Petraeus to the Rescue


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President Obama yesterday accepted the resignation of his headstrong four-star commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. Despite being handpicked by the President himself just over a year ago, as a sign of the administration’s commitment to win in Afghanistan by putting in place a well-respected leader with counter-insurgency experience, McChrystal is out, a victim of intemperate comments to a reporter who knew a good story when he heard one. The President, no doubt aware of the optics of sacking his own chosen general, has replaced him with General David Petraeus, the Commander in Chief of the Central Command. Petraeus, one of the most respected military men in the world, is an excellent choice that even the Republicans can support.

What the replacement of McChrystal with Petraeus will mean for the war in Afghanistan remains unclear, but it will certainly be significant. Despite the President’s statement that the change in command reflects “a change of personnel, not policy” it is unlikely that things will be so easy for the beleaguered chief executive. General McChrystal carried the Administration’s hopes for a quick turnaround and a clean exit on his back. Now that he has fallen short, and a man who does not favor a 2011 withdrawal has taken his place, Americans may soon be treated to yet another battle of wills between the politicians and the generals.

In all such contests, the politicians must of course prevail. Civilian leadership is an essential feature of Western democracies: whatever the individual merits of any particular politician or government, they must hold unquestioned authority over the armed forces. But real life can often be grittier. The appointment of General Petraeus, while militarily sound, also has its political components. McChrystal was President Obama’s personal choice. Now that the general has been sacked after this latest public-relations disaster (not his first), the President needed to deal quickly with the fallout of McChrystal’s words while appointing someone with matching military credentials to maintain public confidence, both in the war effort and in his own presidency. Mission accomplished. But what next?

McChrystal was the Special Forces expert. Petraeus is a big-thinking strategist, a man who’s invested years of his life building Iraq into a politically stable nation where its citizens can walk the streets safely. In this he has been largely successful, despite the inevitable political difficulties and occasional, painful losses of civilian life. To put his stamp on the war in Afghanistan, he will have to reverse the Administration’s hope for a quick counter-insurgency victory followed by a semi-triumphant withdrawal. Instead, he is likely to favor of outright nation-building, complete with a troop surge that mirrors the enormous deployment of troops he oversaw in Iraq during the George W. Bush administration.

It worked then and there. With Obama’s first choice for commander now out of work, will the President be able to resist a suggestion by General Petraeus to try again? Constitutionally, Obama has the authority to refuse. But does he have the political capital to quit on Petraeus?

Setting aside these political and strategic issues, there are other, more personal considerations. President Obama, as much as anything else, had to sack McChrystal because of risk that the general’s comments concerning other Administration officials might have eroded confidence and trust amongst people who absolutely must work closely together. The President was likely right to dismiss McChrystal for that reason alone.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/GOP_Sucks GOP_Sucks

    Obama's policy of reducing troops and increasing drones was something Bush should have done right after Operation Enduring Freedom. This war, the longest in U.S. history, was mishandled from the beginning with unrealistic hopes and without learning from previous mistakes by the Soviets.____Bush had this outstanding technology but didn't know how to use it in a strategic manner — he ignored military think tank options for reducing risk. For whatever reason, he was stuck on the idea of unecessarily risking troops lives. __ Hopefully, with McCrystal out, the military will have a better understanding of who is in charge and who should shut their mouth and follow orders. ____Obama is trying to develop a plan for a war that was started on a plan ( or lack of) of arrogance and ignorance — a very hard accomplishment for any president.

    • USMCSniper

      Always remember how the Democrats, including Mr. Obama, always claimed that we should be concentrating on Afghanistan. And, just as importantly, we should have more of our allies fighting alongside us in the war. Well we have less now.____Finally the Democrats have now gotten both of their purported wishes. The right war in the right place – with plenty of other Western countries helping us. And yet, look at how poorly things are going. Any minute now our ‘allies’ will turn tail and pull out. Which will give Mr. Obama an excuse to do the same. Which, come to think of it, was surely Obama's plan all along.____

  • Edward

    DEMOCRATS_R_ ASSHOLES: Obama (Doppy) hasn't a clue in hell as to whats going on in this world, America or anyplace else for that matter. Unless it has something to do with that false religion know as islame', or a stupid ass muslime', he could care less. I believe history will prove Doppy to be the worst example for a President the world has ever know. He has a remarkable start toward this title and if you disagree, your as stupid and blind as he is!

  • S. HaLevi

    The last time I checked military force was devised to be used to WIN WARS, not to democratize, free, promote justice, whatever. One feeds and trains dogs of war to kill the enemy on call and at all levels. Some you win and some you lose. In Vietnam we got whupped as the peace industry peddlers started to change the rules of war making where negotiated withdrawls was the objective.
    Sometime after Nam, a War that barely passed me by due to my Draft number, said peddlers fashioned into politicos, produced the "new and improved military" doctrines.
    Never since that moment has the US or for that matter the subordinate military systems such as that in Oslo Israel, actually won a war outright.
    Either Petraus, whom I care little for due to his anti Israeli remarks, returns to WINNING procedures or the US will face far reaching defeats to come.

    • Jim C.

      "The last time I checked military force was devised to be used to WIN WARS, not to democratize, free, promote justice, whatever."

      Like you, I'm old-fashioned. Use of the military made more sense when we would be at war against actual, established countries, enemies wore uniforms, and subjugating the political structure to our will meant…well, that there was a political structure to subjugate. Of course, 'colonization' comes a little closer to what we're doing, now–but of course that term is out of fashion.

      Might have been nice to hear these objections before we got into all this.

    • Stephen_Brady

      As a Vietnam veteran, I do take umbrage at the notion that US forces were "whupped" by the enemy. We destroyed the enemy every time we engaged them. We, and our South Vietnamese allies, were betrayed by Congress, which led to the fall of South Vietnam. I hasten to add that Congress was controlled by the DEMOC-RATS …

      Democrats do not understand war, and they don't like it. Our forces in A-stan are hampered by a president … our beloved Fooey, Mr. Obama … and the same actors in Congress who gave us Vietnam – 1975. Obama/Con did not give MacChrystal the troops he requested, saddled him with RoE that are designed to defeat our forces, and gave the enemy the advantage of knowing when we intend to leave.

      I hope that General Petraeus can bring some commonsense back to this war. But how much can he do if Obama fails to change the policy? And it's Obama's policy that's at fault in Afghanistan, not the troops or the generals.

      • Jim C.

        It's General Petraeus's policy they've already been following; how would he bring commonsense "back?"

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/Stephen_Brady Stephen_Brady

          By overturning Obama's RoE's … that would be a good start. By convincing the Fooey to add the troops that McChrystal wanted, would help a lot, as would removing the arbitrary date of withdrawal.

          In point of fact, they haven't been following Petraeus' policy. If they had, the war would be won, by now.

          • Jim C.

            Hey, I'm all for relaxing those RoEs too but my understanding is that they are based on Petraeus's recommendations for counterinsurgency.

    • maria

      you are quite right. What can we do to replace this person without a legal birth certificate? Can we sue him ?Marya

  • ze-ev ben jehudah

    General Stanley McChrystal was handpicked by Mr Barack Hussein Obama,
    better known as mr no Brains.This must have been an intelligent decision
    from this president,and like so many persons from high and low positions
    this general was critical on the way mr no Brains was handeling military
    things,of wich he has absolutly no clue.And his decision from a year ago
    has lost its value.And instead by doing something constructive with the
    general's criticism he dumps him.Better would it have been that this mr
    no Brains was dumped.

  • al Kidya

    General George S. Patton was a great general.
    Eisenhower, Roosevelt and Truman didn't always like what they heard coming from his lips but they kept him on in the battlefield anyhow because he was good at what he did.
    "War is hell" as General William Tecumseh Sherman so aptly stated.
    Abraham Lincoln was successful, however, because he kept his Generals close-knit in his War Cabinet and his orders were the final orders and those Generals obeyed his commands.
    Perhaps General Petraeus will be good for this war. Time will tell but hopefully it won't drag on any longer than it has already.

    • Jim C.

      I don't think Patton would have allowed Rolling Stone access. Therein lies the difference.

      McChrystal is an excellent soldier with a pattern of displaying a very high opinion of himself. Like so many other men of great talent and ability, it was his downfall.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/William_Z William_Z

        Actually, Patton didn't have to allow media access. It found him and he got in trouble more then once for speaking out of turn.

        • Jim C.

          Even the stuff that was said–and particularly what McChrystal said–wasn't too bad.

          24-7-365 media has an unfortunate way of making molehills into mountains, so whatever was said, and the President's reaction, are magnified.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/William_Z William_Z

            No argument about the Media, and the president did what any president would do. Canning a general, for any reason, isn’t new.

  • dhimmi-crat

    Hey,fellow dhimmi-crat/useful idiot/pre-quislings: Lets all encourage Hillary to unsuspend
    her disbelief since Obama seems to be. Remember when she was attempting to humiliate
    Gen Petraeus during the hearings on the Iraq war surge?

  • http://www.onwardjames.com Edmund Onward James

    Thank goodness Petraeus is a smart, registered republican, too. I believe he will make his points privately and stand tall with Victory in mind.

    What bothers me is that few in the American government understand the ideology and the jihadists goal.

    The West thinks in days, months and years; whereas the Islamists and the wannabe Caliph think in centuries and the afterlife.

    Though WWI & WWII each took four or five years, there are still bases in Germany and Japan. First the grandfathers had to pass away, then the fathers, and the next generation accepted a new form of governance: DEMOCRACY.

    • Jim C.

      That's fine–it would take those jokers another 2000 years to get even close to achieving their "caliphate." First, they'd need to stop killing each other. Then, they'd need to figure out who was in charge. Then, they'd need to to decide to educate their people in order to have an infrastructure. And once their people were educated, they might wonder why they were taking orders from a bunch of backwards maniacs in robes.

    • Jim C.

      About WWII: of course, we needed to, and did, use overwhelming force to secure Allied victory. But Germany and Japan were both countries with enormous discipline and a certain amount of infrastructure. In the case of Germany, you also had a Western culture, shared heritage. In short, they were already "ready" for it–and they eventually benefitted greatly.

      The Islamists…they're certainly not ready. The only country I could see being worth it is Iran–non-Arab culture, once as Westernized as any Muslim nation.

      Maybe we invaded the wrong country?

  • WAYNE

    OBAMA HAS NO INTENTION OF WINNING IN AFGHANISTAN. HE IS SETTING GENERAL PETRAEUS UP TO BE THE FALL GUY THUS TAKING THE BLAME AWAY FROM HIMSELF.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/William_Z William_Z

      War's belong to presidents, never to generals. Win or lose.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Stephen_Brady Stephen_Brady

    Wayne, I agree with you. It was Obama, after all, who said that he was "uncomfortable" with the word "victory".

    • Jim C.

      What is victory in Afghanistan? Something like what the Soviets had? They didn't have restrictive RoE.

      • cochavi1

        'Victory' in Bush terms would be something like what's in Iraq. Let's spell it out – Bush decided to solve, or start to solve the problem of 'radical Islam' through the imposition of democracies, using Iraq as a lever while throwing out Saddam. Theoretically, this could work. In practice, it will almost certainly not work because 'democracy 'in Iraq is not a true Western democracy, and because it is not having a 'domino' effect on the remaining Muslim dictators. Each country has its own configuration – so, in Egypt it is the dictatorship which may be the defense against the full triumph of another Islamist state.

        In any case, the reasons for the US being in Afghanistan are quite different than the reasons for Iraq. Everyone knows what the original, at least stated, reasons were. Al Qaeda, Taliban. There existed the belief that the Taliban were a freak condition. Now it appears that the Taliban are simply the most popular form, or expression of, the Pashtun (sp) nationalism and identity, as well as being a kind of stepchild of the Islamists in Pakistan. Whatever the case in Iraq, the situation in Afghan-Pakistan is quite bad, simply in the fact that Pakistan is a US 'ally' in the 'War on Terror.' When Pakistan and its intelligence services are the source of much terror. So there is essentially no way out, given also that Karzai is corrupt and his brother a major drug dealer.

        • Jim C.

          But is this "victory" even realistic? I understand our ousting of Saddam as a victory…everything else is an artificial situation…until we leave.

          I think Special Forces, predator drones, and political pressure on Pakistan have been working pretty well for killing Taliban. Not sure what a major occupation is supposed accomplish, or why we'd want that. I understand it's a last ditch effort to provide Karzai with some muscle and a timeline but again, what it has to do with our national security is beyond me. The idea that we just want a secular strongman in charge…I mean, that's what Saddam was, for heavens sake.

          • cochavi1

            Depends on what you mean by 'realism' (Bill Clinton joke). Seriously, the US according to both Bush and Obama terms, can't 'win' in Iraq unless it withdraws and democracy survives. Only when the US withdraws will anyone see if actual democracy and independence rule in Iraq, or if it becomes a complete Iranian puppet or goes into full civil war.

            For Afghanistan, I suspect that as soon as the US leaves the fighting between factions will escalate quite a bit, and it will become a matter of return to tribal orientation and perhaps an Indian-Pakistani battleground with the US and Russia looking on to the whole scene.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/Stephen_Brady Stephen_Brady

            Jim, sorry for the long delay in answering …

            What would victory be? It would be an Afghan government that could protect itself and its citizens from the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and doesn't need US forces as its hedge against disaster. That will take some time.

            The reason the Soviets failed in Afghanistan is because they didn't come to help. They came to conquer. That simple fact unified the Afghan people.

            What will our occupation do? It will fence Iran between two friendly nations into which US forces can pour whenever they are needed.

  • Charles

    It is reasonable to assume that there will be conflicts between the Obama administration and Petraeus and his military. It is essential for Republicans to control at least one of the houses of Congress so that hearings can be held, if necessary, on the progress of the war, and witnesses can be called who will testify under oath. That is the best guarantee that Obama cannot "set up" Petraeus. Moreover, Petraeus is rumored to have political aspirations. If the war goes badly because of errors he attributes to Obama, he is likely to resign rather than have his reputation sullied.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/whatsso4me whatsso4me

    Is Obama rising or falling? I am bitterly harsh on Obama, but I think he's rising. If Obama de-nukes Iran, I will repent.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/William_Z William_Z

      "rising or falling?" I'd say he's trying to save himself from his own disaster. He chose Afghanistan and the general he had to replace. Presidents lose wars and are remembered for it

  • 080

    My memory is going but isn't Gen. Petraeus the guy who testified before some Senate Committee that the failure to settle the Palestinian attack on Israel costing American lives in Afghanistan? I thought I heard him say so but I could be mistaken. If he did then he is likely to prove the disappointiest disappointment of all disappointments.

  • Jenna

    So now they need Patraeus? At that infamous Senate meeting , Sen.Obama who was usually "absent", Boxer, Reid, et al dissed General Patracus but left the final blow to Hillary.

    Well, a clever individual, feeling his pain, shared what may have been in the heart and mind of General Patraeus while the Hildabeast, our current SOS (secretary of something), calmly sat there and shredded him to bits:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ba8r5WKgO0A