The generals won – everything.

92 days of "deliberations" followed by a masterfully stage managed speech delivered in Eisenhower Hall at West Point before a captive audience of members of the US Corps of Cadets, a scattering of faculty and staff officers in blue, cabinet members, etc.

And what was said? 

– 30,000 more US troops plus whatever number the NATO allies can be persuaded to contribute.

– A vast number of new Afghan Army and police to be trained.

– The additional US forces to deploy into Afghanistan by July, 2010

– Withdrawal of US ground combat units to begin a year later in the summer of 2011.  This withdrawal to be contingent on conditions on the ground.

– US Civilian advisory efforts to be greatly increased to match the military build up.  This increased advisory effort to continue after withdrawal of US and NATO combat units.

I was reassured to see that the cadets did not look overly impressed.  There were quite a few gone away into the arms of Morpheus.  The cadets with a couple of rows of actual medal ribbons or a Combat Infantry Badge from prior enlisted service in the Army looked the least interested to me.

This morning Admiral Mullen (CJCS), and Secretaries Gates and Clinton went to the senate to amplify Prsident Obama's position before the Armed Services Committee.  Under questioning by Senator McCain, they said that any withdrawals from Afghanistan will be on the basis of the same sort of process that produced last night's announcement.  In other words, they don't expect there to be any withdrawals before the next presidential election.

On MSNBC this morning Richard Engel reporting from Kabul said that McChrystal gave a briefing in the aftermath of the night's entertainment in which he said that the program was going to be all COIN all the way, all the way, and that the job would take four or five years at least.

Petraeus, McChrystal and Mullen must be very pleased with themselves today.  This generation of flag officers has now reached a level of power in which they completely dominated this policy decision making process and got everything that they wanted.

The numbers?  The Army general staff is already "fudging" the numbers.  It is easy to hold people in various "paper" categories in which they seem to not be "in country" but really are there.  There will be a lot more of that.  In the end the actual number of Army soldiers in Afghanistan will come close to McChrystal's original request.

The withdrawal?  The generals reckon that they can "manage" that decision as they did this one.

Basically, the generals and their allies "rolled" Obama on this one.  They reckon that they can do it again, because he is weak willed and they are not.

The generals also reckon that they can manage public opinion over time. I doubt it

The generals do not seem to understand just how bad the economic situation of the United States really is.  That is strange since so many of them end up in corporate board rooms after retirement.

The situation continues to be dominated by the phony "world war" atmosphere that has been generated on the basis of the "existential threat" posed by the onrushing juggernaut of the wold wide threat of the re-establishment of a CALIPHATE!!!  (That was irony.)  In fact, the actual annoying threat of the takfiri jihadis should be dealt with on the basis of police, intelligence and and SOF efforts.

The situation begins to seem a lot like Milo Minderbinder's "airline" in the novel, "Catch 22."  In the book, Minderbinder shipped produce and other goods that were in short supply around the Mediterranean theater of war using military aircraft.  Even the enemy participated in the scheme and everyone "got well."  There is now so much money flowing into Afghanistan that everyone who touches it risks corruption, not just the Afghans.  The generals are enjoying more significance, power and perquisites than most of them will ever know again.  We are paying off the Taliban to keep our lines of supply open.

This has become a self-licking ice cream cone.  War without end, amen.

Obama?  He will have to be the camel that walks through the eye of the needle.  Hillary Clinton?  Her devotion to team membership is excessive.  pl

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62 Responses to The generals won – everything.

  1. N. M. Salamon says:

    thank you for your excellent analysis.
    You are correct that the Generals are unaware of the USA’s economic problems, but then life is easy with $200000 income and perks, living in exclusive areeas or army housing.
    Were the price of oil to rise in the next 12-18 months [quite probable] the renewed and deeper recession will say the end of the generals’ perpetual war dream, be it Afganistan, Pakistan, Somalia. Yemen, or anywhere on earth; for a rise in price of oil will also include the destruction of the reserve nature of the USA fiat money, thereby ending all dreams of empire.

  2. harper says:

    The caption most appropriate for the pix of Obama at West Point last night would be: “Would You Buy A Used War From This Man?”
    Col. Lang is right. The President got rolled. 90 days of deliberation, hearing all of the pros and cons and all the intricacies of this problem left him incapable of making a decision. So by default, he chose the middle ground, satisfying no one, and asserting that the power of his presidency includes the ability to make a woman “slightly pregnant.”
    I thought that CNN’s Michael Ware was on the mark, when he noted that there was no mention of the massive opium flows that finance the insurgency and the corrupt government, scant mention of Pakistan, no mention of India, Iran, China, Russia, Central Asia, or any of the other neighboring interested parties. This was an Afghan-only policy and that, in itself, is a recipe for failure. And, of course, just hearing the first of the endless Congressional hearings, Sen. Lindsey Graham correctly points out that the Taliban and other Pushtun enemies were listening to the speech, and all that they heard was “exit begins summer 2011.” It was a no brainer that this is all about the re-election timetable, and the enemy knows that too. The leak of the McChrystal strategy paper led to a big escalation in American casualties, as the Taliban etal. escalated targeting of American troops, knowing that the generals can only lose their war escalation on the homefront in America. The Colonel is absolutely right that the authors of this strategy are totally disconnected from the genuine economic disaster that is hitting the USA, and which will further fuel the mood of opposition to the war. When the President said that the escalation of the war would be good for the US economy, he probably lost 20 percent of what remained of his dwindling popular base of support.
    I am not saying that, after six years of total neglect, there are any easy or obvious options. It just seems that the President went with the worst of all options. I hope that the talent of the American military, and the fact that we truly are not an imperial occupation power, bails out the President on this mess. The Pakistani Army can go a long way towards helping, and they, despite the lack of comment by the President last night, are doing a pretty effective job. Maybe Obama will luck out of this, in the same way he is skating out of Iraq, for the time being. But this will not be a triumph of deliveration and Presidential leadership.
    Not to seem cynical, but perhaps the sovereign default of Dubai will dry up some of the dope revenues stashed away there by the Taliban, and this will hurt the insurgency.

  3. VietnamVet says:

    Thanks for your lucid compilation.
    To me the West Point speech is a replay of the past Administration, from the audience to content. It is Totally Depressing. 30,000 more troops on the ground won’t do twat in a country with 28 million people with the topography of New Mexico and Colorado and a medieval culture and religion. A war of attrition by a colonial occupier is doomed from the start; look at America’s own history from the War of Independence to Vietnam.
    Thomas L. Friedman op-ed This I Believe is a mishmash of policy errors but has at least one point right. It is in the United States National Interest to stop the flow of oil money to the Middle East by all means necessary. Instead the USA is “Kicking the can down the road”. This shows the power of the Oil Lobby, the Military Industrial Complex and the Right Wing Slime Machine. A Nation in decline is illustrated by doing the same stupid thing; contrary to the best interest of its citizens, over and over again, and expecting a different result. Sooner or later American troops will have to be withdrawn, but more treasure and blood will be spent beforehand.
    I thought President Obama was better than this.

  4. arbogast says:

    Bernanke, Summers, Geithner.
    They rolled him too. And they continue to roll him.
    Not that it makes a particle of difference, but I agree with every syllable Col. Lang has written here.
    I used to think George Bush (the lesser) was the worst President in the history of the United States. But not now.
    When will people of color rise against him? How long will they tolerate this? How long will they permit him to make a mockery of their identity, their dreams, their history, their intelligence? Bob Herbert understands this. When will the Black Caucus understand it?

  5. DCA says:

    Col Lang:
    Cannot help but agree. But there is a relevant post at Mathew Yglesias’ blog about the political fact that the military is now the branch of the executive in which the opinions of upper-level employees are taken as “the answer” by many elected officials (and a large part of the electorate). For other branches, the equivalents of the generals would be regarded by many as “just bureacrats” who might safely be ignored.
    It is certainly good that the military has the respect of the citizenry–I would not wish for a rerun of the 60’s on the left–but perhaps it should not get quite the adulation that it does now (I speak as a lifetime civilian).

  6. JohnH says:

    So now we know officially that the farce will continue for the foreseeable future. The US will continue to chase Osama Bin Laden, the outlaw they had in their clutches twice but decided to let go. (Is OBL worth more to American propaganda alive than dead?) And the US will continue to act the part of the Keystone Kops, now using 140,000 NATO troops (plus various and sordid mercenaries) to trip over themselves chasing those 100 pesky bad guys.
    Much of the world will let out a sigh of collective relief, for the US will be tied down in Afghanistan and Iraq. America won’t be making much mischief with other “evil regimes” any time soon. So they are pretty much free to behave as they please.
    You can already see the Iranian reaction–more nuclear enrichment. Russia has to be delighted, as the US becomes increasingly dependent on its supply lines.
    Even the Chinese must have acquiesced (the whole point of Obama’s trip?) And why not? Deciding to lend the US the $Billions it needs to fight a pointless war must have been a no-brainer for them–a cheap way to tie up its major rival and potentially even sap its aggressive tendencies and economic vitality.
    And, yes, America’s economic vitality will be sapped. Republicans are already calling for health care to be “postponed” in favor of more war. Legislation to create jobs by investing in infrastructure, education, etc. will arrive stillborn, deemed as “unaffordable.” Next Social Security and Medicare will be deemed unaffordable. A prolonged recession will simply become part and parcel of prolonged quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    War has become the only thing that is affordable any more. It doesn’t even matter if the war makes any sense at all, it’s still “affordable,” because it lines the pockets of those who control the strings in Washington.
    How much longer will the American people put up with this nonsense?

  7. R Whitman says:

    Not enough credit is being given to the raw politics of the July 2011 commencement of withdrawal date. It is possible that if the US Military does not get the job done by then, the White House will blame the Army and withdraw anyway. Mc Chrystal and Petraeus have to perform by then with no excuses, otherwise they are responsible for the defeat.

  8. Redhand says:

    I was reassured to see that the cadets did not look overly impressed. There were quite a few gone away into the arms of Morpheus. The cadets with a couple of rows of actual medal ribbons or a Combat Infantry Badge from prior enlisted service in the Army looked the least interested to me.
    * * * *
    Basically, the generals and their allies “rolled” Obama on this one. They reckon that they can do it again, because he is weak willed and they are not.
    * * * *
    The situation continues to be dominated by the phony “world war” atmosphere that has been generated on the basis of the “existential threat” posed by the onrushing juggernaut of the wold wide threat of the re-establishment of a CALIPHATE!!!
    I was wondering just how negative your take on the speech would be. Quite bitter, I must say.
    I came away with a depressing “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” feeling about the speech. When Bush announced he was invading Iraq, I remember thinking, “Man, you better be right about those WMD.” After Obama’s apeech my reaction is, “Man, I’m no expert, but I’m almost dead certain you’re wrong.”
    I also took note of the many nodding cadets. Remembering my days at NAVOCS in the early 70s, I figure they were utterly exhausted from the daily routine: so much so that none of them could feign interest even when the Pres. came to speak. However, I’m sure the speech induced private “Ohh Nooo!!! Mr. Bill” reactions in more than a few.
    Petraeus, by contrast, was the very picture of preening self- congratulation in his full dress uniform.
    I’ve mentioned before that I’m an immigration attorney. This gives me a tiny opportunity to participate in public policy issues in some of my cases, and a basis to offer a different view on the destruction of core American values arising from the same “anti-terror” hysteria built into immigration law after 9/11.
    The fear of “existential threats” doesn’t just kill thousands in stupidly conceived external wars that gut our economy; it undermines the rule of law domestically in countless additional ways, one of which is our insane policy against asylum claimants suspected of providing “material support” to terrorist organizations.
    Anyone wondering what I’m talking about should check out the Human Rights First web page at and their online report, “Denial and Delay” available for download here.
    For those willing to get into the full report, I represented B.T., who is mentioned in the report. His grant of asylum was delayed four years on the absurd pretext that providing medical first aid to wounded Nepalese Maoists, after being kidnapped by them and threatened with summary execution if he didn’t (they literally put a gun to his head), barred relief because it represented “material support” of terrorists.

  9. Tuli says:

    Thank you for your analysis. Apparently we saw and heard the same speech. However you have more information and facts to put into your thoughts. Our President did get rolled big time and not in a good way.

  10. RAISER William says:

    Thanks for fleshing out some of the military pieces of what it means that the generals got what they wanted and why, from this and other pieces you’ve written, they shouldn’t have gotten them.
    Unfortunately for the generals and the US nation, pride goeth before the fall. Even more unfortunately the fall will occur not only within our military in Afghanistan but also within the American economy at home.
    Sad times. When will we ever learn …..

  11. david says:

    I am often mistaken, but I got the impression that by approving McChrystal’s request, Obama had provided him, and others, with just enough rope to hang themselves.
    Indeed, I think he mentioned the building materials for the political scaffold: the costs and waning domestic support.
    I think Obama shares the Col.’s “I doubt it” sentiment. He may feel he got rolled on this policy battle, but I would bet he likes his chances in 2011-12, especially given the utter disarray of the GOP.
    I am not ready to discount Obama’s sense of political timing. He just ensured that the midterms will be about domestic issues, and will likely campaign in 2012 on a pledge to end the war in Afghanistan. A pretty sharp political strategy, in my mind, given the circumstances.
    Basically, I think he called their bluff and now the ‘generals’ have 18 months to earn their bet.

  12. Well said. Yes, the Alcibiades crowd and their bright ideas.
    In ancient times, the Sicilian Expedition:
    “In Athens, the citizens did not, at first, believe the defeat. When the magnitude of the disaster became evident, there was a general panic. Attica seemed free for the taking, as the Spartans were so close by in Decelea.
    The defeat caused a great shift in policy for many other states, as well. States which had until now been neutral joined with Sparta, assuming that Athens’ defeat was imminent. Many of Athens’ allies in the Delian League also revolted, and although the city immediately began to rebuild its fleet, there was little they could do about the revolts for the time being. The expedition and consequent disaster left Athens reeling. Some 9,000 hoplites had perished, and though this was a blow, the real concern was the loss of the huge fleet dispatched to Sicily. Triremes could be replaced, but the 25,000 experienced sailors lost in Sicily were irreplaceable and Athens had to rely on ill-trained slaves to form the backbone of her new fleet.
    In 411 BC, the Athenian democracy was overthrown in favour of an oligarchy, and Persia joined the war on the Spartan side. Although things looked grim for Athens, they were able to recover for a few years. The oligarchy was soon overthrown, and Athens won the Battle of Cynossema. However, the defeat of the Sicilian expedition was essentially the beginning of the end for Athens. In 404 BC they were defeated and occupied by Sparta.”
    The public panics, former allies turn their backs, and the power situation shifts….

  13. david says:

    Sorry, but I would like to add that if your political opposition is calling for “endless war,” I don’t see failure in it taking 2-4 years to get out of one theater and 4-8 to get out of another.
    My apparent shilling for “the One” endeth here.

  14. Jackie says:

    I was pretty bummed out last night after listening to the speech. It reminded me of Bush the lesser.
    I think the timetable for 2011 is a signal to the generals and Karzai that they had better get this together by then, because there will be no more. I hope that is what this means.
    Tom Friedman, who wanted the Islamic world to “suck on this”, is tired of it. But he hasn’t admitted he was wrong.

  15. Castellio says:

    The Economist has an interesting article, dated yeserday, on Major Gant’s paper…

  16. ked says:

    After your post & these (as ever, excellent) comments, I watched this clip…–army-chain-of-command
    It didn’t brighten my mood much. When raw election politics, higher oil prices, & short-term disruption of opium profits represent hope, one wonders if Medical Marijuana is soon to be the biggest innovation in our economy since credit default swaps.
    At the rate things are going, we may all become ill.

  17. johnf says:

    As JohnH said, the Iranians must be sleeping better tonight.

  18. walrus says:

    I have to agree with everything Col. Lang has written. This is a tragedy.
    I never gave much thought to the power of the military industrial complex, and the huge wealth transfers that accompany war, although I have been on the fringes of it, in the oil and aerospace industries.
    The threat of a “Peace Dividend” after the break up of the USSR seemed to have galvanised them into action, resulting in the deliberate demonisation of Islam and that egregious “Project For A New American Century” of the AEI.
    The question I must now ask, as delicately as I can, and at the risk of upsetting Col. Lang, is what are the limits of this groups power, and how long can they maintain it?

  19. Naten says:

    What’s going to be very funny is listening to how in the midst of a “war” the inside the beltway types and many of the sheep that follow their oh so profound pronouncements from on high are going to be screaming from the rafters that yes we can too change presidents @ a time of war. The complete opposite argument that these braying arseholes made for the continued desultory presidency of W. I wish Obama fortitude and wisdom as he tries to untangle the Gordian knot that is our AF/Pak conundrum. Last point a jingoistic bellicose speech may have been more well received by our media underlords(Chris Matthews and his enemy territory remark was quite appalling) but to what purpose???
    While some may have thought that the audience were not receptive of this new President I saw it as acknowledgment that blowing smoke up their hindquaters with inadequate resources and attention to detail is partly to blame for the difficult position our country is in right now, a eight year plus occupation that has to be rebooted. The generals if indeed things go further to hell in a hand-basket are of course going to fall back on that trite “If only they had let us win” frame that always works so well with the lizard brains out there and of course I’m not talking about the thoughtful people I read here. Peace

  20. Binh says:

    The generals do not seem to understand just how bad the economic situation of the United States really is. That is strange since so many of them end up in corporate board rooms after retirement.
    True, but they tend to end up in the board rooms of weapons companies, and when was the last time the defense budget was cut? 1992? The Pentagon is the one entitlement program that won’t be cut until it’s far, far too late.
    Obama was rolled the minute he didn’t fire or punish McChrystal for insubordination for leaking his report and then going out in public and trashing Biden’s position in that London speech.
    As for the cadets, I can’t blame any of them for nodding off. His arguments were not compelling.

  21. John Howley says:

    President Obama seemed sincerely to believe what he was saying last night.
    He needed 90 days to talk himself into it.

  22. Charles I says:

    Redhand makes a fine point that answers John H’s plaintive “How much longer will the American people put up with this nonsense?”
    And pick your own personal nonsense. It is guaranteed that in that sphere of human experience there has been contraction of unencumbered reality and penetration of the GWOT meme that while it does not mobilize to victory, does surveil and paralyze.
    The longer the GWOT goes on, the less you’ll remember about the occasional need to assert civil liberty and the rule of law in face of overweening bullshit from our Guardians, until you just don’t notice, care, bother, or dare to question Authority.
    I’ve said it before. Write early and write often. Hard paper copies; here in Canada, its free to mail your MP. Make your neighbours explain to you how they tolerate such governance in their silent names.
    Protesting is fun too, and its usually outdoors, always a plus. You cannot move your government from the couch, not even with wireless.
    I’m relatively noisy, with lots of free time. By the time They come for You, it will be too late, unless you rear up on your hind legs and stand on any front you can. Liberty is indivisible, blah, blah, blah, any cause not your own cause per se, is ours to lose together.
    Rudy Guliani loved his his police the small stuff, it’ll rein in everything theory, (rebutted in Levit’s highly amusing Freakanomics. It has to be vigorously applied in the civil and constitutional arenas before harebrained schemes that are too big to fail, too rich to resist, but too big to question strip you of everything but the bill.

  23. N. M. Salamon says:

    Interesting 2 comments by an USA expatriate [in Spain]

  24. Nancy K says:

    I also wish that President Obama would be bolder, would bring our troops home now, and would shove health care reform down the Republican and Blue dog Democrat’s throats, however I do not see that happening. Unlike President Bush who was a decider and did not need the facts in order to decide, President Obama seems like an appeaser who lacks the courage of his convictions.
    Our presidents are like the tin man and the lion in The Wizard of Oz, with one needing a brain and the other courage.

  25. Cynthia says:

    Stephen Walt posted five questions to keep in mind while listening to Obama’s speech last night. Here’s one of them:
    “Even staunch advocates of the war concede that our task is ‘daunting,’ and several independent studies and reports — including General McChrystal’s own assessment — maintain that the United States will have to stay in Afghanistan for at least five to ten years, at a cost of billions of dollars per year. Will the president say this explicitly, or will he try to convince us that these reports are wrong and that it won’t take nearly that long or cost nearly that much?”
    So apparently Obama thinks he knows more about the complexities of war than most military analysts who spend huge amounts of time keeping their nose to the grindstone studying about war. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be going against their assessment of the Afghan War by claiming that starting in July 2011, he’ll start winding down the war in Afghanistan, steering it towards a “successful conclusion.”
    And I must say that I don’t think this is just a coincidence that July 2011 is about the time when Obama starts throwing most of his efforts into re-winning the White House. So this says to me that Obama is so damn full of himself that he’s willing to sacrifice even more American blood and treasure for the sake of keeping himself at the center of power as a two-term POTUS. Because Obama has marginalized progressives, while kowtowing to Palin-style conservatives, and because he fails to see that the more he kowtows to them, the more they call him a Hitler or a Stalin, I’m adding myself to the growing list of Democrats who won’t be voting for Barack in 2012!

  26. Jose says:

    I’s so disappointed in this CYA speech, really wish we had a Parliamentary system of government so Foolbama could face a vote of no confidence today.

  27. WOW! Great post and some great comments. IMO will take 2-5 years to train up 30,000 troops on COIN but perhaps am pessimistic.
    I think that very close analysis of the speech does reveal that Obama’s interest in Pakistan is growing and he sees the outcome in Afghanistan as relating closely to how Pakistan and US get along as “Allies” and below the horizon understandings. The objective of course is to focus on possession and utilization of the “Islamic” bomb which unlike the case of Iraq is fully certified by all as existing with both delivery capability and refined technology. I may be wrong but wondering whether the Chinese see their future as being largely that of a ethnically unified HAN CHINESE origin or will they be willing to accept ethnic and religious domination in parts of
    China that are not currently Han majorities. After all Bhuddism and Confucianism much older than Islam which is one of the World’s newer major religions. The seeds of a new vision by the President on Pakistan seem to me to have been sowed last night. But could be wrong. Perhaps Afghanistan as holding action while US deals with Pakistan issues was and is the real objective. Be interested as to whether others think new ground broken on Pakistan-US relations in the speech.

  28. Patrick Lang says:

    Nah. training existing infantry and other units for “that COIN c–p” as they call it is eaasy. All you do is tell them to be nice. Been there, done that.
    The real job is train SF and civilians.
    Someone said something “understanding” about cadets sleeping because they are exhausted. Sure. They should be exhausted. They are costing the US taxpayer around 400,000 a copy.
    USMA cadets occasionally fell asleep in my classes, expecialy plebes after a heavy lunch. I took a dim view of that. On one occasion I walked past the desk of a kid who was snoring, picked up his books, walked to the window without pausing in my talk and tossed his books out the fourth story window behind Washington Hall. There were a few smiles but nobody said anything. The bell rang, his section mates and I left the room while he searched th room for his books.
    I was twice selected as “bast classroom instructor of the year for the whole school.” Heh. Heh. pl

  29. Yellow Dog says:

    Oh, I rather think that the political realities of 2011 will overcome the generals’ efforts to “manage” the decision on withdrawal. I think David and I are on the same page. And unlike Cynthia, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Politics is the art of the possible, after all. I guess we’ll see.
    I’d advise against the assumption that Obama is “weak-willed”. Others have made that mistake, to their sorrow.

  30. Nancy K says:

    Cynthia, if President Obama is giving the Generals everything they want as Col Lang has stated than how exactly is he showing he knows more that the experts, unless you are stating the military is not the experts.
    You feel Obama is full of himself, exactly what did you feel Bush was full of?
    I am a progressive, yes even that dirty word liberal, and while I don’t like the choices Obama has made I know with all my heart, I trust his decisions more than I would have McCain and Palin’s.
    President Obama is really in a damned if you do damned if you don’t position and I think the Democrats who decide not to vote for him in 2012 will also definitly not be voting for the Republican canidate.
    I do agree with you that he should quit kowtowing to the republicans because they will not like him no matter what he does.

  31. Ken Hoop says:

    DCA | 02 December 2009 at 12:25 PM
    I believe a far greater percentage of the world now than then would like to see a repeat of the antiwar “left” 1960s polarization here. And that should tell you something about the culmination of America’s more than half century of unwarranted dishonest and destructive Mideast intervention.

  32. When the President said last night that:
    “Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency”
    I was waiting for George W. Bush to appear next to him on stage with moving lips. I would call that one of the most significant lies of his presidency so far, perhaps the biggest lie he has told to date. Who fed him the notion that the Taliban (now rebranding themselves the mujahideen with the help of Madison Avenue) have no broad based support?
    Does he think that the Afghan people, in all of their disparate villages and enclaves, unite as one to welcome invaders?

  33. COL,
    Thanks for your exceptionally well crafted analysis. Sadly, this course was well drawn when the President “accepted” as policy a DoD-drawn up strategy (developed between Nov08 and Feb09), cashiered McKiernan (who was essentially saying the same thing as McChrystal) and painted the nation into the corner. His reliance on the leftover Bush Admin people (civilians and flag officers) in the DoD is as bad as LBJs reliance on the McNamara crew whom he did not trust. At lest LBJ really did not have a choice about who he inherited.
    Yes, the line from last March to last night seemingly completes the transformation of Obama to Bush. Complete with the military prop audience and reworked tired old platitudes! A far cry indeed from November 5 2008.
    Its yet another demonstration of the inexperience factor (which many worried about) – and especially the unexplainable deference to uniformed leaders. I said since the election he needed to clean house at the top of the military chain. That is a hard and dramatic (and traumatic) action – but necessary when your military IS NOT WINNING THE WAR(S)! This was not done and another CINC gets captured.
    As others note, the patience of America is spent. How long can the White House continue to abuse the good graces of the Citizen? Well, the last crew did pretty well even with approvals in the 20s and war fatigue running closer to 70%. This means 2011 is no doubt fantasy.
    You know, if your going to BS everyone, at least make it look original. This whole thing (especially since the leak to Woodward in August) has had the flavor of monkeys “playing” with footballs.

  34. heatkernel says:

    I just watched Jon Stewart and Tom Friedman sit down and have a Very Serious Discussion about the Afghan “Surge”. The whole time they made no mention of Pashtun, Tadjik, Uzbek, or Turkmen. The areas that are giving us disproportionate “trouble” simply became “the Southern Areas”, a purely geographical designation. That is, they adopt manners of speech to avoid admitting the most fundamental facts of the situation. Although Stewart made some small attempt to confront Friedman with his past mistakes (e.g. on Iraq), the discussion stayed for the most part at that same shallow level.
    I would relish the possibility of someone like Col. Lang going on the Daily Show to start setting things straight and begin to give the audience an education. I know you said you wouldn’t go on TV anymore, but would you accept an invitation to the Daily Show (after all it’s more MSM-criticism than MSM)? I’m sure if you said “yes”, the regular readers here would write in a few letters…

  35. stickler says:

    Prof. Lang:
    I’ll have to try that tactic (tough this semester, as my classes are all in the basement). I never realized how “early” 9:15AM classes must be to today’s undergraduates. Must be a rash of beer flu going around.
    RE Obama — what did we all expect? He campaigned on returning Afghanistan to center stage. He talked about ending Iraq, but he also said he’d focus on Afghanistan. And moreover, he surely knows that to abandon TWO miserable occupations would bring a rain of misery down on his head unlike anything since Truman “lost China.”
    Not that any of this makes the decision seem any wiser.
    “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.”

  36. John Waring says:

    I give this escalation a 5% chance of succeeding, and a 95% chance of wrecking the domestic reforms we need so badly.
    I wish Obama were more an historian and less a lawyer. Perhaps he then could have seen the sheer pretentiousness of a request to engage an American army of 100,000 plus at the very end of the earth.

  37. Brian Hart says:

    A couple of things that explain this deep thoughts moment:
    1. It costs about twice as much to put a troop in Afghan as Iraq so take the Iraq withdrawal divide by 2 and you come real close to 40-45K. What a surprise the DOD spending doesn’t go down for the next 4 years. Who would have guessed.
    2. We basically went to the max available troops if you exclude artillery and heavy armor. Its not hard to see where McChrystal did his deep calculations. Yes the generals understand full employment for themselves, the healthcare and education budgets be damned.
    3. The timing of supposed troop withdrawals, training cycles for Afghans can be linked by one date; US presidential election dates. This was true in 2004 and 2008. The timeline has nothing to do with victory over the Taliban and everything to do with US politics.
    4. This war will now require a supplemental funding that the president swore he wouldn’t do. Surprise it’s off budget off the books and gives defense contractors another bite at the apple every six months; good if you can get it.
    5. You can be sure the two things you won’t hear in Congress are draft and taxes. Its just too easy to send some other guys kid to war especially in an economic depression and its just too easy to pass the bill to the kids. No shared sacrifice in these wars. No sir.
    6. 35% presidential approval rating on Afghanistan before the speech. Washington has lost the public support. Apathy and anger will be the tone of the public in the next congressional elections.

  38. YT says:

    Col., sir:
    Woe to the day when the military in the U.S. of A has an even more powerful voice in the Senate.
    There was once an democratically-elected president named soekarno who was deposed from his seat of power by his own major-general soeharto.
    The Mainland Chinese supposedly tried to warn soekarno to keep a watch on his military personnel (China’s less than happy history havin’ a long series of coup d’état), but the advice fell on deaf ears (perhaps due to his more than infamous indulgence in members of the fairer sex?).
    After the Indonesian president was overthrown, there was a series of mass purges thru-out the Archipelago which would make McCarthyism in North America seem pale in comparison. Many innocents were slaughtered for no apparent reason (claimed to be members of the Communist Party or havin’ similar sympathies), much like the time when modern India & Pakistan were newly set up.
    I hope the would never come a day when a Julius Caesar takes the reins of power in America.
    Oh, & did I mention that the major-general had a lil’ help from his foreign allies: the Christians-In-Action?

  39. YT says:

    Yellow Dog,
    “Politics is the art of the possible”.
    Nope. Uh-uh.
    “Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” — John Kenneth Galbraith

  40. Mike says:

    What was rolled when this is what he campaigned on?

  41. Cynthia says:

    Nancy K — Obama is giving his generals exactly what they want: more troops in Afghanistan. But if he thinks that he can start unwinding this war in Afghanistan, he must also think that he is smarter than most military experts, including his generals, who have made it loud and clear to him that it’s gonna take somewhere between five and ten years to realistically put the lid on al-Qaeda and its supposedly partner in crime, the Taliban. And he must also think that the American people are dumb enough to fall for this political ploy of his designed to hoodwink them into voting for him in 2012. Regardless of what sort of wool that Obama is trying to pull over the eyes of the American people, none of us should lose sight of the fact that Obama is in thick as thieves with our war profiteers, just as he is with our banksters. Which should lead us to believe that Obama is using the office of the Presidency not to help make America a richer place for ordinary Americans, but to help enrich himself and his already enriched campaign contributors. This is why in 2012 I’ll either be voting third party or not voting at all.

  42. Cynthia says:

    Let me also mention that retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich has pinpointed exactly why Obama’s speech before a room full of West Point cadets rubs me wrong:
    “Well we now have a pretty well established tradition in this country and I regret this tradition deeply, a tradition of somebody—of a president wishing to be seen as a commander-in-chief using American soldiers as props. I think it may have well been Ronald Reagan and was the first to initiate this practice. Every president since Ronald Reagan, regardless of party, has adhered to this practice. President Obama did last night. I think it’s showing disrespect to American soldiers to use them for political purposes and I wish that the politicians or the political advisors who arrange the sort of events would cease to do that.”

  43. Patrick Lang says:

    If you haven’t figured it out yet, I will tell you that I do have a few loyalties, and the major one is to the armed forces.
    If you write a comment that insults the soldiers, you will not be published. pl

  44. lina says:

    I’ll posit an ancillary psycho-babble theory on Obama getting “rolled” by the generals:
    Since taking the role of C-in-C, Barack and Mrs. Obama have been deeply affected by their new exposure to the people of the armed services. I say “new” because there is virtually nothing in their backgrounds that has given them the opportunity to mingle, up close and personal, with military folks. Michelle’s primary First Lady “cause” is “helping military families.” The Obamas have become enamored with the military and brought their “community organizer” sensibilities (e.g., empathy) to this arena. According to press reports they’ve become fond of the preaching of an army chaplain that performs an ecumenical service at Camp David on Sundays. They’ve gotten caught up in the whole military “scene.”
    All of the above could be a factor in why a guy as smart as Obama has allowed the generals to talk him into this strategy. He admires the generals. He has come to admire the armed services and their devotion to duty. I’m not sure this makes him “weak willed” as Col. Lang suggests, but he might be more open (right now) to heeding the advice of military experts.
    Just a thought.

  45. Patrick Lang says:

    In re the “weak willed” thing. what I meant by that is that he is now dealing with a class of people who are trained almost from childhood to be strong willed. It takes a lot to keep going forward under the strain of combat and to keep bringing your people with you.
    I doubt if he is accustomed to people like that and the sense of assurance that they radiate. pl

  46. lina says:

    Col. —
    You might be right.
    Except Obama is also a lawyer and did practice law for a brief time. There is no more “I’m sure I’m right and I’m equally sure you’re wrong” class of people to be found.

  47. J says:

    I am still puzzled as to the ‘reason’ we’re staying in Afghanistan. Neither Obama nor his policy advisers have as yet defined it. Osama is dead, time to ‘rent-an-Afghan’ and bring our kids home and attend to healing our nation.

  48. Andy says:

    Col. Lang,
    Consider an alternative analysis, which is that President Obama intends to use this “surge” to create strategic space (or a “decent interval“) to politically enable a real change in strategy or a withdrawal. His campaign rhetoric, the success of the “surge” in Iraq (as tactical and transitory as it is), the General he picked to lead the effort all serve to politically constrain his options in the short term. In essence, the President boxed himself in politically.
    The “surge” in Iraq may provide a model to break out. We know it was a tactical victory that did not solve any of Iraq’s underlying social and political problems, but the tactical success did sort of do what was promised, which was provide strategic space. The Iraqi government didn’t use that space for “reconciliation,” but we put it to use by agreeing to a firm timetable for withdrawal and an exit from Iraq under comparatively good conditions to 2007. The tactical success of the “surge” also stymied any accusations from domestic political opposition or foreign enemies that the US withdrawal is the result of weakness, vacillation or “surrender.”
    Maybe President Obama is trying to create a similar effect in Afghanistan – to regain the initiative and create at least the perception of strength through transitory tactical and operational success in order to enable, politically, a real change of strategy or an orderly, honorable and politically beneficial withdrawal.

  49. BillWade, NH says:

    Alas, we keep asking the same people to make sacrifice after sacrifice, it’s going too far for these folks who’ve done enough already.
    So, we’ve got a timetable of sorts, then there will be a new one for Pakistan off in the future.

  50. zanzibar says:

    “This has become a self-licking ice cream cone.”
    Yes – until the ice cream starts to melt.

  51. andy mink says:

    Nir Rosen has a report on conditions in Helmand province (, that adds details to a lot of reporting on the performance of Afghan forces. They seem to be unmotivated, badly equipped, badly trained and unwilling “to take the fight ot the enemy”, having suffered bad losses for a long time. I´m in no way an expert, but I just can´t understand why the Taliban seem to be so much more effective –– do gvt troops mostly get recruited from non-Pashtun, ”less war-like“ groups? Are the Taliban operating more in line with tribal traditions of war fare (as the British described it in books like John Masters´“Bugles and a Tiger”) instead of being rushed into a Western way of high tech war (without the necessary equpment, etc)? I remember reading Milan Hauner´s great essay on the Faqir of Ipi and all the turmoil in Afghanistan and NWFP in the 1930ies –– why can´t the Karzai gvt raise tribal “lashkars“ to take on the Taliban, Hekmatyar, etc?
    Given reports like Rosen´s it seems totally hopeless to “built up” Afghan gvt troops to take over from ISAF for many years to come…
    Andy Mink

  52. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Hope everyone likes the taste of chocolate covered Egyptian cotton.

  53. fanto says:

    I have a question – is perphaps the increase of hardware and people in Afhanistan used to be prepared better for possible attack in Iran?

  54. deteodoru says:

    One need only read Petraeus’ PhD Thesis to understand where he’s coming from. It is little wonder that he needed the “peanut gallery” to cheer him on. If there had been a draft he and his ilk would have been more accountable….especially Keane!

  55. Bart says:

    “The generals do not seem to understand just how bad the economic situation of the United States really is.”
    Oh, but they benefit from all the unemployed young people happy to enlist though, don’t they?
    When I heard the Secretary of State talking about denying the terrorists a safe haven, I turned it off, as sadly I had heard it all before.

  56. MattMcC says:

    “We are paying off the Taliban to keep our lines of supply open.”
    Colonel, Sir: I too had watched that committee hearing on CSPAN, I had the luxury of watching it work. I forget which senator had asked sec. Clinton about the rampant corruption, but her answer was indeed striking. The problems of long supply trains and the necessary “paying-offs” to the taliban reminded me of the adage that an army moves on its stomach. I also noticed( at least I think this is what you were implying) that there should be a stronger reliance on special forces. Were you suggesting this because of their ability to act without a lot of logistical support? Also, Sir, could you explain briefly your strategy to combat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan/Pakistan? You may have alluded to it elsewhere, I’m just curious about what the alternatives are.
    With Sincere Respect,

  57. Patrick Lang says:

    Army SF is the right instrument to mobilize tribal and other forces against the Taliban. That’s their job and they do it well.
    AQ, just keep developing good intelligence target packages and kill them. They are not reconcilable and they represent nobody but themselves. pl

  58. Ramtanu Maitra says:

    The facts that President Obama chose to hide at his West point speech on Dec.1:
    • US went to Afghanistan to unseat the Taliban, and capture the al-Qaeda leaders in 2001 with the help of the Tajik-Uzbek-dominated Afghans, known as the Northern Alliance. Although a Pushtun, Hamid Karzai, representing the majority community of Afghanistan, was established in Kabul, no effort was made to bring the anti-Taliban Pushtuns to support Kabul. For the sake of exigency, top Uzbek warlord, Abdur Rashid Dostum, and many top Tajik warlords, of which Mohammad Fahim stands out as the most powerful one, were attached to President Karzai. Both Dostum, and most, if not all, Tajik warlords were beneficiaries of huge drug trafficking that began in a big way since the Red Army left in 1989. Under the circumstances, Karzai’s complete dependence on the Uzbek and Tajik drug warlords, made the Kabul government, not by choice, but because of necessity, a corrupt administration. Some Pushtun warlords, particularly in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan, who continue to support Karzai had to be given access to drug and other illicit money. That widened the corruption ring
    • At the time the US Special Forces had begun their operation in Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban was a spent force. Less than 5 percent of the Pushtuns, and none of the minority communities, such as the Tajik, Uzbek, Hazaras, among others, had anything to do with the Wahaabi-influenced Taliban. This weakened state of the Afghan Taliban was the reason why the US Special Forces and the Northern Alliance, despite fighting the Pakistani army personnel and the ISI, won a quick victory. However, Washington, acting like the proverbial blind men of Hindoostan, refused to acknowledge that while all Afghan Taliban were Pushtuns, but all Pushtuns were not Afghan Taliban. Of course, these Afghan Taliban hid among the Pushtuns, but the United States, instead of adopting a policy which could keep the majority Pushtuns unsympathetic to the Afghan Taliban, chose to depend on air strikes to eliminate the insurgents. As a result, Pushtuns turned against the United States and began actively aiding the Afghan Taliban – a known devil. The process also further weakened President Karzai. Pushtuns saw him as an “American stooge” who cannot defend the innocents of his own community.
    • As a way of getting out of Afghanistan, and cut US losses of money and manpower, US began building the Afghan National Army. While the idea was not wrong, the composition of this army was chock full of non-Pushtuns, completely dominated by the Tajiks and some Uzbeks. Out of 92,000 members of the Afghan national Army, on a sunny day, more than 80,000 are Tajiks. The number dwindles and vanishes from time to time. What is not acknowledged again that the Tajiks and Uzbeks have their animosity against the Pushtuns historically,but they never “worked” for foreign forces to fight the Pushtun majority with whom they have lived for ever. That is the reason why Gen. McChrystal could coral not more 600 Afghan National Army personnel when he sent 4,000 US Marines to the Helmand province dominated wholly by the Pushtuns. Even these 600 did not fight and some of them dropped their guns and told the Pushtuns that they were visiting Helmand.
    When President Obama, in his Dec.1 speech talked about training Afghan National Army in a jiffy (18 months) to take over Afghanistan’s security, without mentioning what will be the strength of this Army, it not only sounded hollow, but almost laughable.
    • At the time US came into Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban had brought down the opium production from the 2000 high of 4,400 tons to 600 tons. During these eight years of stay, the opium production had soared to 8,200 tons. In fact, 44,000 tons of opium, which then converted into heroin and brown sugar, have been produced under the US and British watch of eight years. After years of double-talking by the Bush administration, aided by all the experts of US think tanks, it was finally acknowledged that drug translates into weapons and the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda, among others, were beneficiaries of the booty. In his Dec.1 speech, President Obama showed that he has no policy to curb the drugs which are flowing all over, including to Russia, helping the insurgents and terrorist all around. Although President Obama repeatedly utters his resolve to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the insurgents, one key element—production of drugs—is given the proverbial go-by.
    • During his Dec.1 speech, as well in his earlier speeches, President Obama failed to acknowledge the fact that the US and NATO troops are presently fighting (that is, when the NATO troops were drawn into a fight by the insurgents) not the Afghan Taliban, but the entire Pushtun community, which is now joined by some Tajik and Uzbek commanders as well. This is really not a secret. In fact, it was pointed out by the former Afghan Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, a conduit between Taliban supremo Mullah Omar and the Afghan government, when he recently told an Associated Press correspondent that the militant leadership refers to its forces not as Taliban now, but as “mujahideen,” a throwback to the Afghan “holy warriors” who ousted the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s. The reason is that only one out of ten militant fighters is a true “Taliban.” The rest are ordinary Afghans, Zaeef said.
    The reality is that Mullah Omar has now emerged as the Pushtun warrior who has fought the foreign troops with a great deal of success. When the foreign troops choose to leave Afghanistan, President Karzai will have to abandon his post to a “better Pushtun”, Mullah Omar, that is, who fought for the Pushtun community and kept Afghanistan free of foreign “occupiers.”
    In addition, it is evident that the Afghan Taliban were never involved in any anti-US activities outside of Afghanistan. Not a single Afghan Taliban was ever found involved in Iraq, or in Palestine. Afghans like to stay home unless they are driven out. Then, they seek refuge in Pakistan with the hope and plan to get back home. Moreover, from the findings we have on Khalid Sheikh Mohmmad, the ostensible mastermind behind 911, he was already operating from Karachi, which is located in Pakistan. It is a foregone conclusion that al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden would not have moved into Afghanistan without being facilitated by either Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia. It is one of those untold “secrets” like the Pakistani airlifts of Pakistani army, personnel, ISI operators and Afghan Taliban commanders from Kunduz in 2002 when they were about to be captured by the US troops and Northern Alliance warlords. On that occasion, President Musharraf got the deal through with the help of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
    Finally, it was never clear what President Obama meant when on Dec. 1 he said: “We’ll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone. I’ve spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.” A similar statement was embedded in his March 27 speech when he said: “But this is not simply an American problem — far from it. It is, instead, an international security challenge of the highest order…”
    However, when the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sent a proposal following his meeting with the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers in Bangalore last October, suggesting a regional effort, which would include regional countries –Russia, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, and the “stan” countries– to contain Afghanistan, it was looked at and left unattended. President Obama talks about a “new beginning between America and the Muslim world”, but he rejects that the Muslim world, beyond Pakistan, also contains Iran and the “stan” countries.

  59. Folks on The Hill perhaps reading SST…
    “And within the House and Senate Appropriations committees, senior Democrats — themselves veterans of past wars — have grown increasingly concerned by the political clout of a generation of younger, often press-savvy military commanders. …”

  60. DE Teodoru says:

    The trouble with you– oops, us– Americans is that you– oops, we– were never occupied. Having lived under Communist and American occupation let me tell you that while the former is uncaring and brutal, the latter is uncaring and brutal. But when I saw my fellow Bucharest students tear down Ceausescu’s sense of arrogant power with a snap in his face of surprise that Romanian TV caught full-screen-face, I knew it was over. At that point people didn’t care anymore. They would use their fingernails against bullets. That’s what will end the Taliban days and nothing less. In the case of American occupation coming to an end I had over and over again seen it as a desperate blank stare in people’s eyes as the Americans literally sneaked out and left them to be eaten by totalitarian cannibals. The crowd would stand there, after pleading “take me with you, I want to go to America,” they finally gave up wondering: “what will happen to us now?” Yes, your—oops, our– “victims” who were so angry with you and so desperate for revenge, seem to see your—oops, our—departure…EVERY TIME I WITNESSED IT…as something that will only come after sun rise ceases, but when it does come, with a desperate sense of “now starts hell because the Americans are abandoning us.”
    My point is that you should accept the “internal contradictions”– what Americans so elegantly call “cognitive dissonance”– of little people from little places that make your REAL efforts to liberate them from evil an impossible task. They have the skill of the defenseless and you have the impatience of the omnipotent. For COIN ops to succeed, both have to radically change: the occupied must become consistent in their thinking, thus courageous and appreciative (three traits that seem unapproachable to them, given how small they FEEL) and you have to be patient as you learn to communicate, give courage to hope. So far, you are stuck with the European inferiority and superiority complexes relative to you– something they can’t handle because their Cartesian education tells them that without a doubt they are hypocrites and cowards trying to feel both ways towards you while trying to justify it to themselves. Case in points are the recent German incident and the French one. Somehow both were argued as “c’est la faute des americains!” when they knew full-well that it is their inferiority complex speaking. Well, these are educated people but for Afghans logic is not an issue, survival speaks for itself as the ultimate virtue.
    Guistozzi’s KORAN, KALSHNIKOV, AND LABTOP reads like a lessons learned that Petraues and McChrystal should be forced to memorize so they can recite it word for word or be demoted to buck-sergeant. When you compare this opus with what seems to have been a COIN manual that was only plagiarism of a certain sociologist’s book in most major sections (Nagel sounding like a fool trying to justify it on SWJ Blog), it would without doubt one-up any of the anthropologists claiming that the military are a bunch of idiots. I remember the same story with the Montagnares of Central Vietnam and a certain anthropologist. However there it was old Westy that was right as he reached the “crossover point” depleting Hanoi’s supplies and manpower through sheer perseverance, forcing Hanoi to resort to urban warfare that it lost. I wish Obama would have the courage to throw McChrystal the hell out of the Oval Office and give him a “gentleman’s “C” for his report while demanding: please find, get in touch with and bring to me Giustozzi and Dorronsoro to help me plot an exist strategy instead of these careerist egomaniac generals that dream of running against me in 2012 and reinstating the draft. Linking up with these two is the best thing anyone who cares about Afghans and our mom and dad soldiers, heroes suffering there, can do. I urge all to read Giustozzi’s most informative article in the latest RUSI JOURNAL: “ The Afghan National Army, Unwarranted Hope?” People like Exum who have the audacity to insist that they know things that Prof. Bacevich doesn’t know but these are secrets—secrecy the last resort of debate scoundrels (and CIA novices sitting in air conditioned offices in Saigon)—should read that so that they realize that if you’re going to convince the American people to hold out it will have to be with strategic arguments not card trick slights of the hand.
    I conclude. Those who deem us invaders and occupiers dread our departure. But they have no confidence in our tactical make-it-up-as-you-go commanders so every time we kill people they deem it as snafus that add nothing but suffering to their future. This war will not be won by our clumsy military– the post-Vietnam mediocrities who insist that they are too smart to find real lessons in the Vietnam experience– but by those who can raise a literate and disciplined honest Afghan national police that catches bad guys for open trials and the application of the law through an able judicial system. The ANA we are pretending to erect is a fraud made as a conduit to corporate thievery of tax-payers’ money, for the Afghans could never afford to sustain the high calories army, the only kind that our “trainers” know. MY motto is: Afghan War for those who understand Afghanistan, not for those who see it as a cash cow or self-advancement to the presidency. Smarts are not kinetics but cognitive constructive ability. After their latest speeches about how we will have to lose so many people to a ragtag Taliban gang to win disqualifies Petraeus/McChrystal from the job even though they managed to intimidate Obama into another “surge”—that will “unravel” like the Iraq one—before we’re hitting the exit ramp in 18 months.

  61. A lighthouse is a tower constructed on the shoreline, usually near a harbor or busy waterway.

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