expensive, late, trashy glitz.

    Is this really the problem or actually just lucky. Just imagine what damage that amount of money and ideology would do if it was competent.

  5. Anonymous6:50 AM

    "............if it was competent."

    There would be 800 F-22 not needed but rather effective, and the mission capabiity would be 85%, the support cost per soldier would be in the low 5 figure dollars (not high six figure, privatized combat services and support is very profitable), the MICC would do this on 1% of GDP (like the Euro zone) not 4.5%, and it would consume that much less because competence includes strategy and efficient solutions, like leave the B 2 at Whiteman.

    Sadly, competence does not increase profits in a corrupt system.


  6. Thanks for the great comments everyone.


  7. Excellent post, thank you kind sir :)

  8. MC Chrystal==Westmoreland. MC chrystal was in charge of the black/ops in Iraq. lets hope he does not follow Westmoreland and start counting ears, like they did in the Nam. 90% of the money spent in Afghanistan is on the military. this leaves 10% to win hearts and minds. hard to do with drone attacks. They have the same policy of clear-build -and hold. it is impossible to build and hold without the help of the tribal war lords. we are seen as invaders and occupiers. not liberators.

  9. Does it ever occur to the NYT or the War Post that when a large portion of its every day reporting and editorializing revolves around US wars, potential
    US wars or previous US wars that maybe something is wrong. The US has been in a constant state of war since WWII. The US war machine currently receives about a trillion dollars a year either directly or indirectly (more than every other country combined with plenty left over) while the US State Department, the diplomatic face of our government gets only about 30 billion. That is roughly the same
    amount we earned as the leading exporter of arms to the world. US foreign aid only amounts to 23 billion dollars and we give the same amount of money to our top 5 aid recipients (194 million people) as we give to the rest of the world's 6 billion people combined.

    They fill their pages only with people who feel we have the right amount of war, need more war or need a lot more war, no matter how wrong they
    have been in the past. They idolize the latest general du jour who then parades and preens around Washington in a monkey suit festooned
    with a fruit salad on his chest for various heroic feats of bureaucratic combat and power point assaults that would make a south american dictator blush. McCrystal does a drive by review of
    Afghanistan and suddenly his opinion is the center of gravity for debate because he read a couple of books and learned a few phrases of Pushtu. He is nothing but a flea on the ass of the elephant that is
    the sad military history of Afghanistan and will be forgotten the moment he leaves.

    The US is the one violating the NPT, the one who used nuclear weapons, the one who attacks other countries unprovoked, the one who fills the
    world with weapons. We have wasted trillions of dollars on nuclear weapons we will never use. What is wrong with the NYT and the War Post?

  10. Today's
    on sanity prevailing in our foreign policy:

    President Barack Obama won't walk away from the flagging war in Afghanistan, the White House declared Monday as Obama faced tough decisions — and intense administration debate — over choices that could help define his presidency in his first year as commander in chief.

    The money quote:

    The fighting Saturday marked the biggest loss of U.S. life in a single Afghan battle in more than a year. It also raised questions about why U.S. troops remained in the remote outposts after McChrystal said he planned to close down isolated strongholds and focus on more heavily populated areas as part of his new strategy to focus on protecting Afghan civilians.

    I don't want to be all cynical and conspiracy-minded, but is it possible that the reason the troops were still stationed there was to generate news like this? The right-wing blood contingent is probably screaming for revenge right now...

  11. Lavrenti Beria8:04 PM

    Why it would seem that even the bigwigs at the Wolfsschanze, are now snarling at Oberstgruppenfuehrer Douglas B. McChrystal. Any military figure patently dumb enough to attempt a another try at setting U.S. policy deserves to be met on an airport tarmac by a President. What's next, a firing for insubordination and a speech to a joint session of Congress? Don't laugh. As soon as the rejection of his plans becomes certain, some Reichstag armed forces sub- committee or other will succeed in featuring him being questioned by Lindsay Graham. Just see if Graham doesn't do a full court Joe Martin for us.

  12. Anonymous8:36 AM

    I agree with you Jeff, it's amazing.

  13. This headline on Google News front page has me and my wife startled.

    President Obama tries to heal rifts over war strategy in Afghanistan
    Times Online - Tim Reid - ‎1 hour ago‎
    President Obama turned to leading figures in Congress yesterday for advice on his Afghanistan war strategy as concerns grew that he has allowed internal tensions over such a critical decision to spill into public view.

    These generals have put this critical decision into view by playing politician with their Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy -- they went to the newspapers and "leaked" this stuff repeatedly for weeks if not months now.

    These generals are incredibly diligent at trying to undermine President Obama's authority over them.

    These generals must be fired before our president completely loses control of them.

  14. lets please not forget about the chatter of patreus running for president. this could all be a set up for 2012. the naysayers and saboteurs are setting themselves up politically for 2010, and 2012. they need more control through chaos in the region. start listening for a [FREE BALOCHISTAN} that will be the match for the fuse of further balkanization in the region.

  15. Anonymous8:26 PM

    Reality may be right. But I believe that that fool McCrystal should be fired. He violated the chain of command, and went public before issuing his statement to the the chain of command. Then makes a speech doing the same again after the pres says thaat he is deliberating on it.
    He is doing the old end run to save his butt. Kick the princes out to save our troops lives. Our men deserve better.

  16. ANON; When you hear McChrystal [think] Mac Arthur. chrystal is from the rummy mold, it was bad enough that obama kept gates. imo; obama was told to keep gates. now it is decision time. ==same old same oil==or does obama enter the new era?

  17. It appears John L. Perry's story has been taken down by Newsmax. Link broken and can't find it on its archives page.

  18. With all the solemnity, and they honor they deserved, the eight service men we lost recently, were returned to Dover Air Force Base.

    For the first time, since we went to war (with anybody) eight years ago, their homecoming was open to the press, and was televised.

    This White House can read the tea leaves on some things.

    Most of America is wondering at this point -- how we can afford to continue to throw billions, at the war and corruption in Afghanistan, and we are counting pennies, when it comes to financing health care -- for all our own citizens.

    Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced a bill in the House, which would in effect defund this war. Or, at minimum, refuse to fund any additional troops to deploy to Afghanistan.

    Nobody has called her "un-American" or "un-Patriotic" that I'm aware of.

    You may "go to war with the Army that you have" in the military.

    In politics "you govern the people as they are now,-- not as they were 5-6-7 years or so ago".

    America is dead broke, and war weary.

    And, anybody who cannot see the insanity of sending over 100,000 combat troops to hunt down 100 bad guys....needs to have their "militarily strategic head examined." Or eat a balanced meal and ... get some sleep. Finding another career path is also an option. Whichever would be the most beneficial to us all.

  19. Anonymous8:12 PM

    The site of the attack where those 8 Americans soldiers were killed was totally indefensible. In a valley covered on two sides by Taliban held high ground.

    Who put a "base" in a depression needs to be court martialled.

    Yeah, Lindsey Graham can say "listen to the generals", but not the ones who put US soldiers in harms way with no concern for the terrain. For no operational or strategic goals.

    There are only war profiteers of various shades.

    Give them another 10 years........


  20. ANON; great observation [think] Diem Bien Phu. as far as we are concerned all of af/pak is a valley, and they hold the high ground. time is on their side. as the saying in the middle east goes. ----the enemy of my enemy is my enemy---

  21. More from the looney right, this one straight from the executive suite:

    Rove: Obama Can't Outsource Afghanistan

    They really do seem to believe that nothing bad happened during the Bush years. As they were always so quick to remind us, history began anew on September 11, 2001, so no use thinking or talking about the irrelevant past. Well, it must have ended again at some point, because nothing of consequence seems to have happened before Obama took the oath of office.

    I still think that the Republican party took a dive with the McCain/Palin ticket. Things couldn't help but be worse in the next decade, thanks in no small part to Bush's "leadership," so why not hang it all around the neck of a one-term Democrat? I wonder who our Republican "saviour" is going to be?

    Sorry, rhetorical question.

  22. jp; i have been saying the same thing all along, the gop took a dive. they knew what was coming. the financial system was broken in 2007. our empire building was well under way. the rethugs wanted no part of this. what ever happens they will blame it on the black democrat. the gop have become the naysayers, and the saboreurs of society.