An interesting Monday


"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," U.S. and NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in the document, according to the Post.

Bob Woodward of the Post — who wrote the article — called it "a striking thing for a general to say to the secretary of defense and the commander-in-chief."

McChrystal "really takes his finger and puts it in their eye, 'Deliver or this won't work,'" Woodward told CNN's "American Morning" on Monday. "He says if they don't endorse this full counterinsurgency strategy, don't even give me the troops because it won't work."


As several of you have noted Zbig has pointed out an obvious  truth in the Daily Beast.  An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would most likely involve overflght of Iraq.  Iraq has no air force but the US does and is obligated by its agreements with Iraq to defend the country's airspace.  The Iraqi government would certainly not accept Israeli overflights on the way to Natanz or anywhere else.  If the United States did not prevent Israeli use of Iraqi airspace the whole of the Islamic World would hold the US equally responsible for the attacks.  And then there are also the issues of recovery of aircraft with battle damage, search and rescue operations, etc.  In fact, most Americans don't have a clue about any of this.  If it happens, it will be a big surprise to the general public, most of whom would have a hard time finding either Iraq or Israel on a map.

And now we have reportage in the Washington Post on the substance of General McChrystal's analysis if the situation in his command's area of responsibility.  This classified document was artfully leaked by those who wish to "bulldoze" Obama and Gates into accepting an unlimited commitment to a nation building counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.  McChrystal can not be faulted for having an opinion and for being honest enough to express that opinion, but he is walking close to the edge of the cliff if he begins to attempt to dictate the mission of his own command.  Macarthur could explain that to him if he were still around.  pl


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17 Responses to An interesting Monday

  1. John Minnerath says:

    I wondered how soon McChrystal’s ideas/statements would appear.
    It’s deja-vu all over again, take– well pick a number!
    Where are we going with this? Is the political infighting on the “Hill” and in the Pentagon going to lead to the crashing of careers, is a new grand strategy being developed?
    Who’s ox is getting gored?
    I expect to read a lot of comments on this “leaked” information.

  2. Sven Ortmann says:

    “12 months”
    Two Friedman units. The situation is worsening, they don’t dare to limit their prophecies to one Friedman unit any more.
    Wanna bet against me? I bet ISAF, OEF or CENTCOM just come up with yet another plan and more demand for troops in fall 2010 if things don’t improve much.

  3. jr786 says:

    This leak is fishy. I doubt many people in Rome are much concerned with more dead Afghans or U.S. servicement defending against the massive Taliban threat.
    Isn’t this a convenient CYA for Obama? He can now say he was just following the advice of his pro-consuls. When Petraeus Mesopotamianus weighs in, we’ll know for sure if the fix was in.

  4. Per Af-Pak stuff, from a policy point of view we might ask just how the President is supposed to judge the McCh. plan. In what strategic context? From what national security interests? etc.
    1. It is interesting that General Powell had face time with the President. It would be more interesting to know the advice Powell may have given in recent days.
    2. It is interesting that the President himself is now talking about Al-Qaeda as the core of the original mission in Afghanistan. McCh. recently said AQ not much of a problem there and now presents his opinion about escallation against the Taliban.
    3. It is interesting that the President is now talking about the lack of a clear strategy. McCh. has NOT presented a clear strategy but merely the glitzy opinion of a COIN-obsessed general.
    4. Before a final decision on McCh.’s COIN-obsessed opinion, I would advise the President to order fresh National Intelligence Estimates immediately on Afghanistan and Pakistan with respect to Af-Pak matters, and on Israel with respect to Israel generally and Iran situation.
    I would also ask the intelligence community for an assessment of the current threat environment and how various Af-Pak options such as McCh.’s COIN extravaganza would impact on short, medium, and long term US national security.
    I would also task the intelligence community to assess the economic consequences of an escallation as called for by McCh. on the US economy. We had a couple of decades of stagflation after Johnson’s Vietnam escallation I seem to recall.
    I would at the same time ask the Secretary of State for an assessment with respect to the present US diplomatic situation and our broad national interests.
    And an assessment of the Russian, Chinese, and Indian positions with respect to Af-Pak. And Europe? And Japan? Just what is the international diplomatic context at this time?
    5. I note the following in an article in the LA Times today:
    “For eight years, the CIA’s main priorities in Afghanistan were to hunt for Al Qaeda, manage relationships with warlords — doling out inducements that included cash and, in some cases, Viagra — and rebuild the Afghan spy service. The difficulty of that task was underscored this month by the assassination of the service’s No. 2 official.
    But the agency’s role is likely to shift under McChrystal, who has placed a greater emphasis on protecting civilians and rooting out government graft.”
    Could one posit the slippery McChrystal/COIN bunch in the future attempting to push blame for an inevitable failure of the McCh. plan, if implemented, on “intelligence failures”?

  5. AAL says:

    I think General McClellan would be another analogy. Obama channels Lincoln more than Truman. It seems to me a face-saving measure primarily. Lincoln eventually found Grant but he had a persistent belief that the Civil War was winnable. McClellan had his doubts about that as reflected in his campaign for President in 1864. McChrystal knows that Afghanistan is not winnable but won’t admit reality. Will he too enter politics on the conservative’s “I told you so” platform?

  6. Fred says:

    McChrystal’s call for more troops is not quite the ‘green’ initiative Obama was looking for. The Washington Post reports “His NATO command, he says, is “poorly configured” for counterinsurgency and is “inexperienced in local languages and culture.” So these new troops will have more experience in local languages and culture? Just who’s troops will these be? It’s only been true for six years, how many more does McChrystal think this would take?
    How many of my sons should fight and maybe die for Hamid Karzai’s corrupt governement? Most of his own people won’t vote for him much less fight for him.

  7. Nancy K says:

    We need to be out of Afganistan, we cannot win, what would a win even be?
    I voted for President Obama, but I did not vote for him to lead us into a quagmire in Afganistan. I truly hope he can remember that he is the CIC not McChrystal.

  8. Arun says:

    Dailykos puts an optimistic spin on all of this:
    “Happily, important questions are being asked by more and more members of Congress – by the usual suspects, obviously, but also by Senators such as Dianne Feinstein. If everybody agrees there is no wholly military solution, why is there a 20-to-1 military-to-civilian budget ratio for Afghanistan operations? Can the U.S. counter-insurgency plan really work without hundreds of thousands of combat troops? After eight years, is U.S. presence more of a problem than a solution, creating more enemies with each air strike that kills civilians? What benchmarks will have to be met before success can be declared? And what’s a realistic guessestimate for when the troops can come home? Is it General Petraeus’s suggested decade or more? Or British Army Commander General Sir David Richards’s 40 years?
    President Obama has asked the most important question of all. “Are we doing the right thing?” Most Americans say no.”

  9. jonst says:

    I would politely, but swiftly, show him the door. Give him a medal, hell promote him, but show him the door. And by the way….where is Gen Petraeus in all this? He seems to be lying low. Planning his presidential campaign perhaps and figuring it works best for him to keep a low profile?
    Yeah, Zbig, used the L word, too. I thought anytime a high govt official used the phrase USS Liberty, negatively, a little elf with a ball peen hammer crept up and hit him on the head.

  10. b says:

    This strategic (dis-)information campaign by the military(-industrial complex) has been going on since March/April when Obama told the military to focus on AlQaeda.
    The campaign then redefined that aim by saying going after AlQaeda demands COIN and nation-building in Afghanistan.
    That is of course utter bullshit.
    But here we are. Obama fought back a bit on yesterday’s TV circle but having seen him retreat on other issues I do not expect him to power up enough against this to be successful.
    Given that Obama will lose 2012 when the Afghanistan war will deliver hundreds of US soldiers dead per month and the Petreaus 2012 campaign, behind this whole issue, will pound on him for having chosen the wrong strategy, i.e.COIN.
    If Obama has a backbone he must now fire (retire) Petraeus and McChrystal.
    It’s the only way I see that could turn around this stampede to escalation in AfPak.

  11. Time to scour the lists for Field Grades that are promotable and retire most of the flag ranks. We do want to “win” do we not? Of course “winning” to me means Obama has at least some of a shot at second term. Right now with the devastation that appears to be about to hit the DEMS in next three elections, he will be lucky to survive. Just basics. Unemployed. FED lobbying with its own funds to preserve its fictional independence. Deficit. Possible AQ strike domestically. China decides to run things without the US. OPEC decides to go to a basket of currencies. Replacement of STEVENS on Supreme Court reveals that OBAMA cannot get a liberal or progressive confirmed to SCOTUS. PAKISTAN loses control of its nukes. N. Korea becomes nuclear power. Hey do I have enough items. The fact that much of this does not lie for causation completely with OBAMA will NOT save him for a second term. Well it was a fun ride. Oh and the Census will reveal that Republican policy on Katrina worked and Louisiana no longer in the DEMS portfolio! Fun brainstorming. Are these all David Axlerod’s to solve and come up with answers? Oh and GATES will have resigned before next STATE OF UNION ADDRESS. Candidates for SECDEF step forward! Hey a bit facetious but a bit serious also. Are events in the saddle? SEEMS SO!

  12. Jackie says:

    I don’t think McChrystal is going to be able to bulldoze Obama and Gates. Especially Gates. I read a transcript of an interview Hillary Clinton did with the NewsHour to air this evening. She’s taking the go slow and evaluate position for the Administration.
    Plus, isn’t Jim Jones a Marine? Is he going to let someone stampede him? Just wondering.

  13. PS says:

    WRC: McCain won Louisiana by 19 percentage points.

  14. @WRC,
    Time to scour the lists for Field Grades that are promotable and retire most of the flag ranks.
    This is what I’ve been saying for YEARS! How many of the perfumed generals and admirals at the top have had real, front-line combat experience? How many of them sacrificed their honor and integrity for the ease and comfort of flag ranks (and the more than 75% retirements they accrue for service past 30 years)? How many are eager to just get through the revolving door one last time, without incident, before they join the corporate army at Xe, BAH, GD, NG, LM, EDS, L3, Raytheon, Boeing and oh so many others?
    The flags did not stand up to Bush over Iraq in 2002, 2003 or even in 2006 when the “surge” was all the rage and so clearly designed to avoid ending the Iraq mis-adventure before 1/20/2009. Would they stand up now against Obama? I’m sure some would puff out their chests, thump them once or twice a la MacArthur, but the vast majority would simply stay true to their selves and avoid rocking the boat.
    The simple fact is, if Pres. Obama ordered an end to AfPak, it would end (and expeditiously). Yet, like Johnson, his domestic political calculus will prevent him from giving the most logical and desired order.
    You can’t “lose” something you never set out to win. You can’t “make” a state appear where one does not (and probably cannot) exist.
    But, the CinC will not get this message from the generals.
    Let’s hope he, for once, does not listen to them and stands tall against the domestic backlash from the right he fears. In other words, let’s hope he is not LBJ II.
    PS — and yes, the absence of General Dave has been most curious… and instructive!

  15. rob fletcher says:

    I don’t know, can he say no to General McChrystal? If he needs to say no, I hope he does, but if he says yes, I hope he does what he needs to for the continued protection of our country and the USA.

  16. Jose says:

    I’m going to go against the grain because I think this is an admission of the futility of what we can achieve in AfPak.
    “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,”

    We can stay there as long we have the will to stay there, the Pashtuns, Taliban, and al-Qaeda cannot defeat us unless we break first.
    Does the General really expect us to train our AfPak forces in 12 months?
    How many Pashto and Persian-Dari translators can we train (can we even trust the Afghans?) in 12 months?
    Are the tribes going to join us in 12 months like in Iraq?
    Can we fix the political problems in 12 months?
    Can we break “them” in 12 months?
    By framing this as an ultimatum, I read this as the beginning of the blame game.

  17. Post Script to PS’s comment on my comment. WAPO reports [reliably I am told] that nationwide McCain received 57% of total votes of Whites. I live in a largely black community with white weekend visitors who don’t vote here–Northumberland County Va. Not scientific but black friends say they got their chance to vote for Obama [who receieved 90% of the national turnout of black voters measuring 16% of eligible black voters as opposed to norm of 4-7% of eligible black voters actually voting] and that they have NO stake in outcomes of other elections despite of course what I think and argue to them. Result, the history has been written and no real investment in Obama’s future success or failure. It is what it is. And thanks for confirming that Louisiana will now be firmly in Republican pockets until the “big one” impacts the demographics of Louisiana on a permanent basis. Perhaps that sea level rise this century. Not sure which group votes the least among those eligible, white, asian, black, hispanic but low turnouts favor the Republicans IMO!

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