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Subject: US Commander in Afghanistan Runs Afoul Democratic Leadership rss

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Leo Zappa
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So, some top Democratic lawmakers are publicly criticizing the President's hand-picked commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, because the general had the audacity, when asked in a public forum, to state that VP Biden's plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and instead use airpower would not work, and that instead, as many as 40,000 additional troops are needed on the ground in order to accomplish the US/Nato goals for that country:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/10/06/lawmakers-lash-mc...

I don't know anything about Gen. McChrystal, but having served in the military myself in the 80's and early 90's and knowing the kind of leaders that are promoted to general officer these days, I have a feeling he's probably not some "Patton" or "MacArthur" prone to showing up his political masters. I have to believe that he is expressing his professional opinion, and perhaps also reflecting a growing frustration within the military that they are not being allowed to do what they need to do to successfully complete their mission in Afghanistan. I suspect that things are beginning to turn this situation into something vaguely resembling Vietnam, with political leaders with little or no idea of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan leaning towards making decisions that will hamstring the military operation and lead to total failure. I would say this trend started during the previous administration, and may only be getting worse now.

Frankly, I don't quite understand why the current Democratic government feels any strong compulsion to reduce troop strength in Afghanistan. This is not the Iraq situation, which was politically FUBAR'd from Day One. Most Americans recognized that Afghanistan was the training ground for the 9/11 attackers and there has never been much political pressure to end our mission there, unlike with the unprovoked, preemptive ,and muddled Iraq adventure. If there is any political tension in the US regarding Afghanistan, I have to believe it's growing frustration that we've not gotten the job done after eight years, and that the operation has been mishandled due to the poor prioritization of the previous administration, which flooded Iraq with troops while starving the Afghan theatre. While I didn't vote for Obama, I did agree with his position that Afghanistan was the right war and that we needed to win it. It seems however that others in his adminstration and the Democratically controlled Congress do not agree with him. Here's hoping he sticks to his campaign position, listens to his commander on the ground, and tells his VP to shut up.
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Regardless of whether you think the general is correct or not, it's still inappropriate to publicly criticize your boss.
 
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danweasel wrote:
Regardless of whether you think the general is correct or not, it's still inappropriate to publicly criticize your boss.


To a certain degree, I agree with you. However, I suspect the general may in fact have decided that he is willing to risk his career in order to get people in the government to understand the situation and what he, as a professional soldier and leader, feels must be done, for the sake of winning the war and making sure his troops don't die in vain.
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desertfox2004 wrote:
Frankly, I don't quite understand why the current Democratic government feels any strong compulsion to reduce troop strength in Afghanistan.


Because it's already over and the West lost. Nobody wants to admit it, but it's really just that simple.

What Biden was arguing for and what McChrystal is arguing for are two separate military policies: Biden's is "let's do what we can to keep the remaining Al-Qaeda fundamentalists in Afghanistan down" and McChrystal's is "let's go to war against the Taliban."

The problem with McChrystal's argument - even if you accept his theory that he only needs another 40K worth of troops to beat the Taliban, which I think is really optimistic - is that beating the Taliban doesn't just require military engagement, but the active co-operation of Pakistan. If you don't cut off the Taliban's source of shelter, support and reinforcement in Pakistan, absolutely nothing else you do matters. Getting that at this point is somewhere in between unlikely and impossible.

Furthermore, even if McChrystal pulls several rabbits out of his hat and wins - at this point, the current Afghan government is doomed. It has no power base, no financial base, and no legitimacy. Karzai is massively unpopular and the government is stinkingly corrupt. It cannot continue to exist without massive American monetary and military support. Think of how many governments in the world are reasonably non-corrupt: maybe ten percent overall? Twenty if you're generous? It took the UK six hundred years to manage that; America, somewhere around 150-200 depending on how you measure things. Do you really think you're going to get Afghanistan there in five years? Ten? Twenty-five? Far more likely is this: the moment American forces begin to withdraw, the various ethnic factions in Afghanistan devolve into civil war, and quickly, and Afghanistan begins to resemble southern Somalia.

When America led the western forces into Afghanistan, there were really only two goals: punish and deter the people who gave support to Al-Qaeda, and take out the Al-Qaeda leadership. We did the first and completely fucked up the second in little over a month. Everything since then has been varying degrees of additional punishment and deterrence, and that might still be a reasonable national goal, but at what cost - not just in lives and suffering, but basic monetary costs?
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mightygodking wrote:


Because it's already over and the West lost.



Finally! I figured out who you really are. You're John Murtha's sock puppet!
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What's ridiculous is that it looks like Obama is going to sit on the fence

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/07/world/asia/07prexy.html

Quote:
President Obama told Congressional leaders on Tuesday that he would not substantially reduce American forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to just hunting terrorists there, but he indicated that he remains undecided about the substantial troop buildup proposed by his commanding general.


1. Not going to leave
2. Not going to shift the mission
3. Not going to send more troops so he can actually accomplish what #1 and #2 imply -- which is the general's recommendations.

Likely going to be an even more protracted war with more dead troops without increasing the chances of winning. The only thing worse than a bad decision in war is no decision.

Quote:
Meeting with leaders from both parties at the White House, Mr. Obama suggested he was searching for some sort of middle ground, saying he wanted to "dispense with the straw man argument that this is about either doubling down or leaving Afghanistan,"


This very attitude will likely lead to disaster.
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danweasel wrote:
Regardless of whether you think the general is correct or not, it's still inappropriate to publicly criticize your boss.


I absolutely disagree with this when it comes to the military. Generals in the field should always be frank and honest about the situation even when, especially when it is politically unpalatable.

We, the citizens of this, deserve the truth, not political spin when it come to committing the lives of our soldiers to a conflict.


-M
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Ken
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malloc wrote:
I absolutely disagree with this when it comes to the military.


Problem is, the military doesn't see it this way. In fact, the Uniform Code of Military justice makes publicly taking positions on political matters a chargeable offense. Officers and enlisted personnel have been charged, convicted, discharged and I believe even imprisoned for failing to do so. Even showing up a rallies/protests in uniform can result in criminal proceedings that will get you thrown out of the military.

I am absolutely not saying that this should happen to Gen. McChrystal, by the way. Merely pointing out that members of the military do not enjoy the right to free speech civilians do when military matters are involved.

Quote:
Generals in the field should always be frank and honest about the situation even when, especially when it is politically unpalatable.


You're right. But this should be in the proper forum. Like in discussions with their commanders (including the President) or in testimony to Congress. Not at a public, non-governmental function.

I know zero about the situation myself at this point, but I'll definitely be doing some reading when I get a chance.

Quote:
We, the citizens of this, deserve the truth, not political spin when it come to committing the lives of our soldiers to a conflict.


We, the citizens of this nation, deserve for our soldiers and officers to abide by the oaths they swore. We rarely deserve the full truth on military action that is in progress, since that will likely involve information and details it is inappropriate for us to have. Unless that truth is presented in an appropriate manner in an appropriate forum. Public remarks in a non-governmental gathering often fail to meet those criteria.

While I'm concerned over our strategy in Afghanistan, I'm not sure this is the appropriate way for a discussion on strategy involving the commanding general to occur.
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malloc wrote:


I absolutely disagree with this when it comes to the military. Generals in the field should always be frank and honest about the situation even when, especially when it is politically unpalatable.



Of course they should....In the war room.

If they do it in public, then they should be fired. And probably will be.
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I'm always a little concerned when Generals start talking about policy in the press.

On the other hand, if they DIDN'T hold Press conferences, I'd be concerned that they weren't trying to keep us informed.

I don't think that the current commander is trying to pull a Westmoreland, however. At least, not yet.

There are some very difficult questions here about what a General, commanding troops in the field, is allowed to say and do in the 'public sphere'- as well as the question of, when does answering a question at a press conference become advocating a political position?

Darilian
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Koldfoot wrote:
I could make the same argument to pull out of New Orleans. The criminals have won. The murder rate is similar to a war zone. We have no exit strategy. The politicians are against deploying more troops. There is no end in sight. Why should American taxpayers keep sinking money into that rathole?


Because American citizens are endangered and the nation owes a responsibility to them, unlike to, for example, some foreign people in foreignland.
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mightygodking wrote:
Koldfoot wrote:
I could make the same argument to pull out of New Orleans. The criminals have won. The murder rate is similar to a war zone. We have no exit strategy. The politicians are against deploying more troops. There is no end in sight. Why should American taxpayers keep sinking money into that rathole?


Because American citizens are endangered and the nation owes a responsibility to them, unlike to, for example, some foreign people in foreignland.


Yep -- that's right. We don't owe any responsibility to a country who we have been bombing for the last nine years.
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SpaceGhost wrote:
Yep -- that's right. We don't owe any responsibility to a country who we have been bombing for the last nine years.


I'm pretty sure a lot of them would be satisfied if you just, you know, stopped the bombing.
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I find it a bit puzzling why Obama said earlier today that he didn't feel the need to "rush" to any decision regarding Afghanistan. Puzzling because he has insisted on every other major issue that we must act now or else we're doomed.

He seems to want others to rush when it's a spending program but climbs up on the fence when it's concerning the military. Same thing happened with Gitmo... once he took up the reins of power he lost his courage for anything other than running up debt as fast as possible.

That's right folks... Obama sucks.
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He can still turn it around, but at this point he's not getting my vote for re-election.
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mightygodking wrote:
Far more likely is this: the moment American forces begin to withdraw, the various ethnic factions in Afghanistan devolve into civil war, and quickly, and Afghanistan begins to resemble southern Somalia.


Seeing how the Talebans have been "weakened" by 8 years of occupation, I would imagine that the moment US troops (and their pals) leave Afghanistan, the Talebans will control the whole country again in a matter of weeks.
And in 10/15 years, pissed off grown up Afghans who were orphaned by American bombs will do something crazy involving airliners and tall buildings and the American public will wonder "why?".
 
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AT 22 wrote:
mightygodking wrote:
Far more likely is this: the moment American forces begin to withdraw, the various ethnic factions in Afghanistan devolve into civil war, and quickly, and Afghanistan begins to resemble southern Somalia.


Seeing how the Talebans have been "weakened" by 8 years of occupation, I would imagine that the moment US troops (and their pals) leave Afghanistan, the Talebans will control the whole country again in a matter of weeks.
And in 10/15 years, pissed off grown up Afghans who were orphaned by American bombs will do something crazy involving airliners and tall buildings and the American public will wonder "why?".


What will pissed off grown up Afghans orphaned by Taliban roadside bombs and suicide bombers do in 10 to 15 years? Just curious.
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desertfox2004 wrote:
AT 22 wrote:
mightygodking wrote:
Far more likely is this: the moment American forces begin to withdraw, the various ethnic factions in Afghanistan devolve into civil war, and quickly, and Afghanistan begins to resemble southern Somalia.


Seeing how the Talebans have been "weakened" by 8 years of occupation, I would imagine that the moment US troops (and their pals) leave Afghanistan, the Talebans will control the whole country again in a matter of weeks.
And in 10/15 years, pissed off grown up Afghans who were orphaned by American bombs will do something crazy involving airliners and tall buildings and the American public will wonder "why?".


What will pissed off grown up Afghans orphaned by Taliban roadside bombs and suicide bombers do in 10 to 15 years? Just curious.


Good point, I don't know, I guess that will depend on the state of affair when NATO troops actually leave.
If things stay the same, they'll do what they do now, join the Afghan army or try to flee and migrate to Europe where they'll be packed in filthy refugee camps until they get expelled back to Kabul.
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desertfox2004 wrote:
...What will pissed off grown up Afghans orphaned by Taliban roadside bombs and suicide bombers do in 10 to 15 years? Just curious.

It took a while for the correct "psycho-babble" word to surface in my addled brain - "enabled".

Those pissed off with the Taliban might be in a situation where with an AK-47 they can shoot up some Taliban.

Those pissed off with Americans might be in a situation where funding and training is available for a dirty bomb in a Western city.

Only one of these events is of much concern to me.
 
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DWTripp wrote:


He seems to want others to rush when it's a domestic spending program but climbs up on the fence when it's concerning the militarya foreign spending program. .


I see a difference, but I understand that you do not.
 
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perfalbion wrote:
Problem is, the military doesn't see it this way. In fact, the Uniform Code of Military justice makes publicly taking positions on political matters a chargeable offense. Officers and enlisted personnel have been charged, convicted, discharged and I believe even imprisoned for failing to do so. Even showing up a rallies/protests in uniform can result in criminal proceedings that will get you thrown out of the military.

Except that he's not at a rally or protest. He was asked if a particular military solution was feasible, and in his military opinion he said no. It was militarily short-sighted and would be a military failure.

Did it ruffle political feathers? Obviously. But if a general is asked for a military opinion on a potential military operation, can't he give it? Politicians are always going to be on one side or the other of a proposed military option; that doesn't mean it's all of a sudden off limits for a military person to register their opinion on the matter.

Oh - I know what you're going to say - in fact you did already. Say it in private. I suppose he could have answered some benign answer that left the public wondering which side he was really on. However if he would have said, "Yes, it's a feasible solution and could work if implemented correctly", then you wouldn't hear any sort of the uproar that you've heard about this. Instead, people would say, "See?!? We don't need any more troops!"

I think the fact that he did NOT say something benign or state an opposite opinion reflects his genuine belief that any such military action of that nature would fail miserably and unnecessarily cost lives. So much so, as another poster pointed out, that he's willing to stake his career and reputation on it. His opinion and conviction under those circumstances definitely warrants a platform, and if he's sitting there for over a month and has heard nothing back from his memo to the president outlining these very same plans, then maybe he did feel a public forum was his best option.
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TheOriginalGameBoy wrote:
Except that he's not at a rally or protest.


You say this like it matters. Military personnel are exceptionally limited in their ability to speak publicly. Whether it's a rally, a protest, a coffee klatch, or even an on-line forum like this one. Go look at Jared's posts and try to find a single opinion stated about the military, the commander-in-chief, or the strategies the military is employing. He doesn't make them because he's active duty and could go to jail for doing something.

So whether it was a rally, a protest, a UN meeting, or rally race - it is questionable whether or not such a statement is appropriate. It's potentially against the law and it has the potential to demonstrate a certain disrespect for the President and chain of command.

If it's OK for Gen. McChrystal to stake out positions, then there's a few hundred soldiers who were dishonorably discharged in just the last year or so for doing similar things who need to have their cases re-heard. And the dishonorable discharges/jail sentences they received reconsidered.

I appreciate that the strategy in place needs work. That's a conversation for military leaders to have in an appropriate military setting. And the reason it's causing a bit of a flap is because it's not appropriate and just about anyone without a star on their lapel would be busted out of the service for doing it.

You're misconstruing the reason it's a problem pretty hugely. Go back and look at what ended up developing with Truman and McArthur if you'd like to see this sort of thing going to a horrid extreme.
 
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DWTripp wrote:
He seems to want others to rush when it's a spending program but climbs up on the fence when it's concerning the military. Same thing happened with Gitmo... once he took up the reins of power he lost his courage for anything other than running up debt as fast as possible.


Are you seriously advocating rushing a decision on a military engagement in a nation that no invading force has ever managed to stabilize in its entire history? Including the USSR which poured in around double the number of soldiers, close to 2,000 tanks and a few thousand aircraft?

Yeah. I really want that decision rushed. 'cuz making it in a hasty fashion is sure to lead to success.

Did you ever consider that maybe, just maybe decisions on really big issues (like Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, etc.) should take some time because they're pretty complex?
 
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Ken -- or someone who knows -- could you point to the US Code of Conduct that restricts this. I know that it is against the code to question or criticize leaders; however, I am curious where it says that one cannot offer up specific opinions about a global strategy (i.e., one that doesn't get into whatever type of information would be considered classified or jeapordize the safety of troops).
 
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Great comments Ken. I love the Economist's take on various Afghan policies and those policies find genesis with adminstrations obviously.

To illustrate chain of command issues... one could make an interesting wargame. Perhaps it could be a game set in WWII where Rommel simply disobeyed Hitler on the historical occasions or times when Hitler ran him at windmills. God would that be interesting.
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