Commentary Magazine


Topic: General McChrystal

Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post discovers Climategate: “In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?. . . Phil Jones, the unit’s director, wrote a colleague that he would ‘hide’ a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements. In another message, Jones talks about keeping research he disagrees with out of a U.N. report, ‘even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!'” Next, perhaps we can find out why it took the Post weeks to report on the story.

Make it twenty Iranian enrichment sites!

The most disturbing item in this Rasmussen poll on Afghanistan: “53% of voters believe the president places higher importance on ending the war. Just 28% say Obama thinks winning the war is more important. Another 19% are not sure.” It seems imperative for the president to explain himself if he is to convince allies and foes that he is determined to win.

Even Marc Ambinder can’t quite spin Max Baucus out of his trouble over recommending his mistress for a position of U.S. Attorney. Although Ambinder tries awfully hard to distinguish Baucus from conservative scandal-makers (“Mr. Baucus does not hold himself up to be a paragon of rectitude; he is not known for insisting that others follow a code of sexual morality or be damned or otherwise treated as second-class citizens by the government”), he concludes that “Baucus would ignore the conflict of the interest or so easily dismiss it calls into question his judgment and his ethics. That’s a scandal.”

The unmatched Iowahawk is at it again, with a faux Obama West Point address: “Anyhoo, after receiving General McChrystal’s request, I carefully reviewed and focus tested it with some of the top military strategist of DailyKos and Huffington Post. As an alternative, they suggested sending a special force of 200 diversity-trained surrender consultants. After several months of careful deliberation, polling, and strategic golfing, I told the General I would provide him a force of 30,000, which is fully 75% of a 110% commitment.”

The parents of Daniel Pearl on the civilian trial of KSM: “We are not concerned about the safety issues that this trial poses to New York City — we trust our law enforcement officers. Nor are we concerned about the anguish of our children who will be seeing the memories and values of their loved ones mocked and ridiculed in the court room — they have known greater pains before. We are concerned about the millions of angry youngsters, among them potential terrorists, who will be watching this trial unfold on Al Jazeera TV and come to the realization that America has caved in to Al Qaeda’s demands for publicity. The atrocity of 9/11 and the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl are vivid reminders of terrorists’ craving to dramatize their perceived grievances against the West.” Read the whole thing.

As much as liberal pundits are whining about it, Dick Cheney really is closer than Obama to most Americans when it comes to terrorist interrogations. And a plurality of Americans think Obama is not “tough enough.” Again, Cheney thinks so too.

The Washington Post discovers Climategate: “In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?. . . Phil Jones, the unit’s director, wrote a colleague that he would ‘hide’ a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements. In another message, Jones talks about keeping research he disagrees with out of a U.N. report, ‘even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!'” Next, perhaps we can find out why it took the Post weeks to report on the story.

Make it twenty Iranian enrichment sites!

The most disturbing item in this Rasmussen poll on Afghanistan: “53% of voters believe the president places higher importance on ending the war. Just 28% say Obama thinks winning the war is more important. Another 19% are not sure.” It seems imperative for the president to explain himself if he is to convince allies and foes that he is determined to win.

Even Marc Ambinder can’t quite spin Max Baucus out of his trouble over recommending his mistress for a position of U.S. Attorney. Although Ambinder tries awfully hard to distinguish Baucus from conservative scandal-makers (“Mr. Baucus does not hold himself up to be a paragon of rectitude; he is not known for insisting that others follow a code of sexual morality or be damned or otherwise treated as second-class citizens by the government”), he concludes that “Baucus would ignore the conflict of the interest or so easily dismiss it calls into question his judgment and his ethics. That’s a scandal.”

The unmatched Iowahawk is at it again, with a faux Obama West Point address: “Anyhoo, after receiving General McChrystal’s request, I carefully reviewed and focus tested it with some of the top military strategist of DailyKos and Huffington Post. As an alternative, they suggested sending a special force of 200 diversity-trained surrender consultants. After several months of careful deliberation, polling, and strategic golfing, I told the General I would provide him a force of 30,000, which is fully 75% of a 110% commitment.”

The parents of Daniel Pearl on the civilian trial of KSM: “We are not concerned about the safety issues that this trial poses to New York City — we trust our law enforcement officers. Nor are we concerned about the anguish of our children who will be seeing the memories and values of their loved ones mocked and ridiculed in the court room — they have known greater pains before. We are concerned about the millions of angry youngsters, among them potential terrorists, who will be watching this trial unfold on Al Jazeera TV and come to the realization that America has caved in to Al Qaeda’s demands for publicity. The atrocity of 9/11 and the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl are vivid reminders of terrorists’ craving to dramatize their perceived grievances against the West.” Read the whole thing.

As much as liberal pundits are whining about it, Dick Cheney really is closer than Obama to most Americans when it comes to terrorist interrogations. And a plurality of Americans think Obama is not “tough enough.” Again, Cheney thinks so too.

Read Less

Obama’s Extraordinary Irresponsibility

I wanted to follow up on the comments by Jennifer and Max regarding President Obama’s seeming inability to make a decision on General McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan. To put things in context: the McChrystal report was sent to the Obama administration at the end of August. McChrystal was emphatic in his 66-page request: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

According to our commanding general in Afghanistan, then, we have a window of 12 months to regain the initiative or we risk losing the war. We are now approaching the middle of November — two and a half months after McChrystal’s request — and based on media reports, President Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national-security team. If true — and I know from my time in the White House that what is reported sometimes reflects, rather than the thinking of the president,  the views of aides trying to influence a decision via public leaks  — this is both stunning and reckless. As one person pointed out to me, the same president who wants to ram through health-care legislation, despite the fact that we don’t face a health-care emergency, seems unable to settle on a hugely consequential, time-sensitive decision in the midst of a war.

I have not begrudged President Obama the time to carefully think through a decision on Afghanistan — but this is ridiculous. This issue should have been front and center for the administration the moment it was clear Obama won the presidency. He has already presented (in March) his “new” strategy for Afghanistan. The fact that he wants to revisit his decision may be understandable, except for the fact that his foot-dragging is now harming us. Sometimes presidents are forced to make decisions based on external events and pressing outside needs. “The public life of every political figure is a continual struggle to rescue an element of choice from the pressure of circumstance,” Henry Kissinger wrote in the first volume of his memoirs, White House Years. Governing the nation does not afford you the luxuries you have when conducting a college seminar.

President Obama not only needs to make a decision soon; once he does, assuming he does, we face the logistical challenges of getting the troops in place. Precious time has already been lost. If after all the time that’s been lost, Obama is now jettisoning all the options he has been presented with, including the McChrystal option, then what we are witnessing is extraordinarily irresponsible. Sometimes you can lose a war by not choosing. And that is the path we may well be on right now, if media reports are correct.

President Obama needs to get a grip on this process soon. Decisions need to be made and a war needs to be won.

I wanted to follow up on the comments by Jennifer and Max regarding President Obama’s seeming inability to make a decision on General McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan. To put things in context: the McChrystal report was sent to the Obama administration at the end of August. McChrystal was emphatic in his 66-page request: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

According to our commanding general in Afghanistan, then, we have a window of 12 months to regain the initiative or we risk losing the war. We are now approaching the middle of November — two and a half months after McChrystal’s request — and based on media reports, President Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national-security team. If true — and I know from my time in the White House that what is reported sometimes reflects, rather than the thinking of the president,  the views of aides trying to influence a decision via public leaks  — this is both stunning and reckless. As one person pointed out to me, the same president who wants to ram through health-care legislation, despite the fact that we don’t face a health-care emergency, seems unable to settle on a hugely consequential, time-sensitive decision in the midst of a war.

I have not begrudged President Obama the time to carefully think through a decision on Afghanistan — but this is ridiculous. This issue should have been front and center for the administration the moment it was clear Obama won the presidency. He has already presented (in March) his “new” strategy for Afghanistan. The fact that he wants to revisit his decision may be understandable, except for the fact that his foot-dragging is now harming us. Sometimes presidents are forced to make decisions based on external events and pressing outside needs. “The public life of every political figure is a continual struggle to rescue an element of choice from the pressure of circumstance,” Henry Kissinger wrote in the first volume of his memoirs, White House Years. Governing the nation does not afford you the luxuries you have when conducting a college seminar.

President Obama not only needs to make a decision soon; once he does, assuming he does, we face the logistical challenges of getting the troops in place. Precious time has already been lost. If after all the time that’s been lost, Obama is now jettisoning all the options he has been presented with, including the McChrystal option, then what we are witnessing is extraordinarily irresponsible. Sometimes you can lose a war by not choosing. And that is the path we may well be on right now, if media reports are correct.

President Obama needs to get a grip on this process soon. Decisions need to be made and a war needs to be won.

Read Less




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