Published on Friday, June 25, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
Obama Misses the Afghan Exit Ramp
Has it occurred to President Barack Obama that Gen. Stanley McChrystal might actually have wanted to be fired — and thus rescued from the current March of Folly in Afghanistan, a mess much of his own making?
McChrystal leaves behind a long trail of broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. For example, there is no real security, at least during the night, in the area of Marja, which McChrystal devoted enormous resources to pacify this spring. Remember his boast that he would then bring to Marja a “government-in-a-box” and thereby offer an object lesson regarding what was in store for those pesky Taliban in
It is now clear that there will be no offensive against
When McChrystal and his undisciplined senior aides let a Rolling Stone reporter know what they really thought of the “intimidated” Obama and most of his national security team, Obama and his advisers took the bait.
They let McChrystal fold his tent in the night and steal silently away from the disaster he leaves behind. White House advisers then brainstormed the idea of replacing McChrystal in
Master Political Stroke?
Since the announcement Wednesday, the Stanley-out/David-in move has been hailed by Official
The conventional wisdom holds that Petraeus is the military genius who can still prevail in
Petraeus is given a mission that virtually everyone but Sens. John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham realizes is an impossible assignment. But it gets Petraeus out of the country and—the Obama folks hope—out of contention for the 2012 Republican nomination. In the view of the White House, Petraeus is now in direct charge of the mess in
It is far too soon to count Petraeus out. He is politically astute, has powerful friends in
The McChrystal circle has had it in for Jones because he pushed back against assertions by McChrystal and others last fall that the
“I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban.
Does it sound to you as if Jones may have been hinting that the U.S. need not send 30,000 more troops to face less than 100 al-Qaeda and the Taliban, whose numbers remain one of the deepest mysteries of the conflict? I am not suggesting that estimates on the strength of Taliban forces are being deliberately hidden from us, although this may be so. What I am suggesting is actually worse: I believe it more likely that no intelligence unit has yet been assigned the task of toting up the numbers. This would not be the first time; a considered look at the Viet Cong order of battle was put off until well into the
Too Clever By Half?
The likely results of the White House shuffle of generals are, in fact, dangerous. The change makes the prospects dimmer for Obama executing a rapid—or even a measured—withdrawal from
Worse still for Obama, in replacing McChrystal with the popular Petraeus, who outnumbers Obama about 100 to zero in merit-badges-on-left-breast, he has given the sainted general the option of eventually calling for more and more troops and firepower lest we “lose” in Vietnamistan — sorry, I mean Afghanistan.
But where would the additional troops come from, and what would they be able to do that is not already being done?
For those old enough to remember a similar stage in the “counterinsurgency” operation in
A lawsuit after the Vietnam War proved that Westmoreland deliberately misled Congress by insisting that there were only half as many Vietnamese Communists under arms as his intelligence analysts knew there were. His hallmark was an insatiable need for more and more troops. Westmoreland’s periodic appeals for further escalation built
Finally, in March 1968, President Johnson convened a group of more sober and honest advisers, who told him
In his multiple mea culpas (that came far too late), Johnson’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara bemoaned the fact that as many as three million Vietnamese were killed, as well as over 58,000 American troops. But during his tenure as secretary of defense, McNamara acted as though he were tone deaf. And his current successor, Robert Gates, seems equally hard of hearing, though he is old enough to remember the hit song of the time, “When will they ever learn?”
Rock and Hard Place
Obama’s main dilemma will be how to say “no” when, as seems inevitable, Westmoreland — sorry, Petraeus — makes requests for more “surges” of troops into
The dynamic of the occupation and feckless forays such as those against Marja suggest the following scenario: Late this year or early next, Petraeus is likely to warn Obama that, if the general does not get the additional forces he needs, he will go the way of McChrystal and invite removal. Petraeus would slide in a subtle but clear intimation that he might challenge Obama for president in 2012.
In that case, Secretary of State Clinton is likely to insist on giving Petraeus whatever he says he needs. Gates would bow to the prevailing winds, and Obama’s political advisers would probably advocate sending more troops from wherever they can be scrounged up.
Casualties would rise exponentially; there would never be enough troops; most of those NATO allies that have not already withdrawn their troops would do so. The remaining “coalition forces” would not “prevail” (whatever that means).
Such escalation would not be likely to help, and by the end of 2011, the Teflon, ribbon-bedecked Petraeus might well quit anyway and join McChrystal in blaming the carnage on the “clowns” around President Obama. W might well end up with either a President Petraeus or another President Clinton in the person of Obama’s hawkish Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Is it possible that Obama can be blissfully unaware of the dangerous political kill zone into which he has maneuvered his presidency (not to mention the kinetic kill zone into which he has sent
The tragedy is that this is totally unnecessary. If President Obama could get beyond ill-conceived short-term political considerations, he already has available some well-reasoned guidance as to how to extricate the
He got solid advice last fall from retired Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, his ambassador in Kabul, who knows more about Afghanistan than Petraeus, McChrystal, Gates, Clinton, and special envoy Richard Holbrooke do, put together.
Eikenberry served three years in
Eikenberry’s knowledge and experience show through clearly in two highly sensitive cables Eikenberry sent to
The news columns of the Times, however, do deserve credit for publishing a story on Eikenberry’s views as soon as it acquired the substance of two cables he sent from
Sources of such material do not take lightly the risk of being discovered and punished. In my view, however, there are times when they are not only justified, but required in conscience to make sensitive material available. To the credit of the Times’ source (reportedly a
Apparently, the Times’ source saw what ethicists call a “supervening” value in making this unauthorized disclosure—value that transcends and trumps the promise, customarily made as a condition of employment, not to divulge classified information.
Promises are important; one does not break them capriciously. But unauthorized disclosures can be acts of courage—the kind of behavior that can prevent wars, and even stop ones already under way.
Despite the fact that Eikenberry’s views were in the public domain last fall, President Obama apparently put his finger to the prevailing political winds of
And so the President sided with McChrystal, Petraeus, Clinton, and Gates, agreeing to triple the
Now, with some indiscreet comments to Rolling Stone magazine, McChrystal has managed to get plucked from the swamp, as if a “deus ex machina” derrick suddenly appeared from behind the scenes of a Greek tragedy and magically hoisted the embattled hero out of an impossible situation.
Obama now has turned to what might be called “Petraeus ex machina” as a rescue operation for the benighted
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city
The original of this article appeared on Consortiumnews.com.
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/06/25-3
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs