McChrystal to resign if not given resources for Afghanistan


Within 24 hours of the leak of the Afghanistan assessment to The Washington Post, General Stanley McChrystal’s team fired its second shot across the bow of the Obama administration. According to McClatchy, military officers close to General McChrystal said he is prepared to resign if he isn’t given sufficient resources (read “troops”) to implement a change of direction in Afghanistan:

Adding to the frustration, according to officials in Kabul and Washington, are White House and Pentagon directives made over the last six weeks that Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, not submit his request for as many as 45,000 additional troops because the administration isn’t ready for it.

In the last two weeks, top administration leaders have suggested that more American troops will be sent to Afghanistan, and then called that suggestion “premature.” Earlier this month, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “time is not on our side”; on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged the public “to take a deep breath.”

In Kabul, some members of McChrystal’s staff said they don’t understand why Obama called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” but still hasn’t given them the resources they need to turn things around quickly.

Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he’d stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy.

“Yes, he’ll be a good soldier, but he will only go so far,” a senior official in Kabul said. “He’ll hold his ground. He’s not going to bend to political pressure.”

On Thursday, Gates danced around the question of when the administration would be ready to receive McChrystal’s request, which was completed in late August. “We’re working through the process by which we want that submitted,” he said.

The entire process followed by the military in implementing a change of course in Afghanistan is far different, and bizarrely so, from the process it followed in changing strategy in Iraq.

For Afghanistan, the process to decide on a course change began in March of this year, when Bruce Reidel was tasked to assess the situation. This produced the much-heralded yet vague “AfPak” assessment. Then, in May, General David McKiernan was fired and replaced by General McChrystal, who took command in June. General McChrystal’s assessment hit President Obama’s desk at the end of August, almost three months after he took command. And yet now in the last half of September, the decision on additional forces has yet to be submitted to the administration.

Contrast this with Iraq in the fall of 2006. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was fired just one day after the elections in early November. The Keane-Kagan plan for Iraq was submitted to President Bush shortly afterward, and encompassed both the assessment of the situation and the recommended course of action, including the recommended number of troops to be deployed to deal with the situation. General David Petraeus replaced General George Casey in early February 2007, and hit the ground running; the surge strategy was in place, troops were being mustered to deploy to Iraq, and commanders on the ground were preparing for and executing the new orders. The first of the surge units began to arrive in Iraq only weeks later, in March.

Today, the military is perceiving that the administration is punting the question of a troop increase in Afghanistan, and the military is even questioning the administration’s commitment to succeed in Afghanistan. The leaking of the assessment and the report that McChrystal would resign if he is not given what is needed to succeed constitute some very public pushback against the administration’s waffling on Afghanistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Tyler says:

    The big difference, Bill, is the August elections. How do we prop up a government that could well be illegitimate and tainted by massive fraud and corruption?
    ‘Waffling’ is a poor choice of words. Clarity of mission and purpose requires that we know whether the government we’re propping up is worth our blood and treasure. Not a decision to be made lightly. As it stands I lean heavily towards giving McChrystal what he requests.

  • Spooky says:

    I’ve been hearing that Obama wants to use the troops currently in Iraq to send over, and thats why there is a delay, since the SOFA has to be ratified early next year to allow them out.
    But thats entirely rumor as far as I know.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I understand that the election has an impact on how we move forward, but don’t see how this stretched out a process that began in March and still doesn’t seem anywhere near resolution. Nor does the election explain why the request for troops was split from the assessment, unlike Iraq.
    Waffling is exactly what the military perceives the administration to be doing. We may not like the word but that is what many are saying.

  • exhelodrvr says:

    Pres Obama is trying to figure out the national political impact of staying vs not staying, and secondly, the optimum time to announce the decision. If he perceives it to be in his personal political benefit that we stay, we’ll stay.

  • zotz says:

    It’s politics, both domestic and international. The Germans are having an important election this month. Announcing a big escalation now might scare the Germans and hurt Merkel. Obama wants international support even if they are Germans.
    Obama doesn’t want to start a fight with his own party now in the middle of the health care negotiations. He has some high profile people in the administration that disagree with McCrystal, notably James Jones. Sec. Gates gave the best advice. That is just take a deep breath and give the president more time.

  • Neo says:

    “Pres Obama is trying to figure out the national political impact of staying vs not staying, and secondly, the optimum time to announce the decision. If he perceives it to be in his personal political benefit that we stay, we’ll stay.”

  • jarjarbinks says:

    What a crybaby. I know tons of military guys who absolutely do NOT want to go to Afghanistan. They know what the rest of us do, and what the politicians are too delicate to consider: that Afghanistan is not our concern and is not going to be “won” if McChrystal frames it as a kind of war where we actually have a chance at “victory.”
    I think in the end, the military — especially people like McChrystal who have never seen combat — are too arrogant and shameless to accept defeat. I would rather we move forward and accept mission failure than waste more tax dollars and 40,000 more livelihoods (that would be better used by serving their communities, especially the National Guardsmen and reservists) for a lost cause.

  • deni herron says:

    Give Gen.McChrystal his request. He knows. Don’t dither w/the suits.
    Men are fighting right now! Stop talking about this. Every minute w/out a BO decision is another person losing limb or dying.

  • Quatto says:

    I won’t take issue with what’s discussed in this thread, but I will contest your headline and lede.
    The ideas that (a) General McChrystal or someone on his staff leaked the assessment and (b) that the threat of resignation was similarly planted in the Reuters story as a “second shot” across the bow are both nonsense. First, the fact that Bob Woodward was the recipient of this document screams Cabinet-level Washington source. Second, is there anything in what we publicly know about the general to suggest that he’s anything but a good soldier? Meaning that, having provided a classified document encapsulating his best military advice for consideration by his chain of command, that he would take his attention away from the day-to-day business of fighting a war to plot against the administration and orchestrate the kind of cheap political manipulation evident in the Reuetrs story?
    These anonymous sources seem to be a case where General McChrystal, like Voltaire, can only pray “God save me from my friends; I can protect myself from my enemies.”

  • Fred says:

    Hmm… seems to me that when the military starts threatening the government we’re in for more trouble than just Afghanistan.

  • Mark Buehner says:

    “Presidents don’t usually act on national policy to benefit their own narrow personal political interests. They usually act in the national interest in accordance with their own ideology and beliefs.”
    I think this is generally true, however it is amazing how often ideology and beliefs trump what the rest of us would call common sense.
    Btw, why doesn’t Obama just call up our NATO allies and ask for more troops since we’ve got this new era of humility and diplomacy well underway? Anyone? Buehler?

  • Tyler says:

    My point, Bill, is that this entire process beginning in March was centered around the August elections and their outcome. Whether we were going to get deeper or consider going lighter was centered around whether there’d be a government there worth fighting for. Counterinsurgency can’t be fought without it.
    Since it was almost the worst possible outcome…basically a stolen election by a corrupt and incompetent government…troop escalations may be fruitless regardless of how talented and candid an officer McChrystal is, and may even be counterproductive as the enemy capitalizes on our ‘all-in’ support for a kleptocrat.
    So yeah, I’ll let the Prez have more than a few weeks to make this decision following McChrystal’s honest assessment and requests. And since its unlikely anymore troops would make to AfPak before the winter sets in (which typically halts all major fighting) he does have the luxury of a bit of time. The fighting we’re likely to see in the Winter (IEDs, insurgency, Haqqani terrorism) is already being prepared for with the additional deployment of 3,000 specialists.

  • Seth Halpern says:

    Neo, if “personal” includes, “would screwing up Afpak affect the prospects for health care ‘reform’, cap & trade, &c. and the likelihood I’ll have eight years to push those items,” then I’d say it was “personal.”

  • sarainitaly says:

    “I don’t like the way President Obama is handling Afghanistan either, but I’m not going to assign to him corrupted personal interest just because I’m not getting my way.”
    Obama appointed Van Jones accused Bill Clinton of launching a military offensive to cover up for the Lewinsky Scandal…
    On another note, I wouldn’t be surprised if Italy pulls out under growing pressure. They just held a nation wide funeral and minute of silence for the six soldiers just killed, and the drum beat for withdrawal, I assume, will grow louder. They have roughly 3,650 soldiers there now.
    Obama will need to do something.

  • Bill45 says:

    You’re badly overselling this story. No source you cite actually says McC will resign if he does not get more troops.

  • exhelodrvr says:

    “Pardon me but that statement is nonsense. Presidents don’t usually act on national policy to benefit their own narrow personal political interests.”
    Pay closer attention to what he has said, what he says, and what he does. He is not going to do something that he thinks will jeopardize his re-election.

  • Bohemond says:

    I have little doubt that Gen McKiernan’s firing was over much the same issue. Obama only sent just over half the reinforcements needed, and I reckon McKiernan was dumped when he insisted on adequate force levels to get the job done.
    Moreover, when the August semi-offensive was launched, Gates told the troops point-blank not to expect any reinforcements.
    Obama’s plan all along I suspect has been to make a half-assed effort before the elections, and then bail. Afghanistan was only useful insofar as it was a cudgel with which to belabor Bush over Iraq.

  • Corky Boyd says:

    The problem with Democrats is they want to look like they are doing something when they are not. They do not understand in war you either win or lose. You simlply can’t tread water and expect the enemy will do the same.
    If McCrystal resigns, so will Patraeus. The big diffference is Petraeus will run for President.

  • StayAlive says:

    If the rumor is true, that GEN McChrystal will resign if not given adequate troops/resources to complete the mission, i.e., “victory”, then congratulations to him.
    Too bad the Joint Chiefts didn’t do the same in Viet Nam. Instead of letting 30,000 plus Americans and 1,000,000 plus Vietnamese die after McNamara’s assessment in late 1965, we would have withdrawn or actually prosecuted the war to win – bomb Hanoi, close the port of Haiphong. Would it have “widened the war”? Would it have brought in the Chinese and Russians? Yes to both, especially since there were already 200,000 Chinese “support troops” and Russian pilots and “advisors” assisting the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.
    Do the honorable thing, resign if real victory is not sought or achievable. We don’t need any more wars where our troops “Die to tie”.

  • John(2) says:

    Who does this guy think he is?…..MacArthur?…….Unless the American people are willing to sanction a prolonged (like 20 years) military protectorate in Afghanistan we might as well pull the plug now. We’ve been there 8 years already and accomplished next to nothing…..any slight window of opportunity if it ever existed was squandered with the diversion of forces to the Iraq fiasco……that chance is long passed…….Unless the US is willing to come up with 250,000 troops for around another 20 years and expenditures of north of 3 trillion bucks (and does anyone believe we are) we’re wasting these guys lives pounding sand down a rathole.

  • Jay Nelson says:

    “I think in the end, the military — especially people like McChrystal who have never seen combat — are too arrogant and shameless to accept defeat.”
    Check your facts, Jarjar, LTG McChrystal has spent a whole lot of time in JSOC, and not just as a General Officer. He saw combat well before OIF, OEF, or even the 1st Gulf War, just not the kind of combat that gets on CNN.
    And, arrogant and shameless or not (McChrystal is neither, BTW), do you want a military defending you that accepts defeat? You might as well cheer for a football team that quits before halftime.

  • Steve says:

    Why are you framing this as if it is something McChrystal has done when the story clearly quotes 3 people at the Pentagon, not even in Afghanistan, who are just giving a character assessment of the man?
    I mean that would pretty much be a MacArthur moment for a general to demand a President do X or he’ll resign. If so Obama should help him along the way by firing his ass. But the article says nothing of the sort and yet you lead with a dramatic headline attributing McChrystal with saying that. Do you have other sources to support that statement?

  • Neo says:

    “Pay closer attention to what he has said, what he says, and what he does. He is not going to do something that he thinks will jeopardize his re-election.”

  • exhelodrvr says:

    “Much of his support base within the Democratic party would be quite happy to abandon the war NOW, long term consequences be damned. ”
    And he is weighing that against the losses from the center and the right if he abandons Afghanistan.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I would like to remind people to carefully read the comments policy. If you are cursing, replacing curse words with characters, or making abusive attacks on other commenters, public officials, or the authors, your comments will not be published. I’ve granted a lot of leeway given the nature of this topic but there are quite a few comments that will not be published.

  • WarIsATax says:

    I would gladly support a surge of 20-40k troops in exchange for universal healthcare.
    I know Obama is an excellent deal-maker; he and Senator McCain should sit down and construct an exchange: the hawks get their troops and in exchane we pass universal healthcare or at the very least a very strong public option with strict industry regulations.
    I do question President Obama’s commitment to Afghanistan and I frankly don’t know where he stands. I hope he is smart enough to realize that there’s no way to “win” or at least secure some semblance of “peace” a la Iraq without sending at least 20k more troops.
    I couldn’t care less about what happens in Afghanistan; I believe our FoPo of the last many years has been to serve Israel’s interests and not ours. But again, I wouldn’t mind getting on the hawks’ good side if it means we can at long last get a strong deal on healthcare.

  • Mr T says:

    All this talk. talk, talk. By the way, what is the “strategy” again?
    One important point. The US is not trying to occupy or conquer the country so we can run it. We are trying to ensure that the country is not used as a launching pad for attacks on our country like happened on 9/11. Right now, we also have the problem that if Afghanistan is not used, then Pakistan, Somalia, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, or Dearborn Michigan will be.
    Whats our overall strategy for addressing this problem. Military action is part of it but there has to be other actions we can take. Obviously, economic sanctions don’t work as proved by Iraq & Iran. Countries like Russia and China will always use that to their advantage and undermine it.
    I am still waiting on the Muslim establishment to start issuing Fatwas or whatever it takes to curb the violence emanating from their Umma. Until that happens, we will continue to have people around the world murdered in the name of Islam.
    Wheres that strategy? Reform can begin in Afghanistan and Pakistan where a lot of the murdering started. Wheres the strategy, not the tactics?

  • Spooky says:

    I’ve always wondered why America took exception to the historical rule that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires.
    What is victory in Afghanistan? A legitamate government that isn’t the Taliban which the West can deal with? We had the chance with King Zahir Shah, and squandered it because it was a monarchy. He had the support of the people, along with their love and respect. I don’t know if his son shares that same level of respect, but I’d certainly suggest it.
    If Karzai wins even after the recount and whatnot, we’re screwed there regardless of the military realities, both because of ineptitude and corruption, but more so because he is STILL there, thus negating the idea that this is a democracy.
    Honestly, it would be better to restructure Afghanistan into something that reflects its ethnic and geographical divide, in other words a confederacy.
    We should be able to create good governance at the provincial level, and I think we have succeeded more in that regard already. All we have to do is grant these provinces autonomy within the framework of the Afghan Confederacy, sort of in the same mold as both the Biden Plan for Iraq and the FATA/NWFP in Pakistan. Kabul merely becomes their meeting place on mutual agreements between the various entities.
    With the Pashtuns governing themselves without interference, the Taliban loses that particular and essential recruiting element, weakening them. With the ISAF assisting the governors directly rather than using the ridiculous Kabul bureaucracy, that makes things easier to get done.
    I mean, sure, the particulars of such a plan would have to be worked out, but we need to redefine “victory” REAL quick, because the central government in Kabul is looking a LOT like the Soviet model, and isn’t worth our treasure keeping about.

  • KW64 says:

    I realize that this is a military blog and not a political one but since most commenters think this is a political decision rather than a militay one:
    I do not see staying long enough to attempt a surge to be all that politically dangerous for Obama. Is there a realistic primary candidate against him on the Democratic side? Not that I see. It was McCarthy’s campaign that forced out Johnson during Vietnam not a Republican threat.
    So if staying does not get him a primary opponent of note and the left that opposes the war but is pleased with his other policies surely will not desert a supporter of big government who half/heartedly supports a low-intensity war in a general campaign against a small government conservative Republican who also supports the war effort; where is the political downside for him?
    On the other side, if he withdraws and the Taliban & Al Quida return and launch attacks against America out of Afghanistan, the middle that embraced his weak on Iraq but strong on Afghanistan policy in the last election may well leave him in large numbers.
    Thus, if staying is not that politically dangerous for him, it may be that his waffling really is about indecision on what military strategy to follow.
    My worthless personal opinion is that a surge that secures vital areas combined with a renewed Pakistani drive next Spring could bring a positive result that would allow time for rebuilding Afghan security forces. A run-off election that seems to have addressed much of the fraud would not hurt either. It sometimes seems darkest before the dawn.
    In any case, a withdrawl in early 2011 if a surge fails will still give the public time to forget about the defeat but less time for Al Quida to get up a major attack before the next election.

  • Meremortal says:

    Obama sees only poor choices (from his perspective) and is hoping for early and heavy snow in Afghanistan. I don’t think he has the staying power to see this through, he knows this war will outlast his time in office, be it one term or two. As for the general, are we headed for 1949 all over again? Time will tell.

  • JMG says:

    The list of failed conquerors of Afghanistan: Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great, Russia, France, Britain. But now the United States thinks it will be different. Obviously, no one learned a single thing from Vietnam.
    As for McChrystal, his leaking of the report was a shamelessly political move. If Obama decides to stay in Afghanistan — something that I think would be a huge mistake even bigger than the decision to occupy Iraq — he needs to fire McChrystal as a way of sending a message to the politicians in green that you don’t try to blackmail presidents.
    If Truman could sack MacArthur, then Obama can sack McChrystal. This is a civilian-ruled country, at least in theory.

  • Alex says:

    This isn’t a time for political games. McChrystal needs to be given the resources that he has requested.
    For what it’s worth, I wrote a little letter to my congressmen asking them to urge the administration to follow McChrystal’s recommendations.

  • Anna Puma says:

    Since the beginning, Obama has been trying to win in Afghanistan on the cheap. First was sending in a surge of troops only half what the on-scene commander was requesting. Then firing that commander. Now Lt Gen McChrystal is asking for more troops pronto to turn things around. And what is President Obama doing instead of dealing with an issue he made central to his campaign? Getting in a fued with New York Governor Patterson, appearing on Letterman, and working on climate change.
    You can not win a war on the cheap. If you are lucky you get a Korea. If you are unlucky, you get a Vietnam. And Obama is trying to win it on the cheap.

  • Berger says:

    Do you really think that McChrystal’s recommendation to increase troops came as a surprise to Obama/Gates? Come on. He was brought in to replace McKiernan for a reason. Call me a cynic but putting some distance between the time the report is leaked, and to when he says yes –and claiming to drag his feet in between–provides Obama with some much needed political cover vis a vis the Left.
    As for Bush’s “quick” decisiveness with the surge? Please. It took three years, a Study Group commissioned to make recommendations, and, and a routing in the ’06 election for Bush to even consider increasing troop levels despite numerous pleas over several years from generals and senators and experts.

  • Katy Grass says:

    This equivocation is a dangerous turn in the president’s stated policy. He’s become the Hokey Pokey President – as in:
    You put your right foot in; you take your right foot out; you put your right foot in and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around…That’s what it’s all about.
    You put your left foot in; [yadda yadda]
    The country, especially our military, needs him to put his whole self in and stand.
    I pray for our troops in harms way while he and his advisors dither.

  • JMG says:

    The U.S. didn’t try to win the Vietnam War on the cheap. At the peak, we had more than half a million troops there. The issue was different: the top civilian and military leadership ignored history and inched their way into a quagmire because no one with real power had the integrity to call an end to it.
    Vietnam had successfully resisted conquest for centuries. The U.S. mission was ill-defined, and military leaders, such as they were, never spelled out the true requirements. It was a repetition of similar blunders in Korea and the Philippines.
    At root, the U.S. has never been an occupying colonial power. This is one lesson that our history has shown us time and time again, yet we persist in ignoring it. When you keep making the same mistake, outsiders can rightfully question your sanity.
    Obama is now in the process of trying to implement a Nixon-style “Vietnamization” policy in Iraq. That will end badly, because we never should have occupied the place to begin with. Iraq is a thrown-together country with elements that have resisted conquest for centuries.
    In Afghanistan, the Obama policy is reminiscent of JFK and LBJ’s failure to make the tough call in Vietnam, which would have been to leave. The result is that Obama is inching into the Big Muddy, just as JFK and LBJ did. This too will end badly, as it did for the other empires that thought they wanted to rule the Pashtuns.
    Now is the time for Obama to call an end to this. If he doesn’t do it, we’ll do nothing but pour blood and treasure (the latter of which we don’t have in the abundance we did in the 1960s and ’70s) into a black hole. And for what? “Peace with honor.”
    Not wanting to stay in Iraq or Afghanistan isn’t a matter of pacifism, it’s a matter of prudence. The United States does not rule every corner of the planet. Most Americans know that, but unfortunately our leaders don’t seem to have gotten the memo.

  • Spooky says:

    Anyone who says McChrystal’s move wasn’t political is giving him too much credit. In my eyes, both him and Obama are at fault. But now thats passed, and crying over spilt milk still does not resolve the issue.
    First of all, Obama needs to do what the general is asking. Then he needs to sack him. Because if he doesn’t put in the troops and whatever else McChrystal asked of him, he won’t be able to win. And if he doesn’t fire McChrystal, he becomes the Pentagon’s puppet, which sets off all sorts of bad precedents. I’m not saying McChrystal was technically in the wrong, but he took a risk by leaking the story and undermining Obama’s decision, so he has to pay for it.
    Most importantly though, and I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record, is that the US and NATO need to redefine the political model for Afghanistan. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll be sent packing on the account of a hostile populace.
    And someone mentioned Korea. Y’know, maybe thats the route to go, if confederacy or a return to the old monarchy isn’t possible. Split Afghanistan into North and South Afghanistan. It has its own problems to be sure, but at least we can save half of it rather than none of it. But thats a last ditch solution, not one to be considered now.

  • Papa Ray says:

    Obama is no better than his advisors. Now that should be enough to give everybody something to think about.
    Also, It appears he has said several times that we are not at war with Islam, that we only want peace with Islam, that Americans do not hate Islam and that Islam is a very large and important part of America.
    Now, those are just words. Just like his words on health care, cap and trade, education and a host of other things.
    What have his actions been since becoming President. That is something to consider also. What Presidental signing’s has he made, what policy decisions, what bills has he signed?
    Now if you consider all that, you should come up with enough information to understand he is going to do nothing until he knows what damage it will do to him and the democrat party and if the damage can be limited in some way with words, shifting the decisions, blame to either the Congress or the Military or to a later date where he will have more leverage.
    He has no leverage now, all of his wants are still just that…wants. He has accomplished little of what he has stated he wants to. Now he has this terrible inconvenience of a war that his Generals can’t seem to win thrown in on top of all his other problems.
    What to do? As some have said. He is the most inexperienced President we have ever had. He will depend on his advisors and they don’t want a war as part of their administration.
    It is just too distracting and they need all that “war” money elsewhere.
    Papa Ray
    West Texas

  • Papa Ray says:

    “Most importantly though, and I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record, is that the US and NATO need to redefine the political model for Afghanistan. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll be sent packing on the account of a hostile populace.
    Your 120% right. But in case it hasn’t been stated, about half of the population hates the present government. That is the place to start. But no where in this thread did I see the most bloody wound in our side and Afghanistan’s side mentioned.
    Pakistan. With the Taliban and aQ thick as thieves with the Pak IS and using Pakistan as a safe house, no one, no military can bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.
    Papa Ray

  • JMG says:

    The U.S. leadership has to quit indulging in the sort of magical thinking embodied by a commenter here, “Spooky,” who thinks we can partition Afghanistan into north and south. It’s not going to work.
    Unless we decide to start dropping nuclear weapons, we simply don’t have that kind of power. And to what end? To make them into a U.S.-style democracy? That’s simply not going to happen. No one seems to have a clue as to why we’re there, beyond some labels applied with little real connection to the realities there.
    Earth to America: You don’t know as much as you think you know, and you’re not nearly as good as you imagine yourselves to be.

  • KW64 says:

    People who advocate just getting out need to answer two questions:
    1. Then what?
    2. What was your suggestion for what we do after 9/11 and what would you suggest after the next one?

  • JMG says:

    To answer those questions:
    1. Stay out, like we’ve stayed out of Vietnam. And keep putting distance between ourselves and the Israelis. They are not the 51st state, as they seem to believe.
    2. After 9/11, I supported going into Afghanistan to find Bin Laden. Unfortunately, George W. Bush had the attention span of a fruit fly, and let him go. I believed the propaganda about Iraqi WMD, and supported a limited mission to remove Saddam, find the WMD, and leave. I never supported an open-ended colonial expedition.

  • Neo says:

    “Iraq is a thrown-together country with elements that have resisted conquest for centuries.”

  • WarIsATax says:

    Good question, KW64. As an advocate of ending our engagement in Afghanistan, if I had an answer for #1 I would be in the White House and Pentagon briefing the civilian strategists and military tacticians as we speak. 🙂
    As to the 2nd question, I think 9/11 was bad and the next one will be too, but in the big picture, I believe it is far more effective and cheaper to reinforce cockpit doors and take other security steps domestically to prevent further loss of life. I think terrorists will always exist and it is not something you can stamp out even if we are “fighting them over there.” Just this past week we found out there are Afghan sleeper cells in the States so it is naive to assume that staying engaged in Afghanistan is the best solution for dissuading terrorism.
    Though it is un-PC, I believe it is in our interest to buy off the Taliban and get them on our side. It will be a lot cheaper than the $10 trillion it would take to continue our engagement there.
    I know, I know, this kind of strategy (funding the Afghan fighters in our proxy war against the Soviets) resulted in the blowback of 9/11, but the reality is a lot more complex. I believe the ultimate source of anger for that incident is the perception, right or wrong, that we are bullies and servile to Israel.
    I believe that as long as USA’s approach to the Israel-Palestine situation continues along the current one-sided status quo, there will always be resentment and boiling anger against USA and other funders of Israel’s military.
    I hate to make my post sound like I’m bashing Israel or scapegoating them, but it is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. And since you brought up the question on how to avoid the next 9/11, I had to bring it up.
    Afghanistan is a failed state; its government is corrupt and its fraudulently-elected president relies on American commandos to threaten, kidnap and murder his political opponents. I do not want any of my tax dollars to continue to send our boys to die to help this corrupt oilman embezzle and bully his way to an anti-democratic dictatorship.
    I believe that 9/11 is kind of a separate issue; I think the real question we should be asking here is “Should we send more of our boys to die to help install a slightly tamer version of Saddam Hussein?”
    Future 9/11 or no, I know what my answer is.

  • Drider says:

    Escalation is a bad idea. The Democrats backed themselves into defending the idea of Afghanistan being The Good War because they felt they needed to prove their macho bonafides they called for withdrawal from Iraq. Nobody asked too many questions sat the time, including me. But none of us should forget that it was a political strategy, not a serious foreign policy.
    The last line in the paragraph pretty much sums up what I believe our current administration’s strategy is.
    We have been listening to the leadership in power and watching what they do, often the two don’t coincide.It has become almost unbearable to listen to falsehoods on a daily basis with these leaders and to think that our military very well may be taking it in the teeth to help these leaders pas unrelated ideological bills is just beyond the pale.

  • bard207 says:

    That is a very nice post, but there is a part that could be open to debate.
    Afghanistan is being used to destabilize it’s neighbor Pakistan and has been used in recent past as a training ground for mass terrorist strikes against India, Russia, the United States, and about twenty nations across the Muslim world.
    Some think that through its various actions and inactions, Pakistan is destabilizing Afghanistan rather than that Afghanistan is destabilizing Pakistan.

  • Spooky says:

    Pakistan can’t be helped, Papa Ray. We need them as much as they need us, and with the state being controlled by a paranoid military brass, they will always hedge their bets.
    Because lets face it, the moment we leave, vicotry or defeat, we’re gonna forget all about this place, just like last time.
    Asians have long memories, so they will prepare for the long view and simply wing it with the short view.
    As for Obama and his decision-making, I never judge before the fat lady sings, and in this case, that will only be at the end of this war, for better or worse. If we harped on every moment by moment decision of this war, we’d be missing the forest for the trees. We need to be careful not to do that, because that is what screwed us before hand when we dropped the ball on the war and went off after Saddam.
    We need to redefine victory there. Then we can see what is needed and what isn’t, because we’re being optimistic to the point of naivete if we think we’re gonna hunt down OBL and his organization, eliminate the Taliban, AND put in place a stable and friendly western-style democracy.
    We also have to be wary and prepared for the fact that, even if we did all the right things and listened to all the right people, we may still lose. I say this not out of defeatism or anything like that, but because sometimes its the first few months of a war, the first few major decisions that are made, that make or break conflicts. If we can rescue the war and avoid that, I’m all for it, but if not, we shouldn’t be shocked when it happens. And hopefully the more intelligent and sensible among us won’t try to turn it into a partisan issue. But these days, I tend to doubt it…

  • Mr T says:

    “The list of failed conquerors of Afghanistan: Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great, Russia, France, Britain. But now the United States thinks it will be different. Obviously, no one learned a single thing from Vietnam.”
    Heres the problem with that analysis. We are not trying to be conquerors, therefore can never be “failed conquerors”. Our enemy may like to present us that way in order to attain their ends but it is not true.
    I think comparing Vietnam to Afghanistan is a bad analogy. They have entirely different sets of relevant factors. Motivations, support, goals, etc. I also like to point out that the North Vietnamese leadership said that they were defeated and it was only a metter of time before the war would end, but then America gave up. That is what our enemies in Afghanistan are hoping for as well and may be one of the few similarities.
    I would agree that it is hard to stabilize Afghanistan with what Pakistan is doing across their border. Pakistan has picked up their military operations pace on their side of the border so there is some hope, however, they have also made it clear they support Taliban & Al Qaeda incursions into Afghanistan. That is really bad. You are either with us or against us and I think that decision puts them in the latter category.
    Battling corruption, training the Afghan military, working the tribal culture, and getting Pakistan to work with us in preventing cross border attacks or staging in their country are all top priorities.
    Getting the support of the world is also important. Our effort was severely undermined in that respect for political gain around the world. As Libya’s Ghadaffi said at the UN today, there have been 65 wars since the UN was created. Why is the UN (read world) not stepping in here and supporting our efforts 100%. They seem to waffle in their support and won’t send the troops, money, training, and other support such as verbal statements and intangible efforts to support us.
    None of that means we should give up and hunker down back home and wait for the Islamists to take over country after country and launch future attacks on our own soil. How would we respond? By attacking another country that claims they did not attack us? Then leaving after a few years so the cycle can start over. I don’t think thats a smart idea.
    We really need to put maximum effort into Afghanistan and Pakistan now while we are well into it but to do that, we need the backing of the world. Where is that worldwide support Obama said he would bring? Did he mean the world will only support us if we leave Iraq & Afghanistan? That they will only support us some years down the road if we tuck our tails and admit that the worlds problems are all Americas fault and we are sorry?
    I think to do that would only invite more attacks so I do not support blaming America or cut & run. I want our leadership to think it through, set proper goals and implement a winning strategy and the tactics to accomplish them. Bush Bashing or America bashing is not part of that strategy. Git r done is.

  • JMG says:

    Neo, the U.S. proper is not a “colonial” power. Colonialism is characterized by a country’s domination of a foreign population outside of its boundaries, and frequently far away. The European settlement of what’s now called the U.S. was a case of conquest and near-complete annihilation of the previously-existing population. It has nothing to do with the issue at hand, and your attempt to derail the conversation is noted and rejected.
    As for post-WW2 Europe and Japan, the U.S. conquered Japan and Germany, briefly occupied them, and then left. Parliamentary systems were restored, not invented or imposed. Afghanistan has no history of Western-style democracy.
    As for the U.S. not suffering a domestic attack since George W. Bush started two wars, I woulod point out that the U.S. didn’t suffer a domestic attack after the first WTC bombing. It was only after Bush and his people steadfastly ignored a series of urgent warnings that we were attacked. Negligence is not an excuse for endless colonial adventures.
    In any case, whatever anyone’s fantasies about controlling the world, there are realities. The United States, with a population of 300 million and an economy that is in relative decline, is not equipped to rule a world of 7 billion people, in 220 nations, some of which are emerging as serious regional challengers to American suzerainty.
    In Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, it would be infinitely cheaper, and more effective, for the United States to leave Israel to its own devices rather than to support that country’s brand of magical thinking, which holds that a population of 5 million Jews can dominate hundreds of millions of Muslims who surround them.
    The U.S. has no business being the guarantor, either explicitly or implicitly, of that particular conceit. Ridding ourselves of that foreign entanglement would be the single smartest thing we could do. Israel is a nuclear armed power, and should now be required to take care of itself. It has a history of acting as a sort of remorrah fish on larger powers, be they the U.S. or South Africa. Perhaps China would be their best future hope?

  • Neo says:

    “Though it is un-PC, I believe it is in our interest to buy off the Taliban and get them on our side. It will be a lot cheaper than the $10 trillion it would take to continue our engagement there.”

  • Neo says:

    “Neo, the U.S. proper is not a “colonial” power. Colonialism is characterized by a country’s domination of a foreign population outside of its boundaries, and frequently far away.”

  • Render says:

    It’s all the fault of those pesky Jews, isn’t it?
    If they would just go away and die there would be peace all over the world, wouldn’t there?
    To “dominate” the region around them is not why Israel exists, it never was, and it never will be.
    It exists as the last place on earth where Jews can live without fear of extermination, without constant and unrelenting persecution. Israel exists so that Jews can defend themselves from nearly universal hatred. Hatred that has reared its disgusting head in the comments of this blog once again, in this very thread.
    Israel is not the “elephant in the room.” The correct phrase is “canary in a coal mine.”
    If you really think that exterminating 13 million Jews is going to bring peace to the world then you are commenting on the wrong blog. There are thousands of other places online that would love to have you. I’m certain beyond any shadow of a doubt that the neo-nazi and jihadi blogs would be much more receptive to such hatred, after all they post the exact same type of comments…

  • Spooky says:

    Neo, while I realize its pretty paltry and sad what we have to show for it, the current relationship America has with Pakistan is actually rather good, if one were to look at the alternatives. We had to take the lesser of two evils. Sucky decision, but we ARE dealing with one of the top ten most unstable countries in the world…

  • Neo says:

    I was being overtly sarcastic when I suggested directly funding the Taliban to be our enemies while at the same time spurn anyone who would stoop so low as to cooperate with us.
    Sorry if it was misunderstood. It wasn’t directed at you.
    On the serious side I do support the current relationship with Pakistan. The alternatives are drastic.

  • Spooky says:

    My bad.

  • JMG says:

    It’s not “the fault of the pesky Jews.” They have their reasons for being where they are, in a state of perpetual war with their neighbors. But the U.S. has no logical reason to be joined at the hip with Israel in the way that we are. That relationship is exactly the sort of foreign entanglement that George Washington warned of in his farewell address.
    The fact that Israel is a Jewish state is secondary to the issue. What matters here is that the U.S. has mortgaged a serious chunk of lives, honor, and fortune to one of 220 countries, and one whose existence or future has little or no intrinsic bearing on our lives or interests.
    I commend Israel, in a certain way, for its success in drawing us into this position, but I do not commend our leaders for allowing us to get to this place.

  • T Ruth says:

    “while I realize its pretty paltry and sad what we have to show for it, the current relationship America has with Pakistan is actually rather good, if one were to look at the alternatives. We had to take the lesser of two evils. Sucky decision,…”
    I have a sense from our past exchanges that we are in broad agreement. Nevertheless…
    Fact is, whatever the history, in the now, sticking it out with a two-timing Pakistan also allied to the ultimate foe AQAM ain’t gonna get anyone anywhere.
    Even Biden is now saying, as dis-jointed as that strategy appears, one needs more focus on the targets in Pakistan. Its the first time i’ve heard it said officially that more special ops are reqd inside pakistan, but its a start.
    The fact that pak is one of the 10 most unstable countries makes it all the more urgent.
    Regional dynamics have changed in the last 8 yrs and is moving in a different direction despite the Pakistani laggard. America would do well to be pickier about its friends and allies before placing its money and trust.

  • T Ruth says:

    bard207: “Some think that through its various actions and inactions, Pakistan is destabilizing Afghanistan rather than that Afghanistan is destabilizing Pakistan.”
    bard i’ll go with your motion.
    The NYT is saying
    “The issue of the Taliban leadership council, or shura, in Quetta is now at the top of the Obama administration’s agenda in its meetings with Pakistani officials.”

  • Render says:

    “It’s not “the fault of the pesky Jews.”
    – Glad we got that out of the way.
    “They have their reasons for being where they are, in a state of perpetual war with their neighbors.”

  • Spooky says:

    T Ruth:
    If we make Pakistan our enemy, and it would happen if we were to increase attacks and “turn on them” as they always feared/expected, they’ll have no problem giving over their nukes over to the Iranians and the terrorists as a sort of final “screw you” to the US and the West. Plus it has a 1 million man army that, inept or not, WILL fight to the last man over its territory, since they will perceive it, rightly or wrongly, as an invasion. Considering how difficult just the Taliban are being, having to fight them PLUS the Pakistani Army? We’d be sent packing unless we resorted to utter annihilation via nukes or something. And then Afghanistan would be truely lost, as part of the Islamic Empire of the Punjab…
    Not disagreeing with your points per se, but just note that Palestinians have the same rights to a homeland too. No more innocents in that conflict…

  • JMG says:

    So, anyone who might bring up George Washington’s farewell address is an anti-semite. Look, that bit of intimidation might fly at Commentary magazine or on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page (one in the same these days) but I’m not going to be intimidated.
    Israel is a rich country and a nuclear power. Time to kick them out of the nest and assume a scrupulously neutral stance. The U.S. should work to impose an arms embargo in the region, and end subsidies for Israel. There was really no need, for example, to pay for Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon.
    If the U.S. wasn’t so radically tilted to one side, there wouldn’t have ever been much reason for any party in that neck of the woods to consider us their mortal enemy. For a long time, the U.S. pursued a relatively even handed policy, but that even handedness was steadily chipped away by Israel, and completely demolished in the 1980s. We are now paying an enormous cost for not having listened to George Washiington’s logic.
    Now, back to Afghanistan, the subject of this thread. If McChrystal is going to threaten to pick up his marbles and go home if he doesn’t get his way, the least we should be told is that his way includes a five-year commitment of 500,000 troops in the area.
    That’s precisely (close enough for horseshoes, anyway) what we did in Vietnam, which didn’t work out too well. Americans deserve to be told exactly what this particular general, and the others who are supporting him, are calling for.

  • Render says:

    “So, anyone who might bring up George Washington’s farewell address is an

  • Render says:

    Absolutely not in disagreement with your point.
    But I will point out that the “Palestinians” such as they were when they were created from whole cloth in 1963-64 already have not one, but two such homelands (Gaza and the West Bank), one of which has already been ethnically cleansed of Jews.
    It doesn’t seem to have made things any better does it?
    Fact is they were once upon a time citizens of either Egypt or Trans-Jordan long before they became “Palestinian” at the whim of Nasser.
    Taken in the historical context of the time, why are those relatively small post-WW2 refugees and mass population relocations any different from those of India-Pakistan or Greece-Turkey (post WW1)?
    Given that well over half of Israel’s current population consists of Jewish refugees forced from the Islamic dominated nations, is it too much to ask that those same Islamic dominated nations take in those Moslems living in Israel who do not wish to be citizens of a Jewish dominated nation?
    The House of Saud alone could give each and every living Palestinian one million dollars to relocate anywhere in the world they want too, and the Sauds could do that without even disturbing the top of their small change jar.

  • JMG says:

    Render, it is to be regretted that youhave chosen to equate George Washington and David Duke. Maybe you devote more of your time to the study of this country’s history, which even if it fails to meet your standards is nonetheless of interest.
    Israel’s per capita GDP is $29,000. That’s the roughly the same as Italy’s and a bit behind Britain’s, making Israel one of the world’s richest economies, especially when a few tiny oil and financial states are excluded. Israel is a nuclear state that has started two wars in the last three years. It is well equipped to pay its own way, and make its own way, in the world.
    It’s not antisemitic (a word that can correctly be spelled with or without capitalization) to argue that the United States should put its interests ahead of those of Israel’s. Reader, the U.S. did not commit the holocaust of the Jews. We have no special obligation to guarantee Israel’s survival, especially by mortgaging our future to make the West Bank safe for a few thousand more housing units reserved for Jewish settlers in occupied territory.
    I take no position on whether Jews or Palestinians are the rightful owners of this or that piece of territory. I think both belligerents have worthy and interesting arguments, but in the final analysis the United States has no business underwriting the adventures of either side. That, to me, is the proper American position.
    To be sure, it can be argued that the logical Israeli position is different, but I am not an Israeli. I am an American. Are you?

  • Spooky says:

    I’m not bringing the other Arab states into this, nor am I bringing the West into this. They are irrelevant to my point.
    The Arabs of Palestine and the Jews of Isreal both deserve that land. One side was forced to move over for a nation building project thought up by people who had never so much as set foot in the region as anything. The other side has no other place they can call home, having been persecuted for centuries over their beliefs, and thus see this as a haven. They both deserve that land. And the only way they can do it is if one side mans up with an olive branch.

  • JMG says:

    We can argue whether or not the genocide of a group in one place entitles their survivors to seize land in a different place, based on ancient religious claims. Regardless of how one comes down on the question I see no reason for a third party that merely curtailed the genocide to be obligated to become the guarantor of the subsequent land grab.
    As the result of efforts by Israel and its agents in the U.S., that is the situation that the U.S. has found itself in. I was struck by the section of Obama’s speech in Cairo in which he justified Israel’s position by reference to the Third Reich’s mass murder of Europe’s Jews. Palestinians and other Arabs can be forgiven for asking, rather pointedly, just why they should be required to atone for Europe’s sins.
    As an American, I ask why my country’s policies in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia should be so intertwined with a 20th Century genocide — one of many in the world — perpetrated by someone else and stopped by us. Yes, it was horrific. But we didn’t do it. Do the Ukrainians get to claim, say, a part of Mexico, with the blessing of the U.S., because Stalin starved 6 million of them to death?
    At the root of the current conflict between the U.S. and Islam lies the Israeli land grab. This is because our government has abandoned its historic neutrality and taken up sides on a matter fundamentally extraneous to our national interest.
    The costs to us of this foreign entanglement mount every year. Some hold any questioning or examination of the issue to be “antisemitic,” but I differ. The United States does not possess unlimited power and resources. The world becomes more multi-polar all the time, as evidenced by the recent supplanting of the G-8 by the G-20.
    We fought to a draw in Korea, failed in Vietnam, failed in Iraq (the “country” is in ruins, and will collapse when we leave), and are failing in Afghanistan. At the tactical level, we must urgently ask our leaders to crack open a damned history book — an American history book, that is — and read it. At the strategic level, we’re going to have to get used to the idea that we have to pick our battles a lot more carefully than we have.

  • Render says:

    “Render, it is to be regretted that youhave chosen to equate George Washington and David Duke.”

  • Render says:

    “I’m not bringing the other Arab states into this, nor am I bringing the West into this. They are irrelevant to my point.”

  • Spooky says:

    Your logic makes sense only if is applied to both sides, which you are not. You are all too willing to level punishment on one people for what their leadership did, but not the other side. There is plenty of blame to go around, and by your logic, if applied equally, neither side should have that land.
    Frankly, the only good way to end that conflict is to either forget the past and someone mans up to the other side for peace and co-existence, or nuke the entirety of the south Levant.

  • ArmyWife says:

    You are spot on, Render. I couldn’t ask for a better response – Israel has MORE than ‘Manned up’ – if it was the US taking hits as they do, if it was our back yard, would JMG feel the same way? Israel hasn’t been the aggressors in this shameful game.
    As for Afghanistan, the troops on the ground (the ones I know and have spoken too) aren’t interested in the President playing tiddlywinks. Get them what they need. Doing so is infinitely more important than chasing down McChrystal resignation rumors.

  • Cass says:

    I’m not getting into y’alls debate, but Gen. McChrystal has openly denied that he’ll resign. However, word among SOF and SOCOM is that he will and that he’s rather disgusted with the lack of action.

  • Dan says:

    If the strategy changes, might not the General? Remember the choice isn’t between certain failure and certain success, but probably failure and big investment of soldiers we don’t have and maybe maybe not success.
    Here’s a snarky and inconclusive run-down on the issue.

  • Robert Jones says:

    Sounds like McArthur & Pres Rosevelt and Korea. We have been there since the 1950′ and will most likely be there for another 50 yrs. We lost Vietnam the same way, civilian stratagy or lack there of.
    The Gen needs troops to do the job, not a yes man.
    Either do the job or get the hell out.


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