Time to Get Out of Afghanistan?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Jabbadabbado, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    DS, I don't think you're accurately addressing the issues that are being raised. Gen. McChrystal should have to explain the article and deserves the consequences. That aspect really hasn't been bantered much, because I think everyone agrees with it.

    But let me start by offering an example based on one of your references. (even if it was a joke...) If I spent years and years telling you that the HK416 isn't worth being adopted by the military, I'd expect that you'd be rather shocked if I came in here tomorrow and criticized the army for not issuing it to troops. Such an opinion would represent an 180 turn from everything we've discussed prior to that point.

    There are those here who promoted the idea that military officials have to be able to, in fact had a duty to the troops under their command to, criticize their civilian leaders. Consequences have always come with that stand, but many promoted the idea that such "frankness" should trump protocol because it was worth it. Something which goes hand in hand with this idea is the environment that has been cultivated for the media to achieve the same goal. A film like Fahrenheit 9/11 can't win the "golden palm" at Cannes despite the fact that oh, it's about 10% accurate... Seymour Hersh can't publish "secret plans" for the invasion of Iran even if they're nothing more than a contingency... Richard Clarke can't "cut through the red tape" inside of a mostly speculative book...and so on... without it having a cascade effect for journalism in general.

    So now, Rolling Stone comes along and publishes a no holds barred interview with a military general- because "edgy" and "in your face" has been the media standard for a while now- and it's being labeled by some as indication of not respecting the country and an example of complete insubordination simply because the President is different? Should all other issues like Afghani stability and policy be overlooked because McChrystal made a joke about Biden? Choice of taste nonwithstanding, it's not really all that shocking.
  2. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Smuggler: Shinseki was asked his opinion during Congressional testimony, and gave it. That's far different than anything McChrystal has done.

    44: Your, hypocrisy only works by taking on overly broad definition of "transparency." The argument made by fervent liberals over the need to publicly criticize the President/superiors, insofar as it went, was not that there was some benefit to be gained from knowing about every petty rivalry and bruised ego. Rather, it was a question of publicizing suppressed information or viewpoints to prevent the country from making bad policy choices. As I told Smuggler, nothing McChrystal did ever met that standard. In fact, his actions were almost diametrically opposed to that spirit.

    In the most recent case, as has been noted, he didn't even have policy disagreements. He was just making personal attacks on people and nursing his hurt feelings about a debate that happened months ago, and he won anyway. The lack of substance here means it fails the criteria set before. Now let's review his leaked troop requests and London speech. Critically, there was no policy being pushed publicly that he wasn't being provided a chance to counter. No decision had been made at all, much less in public. He was not being shut out of debates privately. No one was else was leaking. What, then, did his actions accomplish? Because everyone else was respecting the process, McChrystal had the bully pulpit to himself. He could savage Biden's proposal, but the Vice President could never step out to defend himself. He could sing the praises of his preferred strategy, but no one was able to come behind him and point out his flaws. In short, then, the actual effect of his leaks and criticism were the very thing that pro-disclosure advocates want to avoid: one side of a debate using their overwhelming advantage with messaging/media to bulldoze over critics, marshal public opinion, and stifle any sort of thoughtful consideration of alternatives. Usually, it's the President and his allies that have this advantage, but in this case, McChrystal's flagrant disrespect inverted the situation. It's not something any actual pro-disclosure advocate would've seen as in line with their goals or aspirations.
  3. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I am not a Democrat, I'm an independent. I'm also an individual. And off hand, I don't recall commenting on Shinseki. But after hearing that comparison a few times in the last couple days, and looking up what he did who who he was, there really isn't a strong comparison.


    Well I actually wrote that original reaction in a rational, these-are-the-facts as I just learned them, unemotional way (though very surprised by what happened). They're just very strong facts, from how I saw them. And
  4. DeathStar1977 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 31, 2003
    star 4
    As I?m sure everyone knows, McChrystal has been replaced by Petreaus.

    Mr44

    I think JW and DG answered most of your points raised.

    Few quick thoughts...

    A solid, simple comparison would be...if a magazine interviewed me about my job, and me and my department mocked our CEO (and his team), and it wasn?t the first time we publicly challenged him/her, what do you think would happen?

    Again, he didn?t have to do the interview, or at least ignore the political questions. McChrystal (and his aides) should?ve been better prepared.

    It?s not ok to suggest, well that?s how journalism is, whaddaya expect? Yes, that?s how journalism is, McChrystal should?ve known that, and I?m sure he knows military protocol/precedent about criticizing the CIC, yet he went ahead with the interview anyway. Now he has to face the consequences.

    When you get a chance, read the article I linked to. It addresses a lot of your valid concerns.

    There are those here who promoted the idea that military officials have to be able to, in fact had a duty to the troops under their command to, criticize their civilian leaders.

    I don?t think this was addressed to me, because I?ve never promoted this idea, which I think is your overall point, that during the Bush administration many on the left backed military officials who criticized the President publicly (Shinseki, Fallon) and are now just as quick to dismiss McChrystal. Again, I think the situations are different vis-a-vis Shinseki and Fallon as has been stated above, but I see your point.

    DG

    Yes you did, perhaps I should read the articles that I post more carefully. [face_beatup]
  5. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I've never been a fan of firing Generals for this sort of misconduct. You fire Generals is either they're just not getting the job done or they're SERIOUSLY countermandering you, like General MacArthur did with Truman.

    If they fired him I'd expect it was because they thought Petreus could make Afghanistan work and that under the current leadership, it just wasn't working. But if that's the case, they shouldn't have waited until this came out to replace him.

    I don't know if this seriously effects the stability of the Afghan warzone. And perhaps Obama's been distracted by other events. But if they were already thinking removal was the way to go, they should have done this back in September or October.
  6. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    Btw, wasn't Petraeus recently promoted from commander of U.S. forces in Iraq to being commander of the overall region? How does this work with him going back down to a "lower-level" job?
  7. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    It won't really change anything. Petraeus has to be the temporary pick until someone else is found, because there is going to be another commander for US forces in Afghanistan. Afghanistan already falls under US Central Command, so it's more like the CEO of a company coming down to "mind the store" until a new branch manager is found for a specific location. I'd guess that this announcement is mostly geared toward public relations and to keep assurances up because Petraeus has a high profile and is trusted.

    Unless Petraeus himself agreed to keep command of CENTCOM but also take over operational control of Afghanistan, but that would represent a HUGE plate to balance, and would be kind of crazy.

    And PS, Red.. You mentioned that Petraeus was recently promoted to CENTCOM. He's been commander there since 2008...
  8. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    And DS, just a quick reply to you.

    I agree with you that it shouldn't be an excuse for either a military officer or the media to behave that way. (both for different reasons) But my point was more along the lines of if that's an environment that's been fostered for at least recent history, then it shouldn't be a surprise or warrant such strong reactions-ie, "McChrystal should be fired now! No questions asked!"

    Gonk's post above summed up my view in about half the words. And here's an editorial that almost perfectly matches my views as well:

    Obama's misstep on McChrystal- If he was the right general for the job in Afghanistan, he still is

    In making and tolerating disparaging comments about his civilian superiors in front of a reporter, Gen. Stanley McChrystal failed a test of leadership, judgment and respect for his role in a democratic government. But most obviously, he failed an IQ test. Popping off about people in the Obama administration in the presence of a journalist can be characterized by many adjectives. "Smart" is not one of them.

    By any reasonable standard, President Obama had ample cause to sack him. But if he thought McChrystal was the right person to lead the U.S. effort in Afghanistan before the latest issue of Rolling Stone came out, he should have stuck with that judgment.

    The strategy Obama has embraced, after all, is the one devised by McChrystal. As the president noted in firing him, they were in complete accord on how to prosecute the war. But just because he deserved dismissal doesn't mean the president should have given it to him.

    It turns out Obama is not as much like Abraham Lincoln as he aspires to be. The 16th president, who had his own war to run, had many opportunities to take umbrage at disrespectful conduct by his highest Army officers. And he repeatedly put the nation's needs first. Once, when Lincoln paid an evening visit to his top commander, George McClellan, the famously arrogant general came home and went to bed without so much as acknowledging the president. Lincoln shrugged it off, saying he would hold McClellan's horse if it would produce a victory. Obama should have followed that example. He put McChrystal in command because he saw him as the best person to implement the strategy he sees as our best hope in Afghanistan. McChrystal's disdain for Joe Biden doesn't make him any less suitable for the role.

    But firing him is not likely to help. Here's what Obama should have told McChrystal: "General, you screwed up big-time, and your conduct is inexcusable. Here is your punishment: You have the most impossible job in the world, and you will keep doing it."


    FULL OPED HERE
  9. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    Maybe.

    If Obama was unaware of the extent of these issues until the RS stuff came to light, then Obama needs to fire whomever is in charge of keeping tabs on McChrystal & co., AND he was probably right to fire McChrystal.

    If Obama WAS aware of these issues, and was OK with them until the RS thing, then he had no business firing McChrystal.
  10. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I don't think firing McChrystal or keeping him on the job is going to make much difference in the long term success or failure in Afghanistan. But I do remember tiring out my fingers late in 2008 typing about how tightly managed and well oiled and efficient a machine the Obama administration would turn out to be relative to the Bush administration.

    The McChrystal fiasco is evidence that I was wrong. The stories of dueling egos and backbiting and inter-office sniping and infighting between the Military command in Afghanistan and the State Department sound a lot like the early months and years of the Bush administration. If firing the general was the easiest way to get a handle on that problem, then maybe it was the right thing to do, a way for Obama to send a message to everyone else on his team that it's time to get on message.

    On the positive side, naming Petraeus as the successor was a shrewd way of shutting down the detractors ready to claim the canning will be bad for the war effort.
  11. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I don't think he was aware, but I still think firing might have been the wrong move.

    I mean to some extent maybe this was the General's way of ASKING to be fired. But if in private he didn't say that he didn't think he was the man for this sort of command and felt his strengths would be better suited to a different strategy... and if Obama/Biden were not displeased with his performance to remove him... well then what exactly was the reason to remove him, the Rolling Stone article?

    Oh, these stupid appearances of power and confidence games...

    I suppose I should go and give the GWB caracass a few kicks concerning my opinion on what he would have done in this situation, but this is Obama and I don't really know that this was the optimal decision. If it was Obama could probably have done it within the past year (6 months in being maybe too close to his taking on the job).
  12. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    I don't think firing McChrystal or keeping him on the job is going to make much difference in the long term success or failure in Afghanistan.

    I think you're right except for one major reason. Karzai seemed to get along perfectly with McChrystal. Now, Karzai also supports the naming of Petraeus as a replacement, but logistically, Petraeus isn't going to have much of a direct role in Afghanistan. So it's going to come down to whoever gets named to be the actual commander for forces in Afghanistan. Obama is taking a tremendous gamble for that replacement both inside and outside the country. Regardless, such a move now is certainly going to push the timetable for the mission back, as no one can avoid the immediate power vacuum.
  13. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Pardon the aside, and it's always hard to make accurate historical analogies, but is Hamid Karzai Afghanistan's Ngo Dinh Diem? Would that make Obama the JFK of Afghanistan? Probably too late in the game for that kind of comparison.
  14. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    The argument in that op ed is deeply undermined by the fact that McChrystal is a repeat offender. This is the third time in under a year the McChrystal strayed off the reservation, in serious, public fashion. Much like the previous two incidents, it was also seriously corrosive to working relationships. Diplomacy is about compromise and working together. If the French diplomats McChrystal was conferring with hope to have any leverage to win concessions form their side, they have to be perceived as having some influence to make McChrystal return the favor in some way. How is that at all possible, when in fact the whole world knows he thinks so little of them that he doesn't have problem saying that their company is "[expletive] gay?" Why should anyone bother giving honest private advice to the President, when they know that if McChrystal gets any hint of it, he'll first leak it, and then then launch a bunch of public broadsides at them that they're expected never to respond to? How is any non-military official in Afghanistan supposed to trust him on anything, when in fact they know that he apparently spends a fair amount of his time belittling them and questioning their motives? How can they ever apply any pressure on Afghan officials to reform, when there's now reason to believe that one can dodge hard choices/changes by leaning on McChrystal to further undermine people he shows no hesitance undermining without provocation anyway?

    Working relationships are based on trust, and McChrystal has violated that trust repeatedly. As such, he's a major reason for dysfunction in an already difficult situation. Given that others were at least as familiar and experienced with his strategy as he was, and that results weren't particularly forthcoming of yet, there was little reason not to replace him. His presence certainly wasn't without problems, and history had already disproven that he was going to be dissuaded from his misbehavior by a mere Presidential reprimand.
  15. Darth Geist Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 1999
    star 5
    I know a lot of people want our guys home yesterday, and I have friends there myself who I pray come home safe ? but if they leave now, we'll be leaving the Taliban victorious, emboldened, loaded with $1 trillion in precious minerals, on the doorstep of nuclear Pakistan, with no one around to stop them.

    Has there been any serious talk about throwing Karzai out of power? It seems like half the reason our nation-building isn't going well is because nobody wants to be ruled by a guy as corrupt and ineffective as he is.

    Is Afghanistan's old king still around? Maybe he'd be a better choice. People seem to respect him.
  16. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    No. The lesson of Vietnam was instructive here. As awful as Karzai is, unless there's a credible alternative, taking him out can only really make things work. Not many people think the former Afghan royalty really fits that bill, so our choices are either leave, or stay with Karzai. "Getting someone new" is ideal, but not practical.
  17. Darth Geist Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 1999
    star 5
    Ah, good point about Vietnam.

    Now that I look it up, the former king passed away in 2007, at the age of 92.
  18. mjerome3 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2000
    star 6
    They went to Afghanistan for a man hunt. It's nine years after September 11, 2001. Osama Bin Laden hasn't been captured and will never be. While the U.S. did manage to disorganize the Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan, they did not capture Bin Laden, which was their top priority.


    They should have withdrawn from Afghanistan at least five years ago(2005).
  19. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    The top priority isn't about bin Laden anymore, it's about 1) making sure terrorists don't get to set up another base of operations to attack the U.S. or any other country, and 2) making sure the Taliban are not able to intimidate and assassinate their way back into power. If you've heard about the Taliban's perverse tactics, the way they systematically kill anyone who speaks out against them or anyone who's simply trying to build a better future for Afghanistan, you'd support staying there too. And Afghanistan is far from a lost cause, I've read an article (summary) on Foreign Affairs that says a decentralized democracy is pretty consistent with the country's past political arrangements and says that it has a good chance of succeeding.

    Regarding McChrystal, considering that used "uncomfortable and intimidated" as his exact words to describe the president, I'd say he was right to be fired. If Obama had let those comments stand then he really would have appeared uncomfortable and intimidated, with bad results for troop morale as well as the entire PR aspect of the war.
  20. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    To play devils' advocate here, how would fixing Afghanistan make a difference when would-be terrorists could just relocate to Somalia? And how long can the US afford to keep trying to make Afghans lives better?
  21. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9


    I'll go with my now years-old point about how when you invade a country, you take on an inherent responsibility for fixing the mess you've made, irregardless of the cost to yourself.
  22. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    To play devils' advocate here, how would fixing Afghanistan make a difference when would-be terrorists could just relocate to Somalia? And how long can the US afford to keep trying to make Afghans lives better?

    To add to what Boba just posted, this question also fails to look at the big picture.

    The difference in Afghanistan, as related to "would be terrorists," is that the country of Afghanistan was basically used as a giant infrastructure asset. Somalia is a anarchist wasteland, where there is as much, if not more, infighting among the various groups there. Without massive external intervention, no single group is going to emerge out of Somalia, where Afghanistan had state sponsored unity of purpose. In a nutshell, it's the difference between regular "terrorism" and "hyper-terrorism." pre-2001 Afghanistan practically created the concept of modern hyper-terror. (or at least allowed it to flourish.)

    A better example related to "moving terrorists" would be to compare Afghanistan to the Sudan, but then again, Sudan has its own issues right now as well which keeps this in check.
  23. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Well, an Islamist group did take over and bring peace to Somalia for a year or two. But then Ethiopia invaded and overthrew that government, and it went back into anarchy.
  24. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Yeah, Somalia would be a terrible relocation pick for AQ. Heck, Western countries have never shied from assassinating terrorists hiding out in hypothetically safe and stable dictatorships; in a 'country' with no working government and a bunch of religious groups at war with eachother, it'd be open field day, as there would be no potential diplomatic consequences for NATO or the US to worry about.
  25. Rouge77 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2005
    star 5
    Union of Islamic Courts never controlled more than perhaps a third of the country, but they did bring an order of sorts for a few months and then happened what you described.