General Frustration

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security.


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That leads us to a second but related issue. The general and his men are obviously frustrated with the civilians in the Obama administration. That’s fairly common in representative democracies like ours. Generals drift between frustration over their men being misused and wasted at one extreme and being constrained and underutilized at the other. They often complain about vacillation and uncertainty among the civilian leadership. McChrystal is no different.

The Rolling Stone story notes that President Barack Obama “didn’t seem very engaged” during one of his early meetings with McChrystal. The general was frustrated by Obama’s slow-motion review and re-review of the administration’s own stated policy of an Afghan surge. “I found that time painful,” McChrystal told Rolling Stone’s correspondent, Michael Hastings.

It pays to recall that Obama entered office—and the war room—by firing McChrystal’s predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, ostensibly to shake things up and goad the military into action in Afghanistan. But when McChrystal, following Obama’s lead, asked for the resources necessary to win what Obama called a “war of necessity”—including up to 40,000 additional troops—the president blinked and balked. For months, the White House reflected and ruminated and reviewed.

One could almost hear McChrystal during those months quoting the words of U.S. Grant:

“In war, anything is better than indecision. We must decide. If I am wrong, we shall soon find it out and can do the other thing. But not to decide…may ruin everything.”

That leads us to a third issue highlighted by the Rolling Stone controversy: the vast difference between McChrystal’s warrior ethos and Washington’s civilian ethos.

The article notes that McChrystal’s father was a two-star general who fought in Korea and Vietnam. McChrystal’s brothers all served in the military. McChrsytal went to West Point during the Vietnam War. He opted for Special Forces because he wanted to be in the fight. As a general, he led patrols and manhunts in Iraq. “The…lads love Stan McChrystal,” the article quotes a British officer as saying.

The task of hunting down our enemies, of defending the weak, of liberating the oppressed, of winning wars falls to “men whose values are not those of politicians or diplomats,” as military historian John Keegan has observed—men who are willing to do more than simply write or talk about freedom and sacrifice; men like McChrystal.

According to Keegan, “All civilizations owe their origins to the warrior.” And more than that, all civilizations owe their continued existence to the warrior. Rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, we expect them to do their necessary but awful work—but silently.

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security issues.

Pages: 1 2

  • William Fankboner

    Okay, we can all agree that the military is subordinate to the executive branch of government and that General McChrystal showed poor judgement in expressing his criticism of Obama and his staff. Nevertheless, it's easy to understand his frustration. McChrystal called Obama and staff "Unprepared." Sound familiar? This word could characterize Obama Presidency and his entire administration from day one.

    And while it is certainly inappropriate and a kind of leje mageste for a military officer to comment on his civilian superiors in the media, isn't it also inappropriate for a President, unschooled in the military science, to interfere and meddle with the tactics and judgement of his highest-ranking field commander? And isn't this exactly what Obama did when he delayed the deployment of the surge troops for three months and cut McChrystal's request for troop levels by 30 percent? And wasn't his pledge to bring the troops home by July 2011 just a political dodge to sooth the indignation of the far left in event there wasn't immediate success?

    Obama fancies himself a reincarnation of Franklyn Roosevelt. But can you imagine Roosevelt second-guessing General Marshall about dates and troop levels and on the eve of his scheduled invasion of North Africa?

    There is a day of reckoning coming for this arrogant and incompetent administration and it can't come too soon for this citizen.

    • Andres de Alamaya

      From the Audacity of Hope to the Ignorance of Arrogance.

    • Jim C.

      Re: your third paragraph–the sun rises and sets, Law & Order reruns are shown, and generals ask for more troops. The civilian command has to assess cost/benefit and define the objective.

      I seriously don't think anyone ever knew what the objective was in Afghanistan outside hunting down al Qaeda. Mr. Bush put it on the back burner while concentrating on Iraq. Mr. Obama decided he didn't like what was going on with the Taliban in the Pashtun region and decided to step up operations there.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Zatoichi Sam Deakins

    Is it just me or does it seem there are a great many military and ex-military speaking out against the Obamao Regime? More so than any other time that I can recall since the VietNam era. These are the times that try mens souls … indeed.

  • betty boop

    As the parent of several service people, I am terrified to think of the capricious and yet confused ways this government is using our military as political pawns. McChrystal deserves his occasional gripe considering that the rules of engagement forced on his troops are daily putting his brave troops in harms way simply to score political points. The military must comply… but this government frequently seems to be working against their very survival. I agree with Mr. Fankboner, that the civilian branch should butt out. McChrystal spoke foolishly, and should be reprimanded perhaps, but not relieved. Moral is already bad enough, and the troops like McChrystal.

    • Jim C.

      McChrystal actually said nothing bad, and is a good general, but has displayed a certain pattern of recklessness. Chalk it up to his preference for battlefield over banquet hall. I hope Obama keeps him for the sake of the mission. But civilian control of the military is the law, and there's always been tension, every administration, between depts. of defense and state, diplomats and military brass, etc.

      • William Fankboner

        Obama could show some class here and keep McChrystal on. In fact, considering the Khandahar operation is about to start, it would be a good idea. McChristal is an old black-ops special forces guy and he just didn't understand the media world and the requirements of public life.

        • Jim C.

          Looks like he's gone and Petraeus is in charge. Guess it was inevitable? Too bad, I agree with you.

  • Can'tWaitFor Nov

    I wholeheartedly agree with the first three posters. The mantra the left likes to use is that we "can't afford on-the-job training". This administration consistently proves it is incapable of even that.

    I too can't wait for November and then 2012 . . .

  • Cate

    I'm heartened to see a General finally stand up to the goons from Chi-town. I would like to see him speak out more. Reminds me of when Truman and MacArthur went at it (no, I'm not old, just listened in school), but at least Truman had integrity and was not out to totally ruin America. Now we have a Marxist creep who wants to make the most of a crisis, so he goes golfing and lets the gulf waste away and our borders be destroyed.
    General McChrystal, you are my hero, along with Joe Wilson, Paul Ryan, and whoever else has the guts to treat the creep-in-chief to his own medicine.

    • Jim C.

      This isn't Truman vs. MacArthur–it's barely even Bush vs. Fallon (or Rumsfeld vs. Everybody).

      It's a general who fancies himself a hotshot vs. a guy who doesn't get military types.

      And Truman was a New Deal democrat, & thus at least as "left," if not more so, than Obama.

  • Pierce Smith

    Wishy washy. That is what this whole presidency seems to be about. Barack Obama has
    shown a lack of decisiveness when it comes to the military in Afghanistan, or the disaster in
    the Gulf of Mexico. He would rather play golf with his Vice President Joe Biden than face tough decisions that show his leadership attributes.

  • Jim C.

    Here's your spin for the day:

    If Obama fires McChrystal, it's because McChrystal was speaking the truth, and Obama can't have that;

    or: If Obama does not accept McChrystal's resignation, it's becauase he's weak-kneed.

    Go now, and spin!!

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/micrbu micrbu

    Where are the Republicans? They need to initiate impeachment proceedings immediately! Our so called CIC is a muslim turncoat and should be dealt with immediately! And what about the mexican drug cartels helping jihadists infiltrate our country to reign terror on us!!!

  • USMCSniper

    It was reckless in the extreme to talk this way in front of a anti war leftist reporter from Rolling Stones who clearly was on a scalp-hunt and stupid in giving him this much access at the staff level command inner circle was a monumental blunder. The whole article is by a hack reporter hoping to hunt a big trophy kill: like he set out to take down a four-star war hero and claiming falsely, it was his war plan, not the president's fatally flawed plan for a Vietnam betrayal exit that is doomed to failure. Karma will get Obama in the end.

    • Jim C.

      Let me ask you: what is the objective in Afghanistan? Do you see it as strategically important?

      • USMCSniper

        I will answer in the following way. The war in Afghanistan should have been to totally destroy and eliminate any resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda whereever they were along with all of their supporters – not to engage innation-building under a NATO command structure and a repeat of the win the discredited hearts and minds of people propaganda from Vietnam. Would there be collateral damage. Hell yes, but bad shit happens in wars and better it happens to them than us. Right now it the rules of engagement are ridiculous and appear to value the lives of Afghan and Pakistani civilians more than those of our own soldiers and marines. There is no committment to a swift and sure victory as Obama's policy, just containment and a planned Vietnam betrayal exit by announcing a pullout date. Not allowing Afghanistan to become a Taliban theocracy and a training ground for Al Qaeda and a base for an Islamic revolutional war in nuclear armed Pakistan makes sense, but to adopt a strategy that attempts to turn a 95% illiterate subculture into a democracy is a pipedream. Containment is the present strategy and the rest is political correct nonsense.

        • Jim C.

          Agree about the pipedream. I wish you guys felt the same way a few years ago. Don't agree about Vietnam "betrayal"–in this case, there's really no one who would thank us for staying.

          As McChrystal said, though, the Soviets killed 1,000,000 Afghanis. Where did it get them?

          As far as the general's opinions, I look at it this way: If you ask the coach of the Detroit Lions if he has a chance against the Saints, 10 times out of 10 he's going to say "Yes." That's his job–he wouldn't be doing it if he didn't say so. But the team owner should know, it ain't gonna happen.

          I always thought Rumsfeld's vision for a lighter, faster, smaller elite military force was good for terrorist hunting (if not for "democratic reform.") Keep such forces operating–take out the bulk of the "policemen," bring them home. Kill bad guys, leave the politics to Karzai.

          If Pakistan goes rogue and gets nuclear, hey–an actual nation to be at war with!

      • Steve Chavez

        Does Morally Important count? Darfur is not "strategically important" but there were some groups who said, "Bush, Stop the Genocide in Darfur." The UN Peacekeepers are powerless so they sent in the African Union troops who ended up raping little girls.

        What's the difference between GENOCIDE in Darfur and GENOCIDE committed by Saddam? There was a bigger strategic danger from Saddam but the genocide had the same goal.

        Under the Taliban, girls couldn't go to school. Women were treated worse than slaves and even executed on soccer fields. Any dissenters were shot and even burned alive on the street! Is that madness or not and whose shoulder is cried on to stop this madness?

        Why is our shoulder always the one to be cried on? MORALS!!!

  • Steve Chavez

    REMEMBER GENERAL BETRAYUS? Didn't Obama and Hillary SPIT on the General? Now he has to take orders from these clowns? DID THEY APOLOGIZE TO HIM AND HIS TROOPS?

    McC called JOHN KERRY FOR ADVICE? Kerry and Obama have spent their whole adult lives SPITTING ON THE TROOPS!

    I was hoping McC would have SPIT BACK AT OBAMA! (Waiting for result of meeting.)

    • Jim C.

      Liar.

      • Steve Chavez

        What? They had "GENERAL BETRAYUS" in gigantic letters on Huffpo and they NYT! The hearings were a live circus act! And they even covered it on MSNBC!

        McC called McCain and Kerry. Didn't Senator Obama SPIT on Betrayus along with Hillary?

        General BETRAYUS is sitting down with Obama and Hillary as I write this post! How embarrassing!!!

        • Jim C.

          Nobody was spit on, first of all. I'm sure some internet dimbulb called him "betrayus" but nobody important did. Gen. Petraeus has respect from all sides.

          As for Hillary, she's one of McChrystal's big supporters.

  • bojangles

    Maybe the general should have been a little more reserved but it is our fault for allowing Obama to acquire the White House. We can not impeach him either, the liberal democrats are in control. Our lesser educated citizens were brain washed into electing this radical leftist. He has declared a revolution against our republic and with his power he will win. He has appointed hundreds of all the right people to help protect his ideology. He has minipulated the citizens into believing that health care, and global warming are a national crisis which he will change. He is buying votes from the labor unions and soon the undocumented. I think the only way to save the nation is a military coup. Clean the slate, throw out anyone that has ever supported him. Enact term limits on all offices, and limit political salary and retirement. Then hold new elections for all positions on paper ballots with ID/registration required.

  • USMCSniper

    Well, the worse commander in chief in the history of the republic is on TV now relieving a real war hero of of command. Let us relieve the worse commander in chief in the history of the republic of command permanently in 2012 and limit his damage in 2010 by electing a republican congress and senate.

  • Steve Chavez

    Fox News reports on MOVEON.ORG's "BETRAY US" ad. Seventy-two Senators voted to condemn the ad. Twenty-five voted the other way WHICH INCLUDED BARACK OBAMA!!!

    AGAIN, I WROTE AN ABOVE POST BEFORE "BETRAY US" WAS EVEN MENTIONED AND AGAIN I WRITE THAT "BETRAY US" HAS TO TAKE ORDERS FROM OBAMA AND HILLARY! BOTH SPIT ON HIM!!!!

    OBAMA SPEAKS OF "RESPECT FOR THE CHAIN OF COMMAND?"

  • Wyatt

    Obama was the Manchurian Candidate and is now the Manchurian President. Obama talks when George Soros puts his hand so far up the President's ___ that his lips move. Megan Kelly asked the right question. What is the problem with the American civilians in Afghanistan that caused military commanders to be so vociferous.? Answer: The same problem as there was in Iraq. Shadow warriors (usually civilians who for political reasons deliberately sabotage the efforts of the military even if the mission is a civilian project). The efforts of the military to win the "hearts and minds of Iraqis were undermined by the Stae department. Holbrooke and Eickenberry among others are shadow warriors today. There were many in the Bush Administration's State Department. Now, however, the leader of the "Shadow Warriors" is in the White House.
    Remember the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq during the Bush Administration? The report in summary dismissed any nuclear threat from Iran. It was written by shadow warriors.

  • Barbara

    PLEASE – let's fire Obama and crew and let McCrystal do his job! Has anyone considered that this may have been a way for the people who are the front, in theatre, to bring these problems to a head? Are military is too constrained, to under manned and if let loose would win this in a few weeks.

    Experience counts and Obama & crew have NONE.

  • Wyatt

    As I heard somebody say today. We are fighting a three prong war against Karzai, the Taliban and the State Department. The State Department is would be the easiest to deal with if we had a President with any guts. When he gets off Air Force One and salutes the military, I want to puke.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/WilliamJWard WilliamJamesWard

    Obama's plans are for us to lose, suffer financial loss, men and material loss,
    political loss and hand America a failure on the battlefield. McChrystal may have
    had the idea of winning and defeating the Jihadist enemy but with the rules of
    engagement in place Afghanistan is a more of the old shooting barrel modus
    seen in Iraq, walk around and get shot, some stupid things just refuse to change.
    Stormin Norman doing anything?????????McChrystal goes but it should be
    Obama and his putrid cronies…………………………William

  • richard

    question: Where the rules of engagement authored by Gen. McCrystal or the political leadership?

  • Pontotoc Bill

    Sorry,guys, but General McChrystal violated Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in that he made disparaging remarks of government officials. It does not matter if the statements were true or false.

    The words of Article 88, UCMJ are:

    “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

    Now, I agree with General McChrystal and hold the Obamabortion Administration in extremely low regard. What the General said was true, but it was still a violation of Article 88. The General is a career commissioned officer of the United States Armed Forces and he is liable to the UCMJ. Obama could have forced a general court-martial on the General which could have resulted in dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year if found guilty.

    • Daniel

      I was a proud member of the United State Air Force and served proudly. I swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States, not to the UCMJ or to the president, although proud to serve under Reagan. RooseveltTruman and Obama are the ones that should have been kicked out. Truman gave us North Korea and China wasn't that patriotic? I never swore allegence to a Fuhrer.

      • Pontotoc Bill

        I am also a proud member and retired officer of the US Air Force. I also swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. However, when you came on active duty, according to the rules laid down by the Congress in accordance with their Constitutional duty, you DID become subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Congress, in accordance with their Constitutional role, created the Uniform Code to govern the military.

        If you had been disrespectful to a superior officer, what would have happened to you? Where is the authority to punish that disrespect? Answer: The Uniform Code of Military Justice, from which all forms of court-martial and punitive action derive.

        Ever hear of someone getting an Article 15? Article 15 of the UCMJ.

    • Joy

      Bush could have spent his entire two terms "court-martialling" all the active military critics of his Iraq War strategy & policies, but, of course, had more important things on his plate. Actually, a lot of the criticisms were from retired, armchair warriors, so they were "safe" from any vengeful action.

      • Walt

        Sorry Joy, but I have a hard time accepting your premise that there were so many 'active (duty) military critics' of President Bush's Iraq War strategy.

        The criticism came from the left (as per usual), which included a few retired officers that want to promote themselves into good paying media jobs as 'talking heads', or to start a new career in politics.

        The vast majority of our activity duty fighting men and women were, and are, highly supportive of President Bush. It was, and is, a mutual admiration society – as well as respect that flowed both ways.

        As a very proud and retired career military member, I can assure you that real warriors and patriots can instantly identify their own kind. We can also do the same thing with BS and spin.

  • Richard

    What I want to know is did the General make his statements in order to force Obama to do something or did he express them out of frustration and despair? Either way he had to go, but in the first case he was deliberately throwing away his career for his troops, in the second we are in worse shape then I thought.