Commentary Magazine


Topic: Vice President

Obama’s Credibility Has Run Out

Karl Rove’s got this one right:

Mr. Obama’s credibility is crumbling, and for good reason: He and his people are saying things people don’t believe. At the start of his summer of recovery road show, the president flatly asserted that last year’s massive stimulus package had “worked.” Vice President Joe Biden, not to be outdone, promised monthly job gains of up to 500,000 and insisted that the recovery’s pace “continues to increase, not decrease” as stimulus spending was “moving into its highest gear.” …

By overselling the stimulus before its passage in 2009 and exaggerating its benefits with layer upon layer of slippery half-truths in 2010, Mr. Obama has made voters angrier. This is not America’s summer of recovery; it is a summer of economic discontent that will ensure that Democrats take a pounding in the midterm elections.

At some point it had to happen: the collision of reality with Obamian rhetoric — that special brew of buck-passing, economic illiteracy (no, profit isn’t overhead), ad hominem attack, and out and out misrepresentation. As Rove reminds us: “On health care, for example, Mr. Obama continues saying that (a) health-care reform will reduce costs and the deficit, (b) no one who wants to keep existing coverage will lose it, and (c) the law’s cuts in Medicare won’t threaten any senior’s health care. These assertions are laughable.”

Making a clear distinction between campaigning and governing has absolutely baffled and eluded Obama. In a campaign, exaggeration and bumper sticker phrases are often sufficient. A snappy dig at an opponent’s wealth or allies in a debate is regarded as quick-wittedness, rather than as intellectual sloth and a poor substitute for substance. Blather (the oceans haven’t receded in 18 months, I think) is rewarded rather than derided. But as president, what you say actually matters — in wars (the enemy listens to deadlines) and in domestic matters (the markets listen to business-bashing). And what results you obtain in the real world (not the number of enormous bills you jam through on party-line votes) really matter.

You can see why Obama and his party are in a heap of trouble. The question remains whether they will be able after the election to pick themselves up and rescue what remains of his term.

Karl Rove’s got this one right:

Mr. Obama’s credibility is crumbling, and for good reason: He and his people are saying things people don’t believe. At the start of his summer of recovery road show, the president flatly asserted that last year’s massive stimulus package had “worked.” Vice President Joe Biden, not to be outdone, promised monthly job gains of up to 500,000 and insisted that the recovery’s pace “continues to increase, not decrease” as stimulus spending was “moving into its highest gear.” …

By overselling the stimulus before its passage in 2009 and exaggerating its benefits with layer upon layer of slippery half-truths in 2010, Mr. Obama has made voters angrier. This is not America’s summer of recovery; it is a summer of economic discontent that will ensure that Democrats take a pounding in the midterm elections.

At some point it had to happen: the collision of reality with Obamian rhetoric — that special brew of buck-passing, economic illiteracy (no, profit isn’t overhead), ad hominem attack, and out and out misrepresentation. As Rove reminds us: “On health care, for example, Mr. Obama continues saying that (a) health-care reform will reduce costs and the deficit, (b) no one who wants to keep existing coverage will lose it, and (c) the law’s cuts in Medicare won’t threaten any senior’s health care. These assertions are laughable.”

Making a clear distinction between campaigning and governing has absolutely baffled and eluded Obama. In a campaign, exaggeration and bumper sticker phrases are often sufficient. A snappy dig at an opponent’s wealth or allies in a debate is regarded as quick-wittedness, rather than as intellectual sloth and a poor substitute for substance. Blather (the oceans haven’t receded in 18 months, I think) is rewarded rather than derided. But as president, what you say actually matters — in wars (the enemy listens to deadlines) and in domestic matters (the markets listen to business-bashing). And what results you obtain in the real world (not the number of enormous bills you jam through on party-line votes) really matter.

You can see why Obama and his party are in a heap of trouble. The question remains whether they will be able after the election to pick themselves up and rescue what remains of his term.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Everything the Obami have said about an economic recovery has fallen on deaf ears. “Faith in President Barack Obama’s prescriptions to drag the economy out of recession appears to be falling as the Republican message hits home among voters, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday. Voters are concerned about high levels of government spending and the deficit, but are not keen on administration plans to let tax cuts for the rich expire this year to help close the fiscal gap. The implication seems to be that Americans want the deficit tackled through lower spending rather than through higher taxes.”

Everything you’ve read about “a big bad lobby that distorts U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East way out of proportion to its actual support by the American public,” is true, says Alan Dershowitz. “But the offending lobby is not AIPAC, which supports Israel, but rather the Arab lobby, which opposes the Jewish state.” Read the whole book review of Mitchell Bard’s, The Arab Lobby.

Everything that’s wrong with phony education reformers can be found here.

Everything is off-kilter at the White House. “Boehner’s speech at the Cleveland Economic Club Tuesday was so effective that it forced the White House to deploy the vice president to respond. By pushing back so hard, the counterattack backfired, creating a ‘Boehner vs. Biden’ debate. It also occurs while President Obama is vacationing out of sight in Martha’s Vineyard. Democrats had wanted to create the narrative that the election is a choice between Democrats and Republicans, not a referendum on Obama and his party’s leadership. However, the White House pushed the panic button and overreacted to Boehner. It would have been a wiser course not to feed more oxygen to the story.”

Everything the Republicans have been saying, but from a Democrat’s lips: “Michael Bennet, D-Colo, at a town hall meeting in Greeley last Saturday, Aug 21 said we had nothing to show for the debt incurred by the stimulus package and other expenditures calling the recession  the worst since the Great Depression.” That’s a campaign ad for certain.

Everything may be coming home to roost: Bennet trails Ken Buck by nine in the latest poll.

Everything is up for grabs this year. Barbara Boxer is in a dead heat with Carly Fiorina.

Everything is so darn hard for senators. Max Baucus whines: “I don’t think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the healthcare bill. … You know why? It’s statutory language. … We hire experts.” Or the voters could hire people who read what they are voting on.

Everything the Obami have said about an economic recovery has fallen on deaf ears. “Faith in President Barack Obama’s prescriptions to drag the economy out of recession appears to be falling as the Republican message hits home among voters, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday. Voters are concerned about high levels of government spending and the deficit, but are not keen on administration plans to let tax cuts for the rich expire this year to help close the fiscal gap. The implication seems to be that Americans want the deficit tackled through lower spending rather than through higher taxes.”

Everything you’ve read about “a big bad lobby that distorts U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East way out of proportion to its actual support by the American public,” is true, says Alan Dershowitz. “But the offending lobby is not AIPAC, which supports Israel, but rather the Arab lobby, which opposes the Jewish state.” Read the whole book review of Mitchell Bard’s, The Arab Lobby.

Everything that’s wrong with phony education reformers can be found here.

Everything is off-kilter at the White House. “Boehner’s speech at the Cleveland Economic Club Tuesday was so effective that it forced the White House to deploy the vice president to respond. By pushing back so hard, the counterattack backfired, creating a ‘Boehner vs. Biden’ debate. It also occurs while President Obama is vacationing out of sight in Martha’s Vineyard. Democrats had wanted to create the narrative that the election is a choice between Democrats and Republicans, not a referendum on Obama and his party’s leadership. However, the White House pushed the panic button and overreacted to Boehner. It would have been a wiser course not to feed more oxygen to the story.”

Everything the Republicans have been saying, but from a Democrat’s lips: “Michael Bennet, D-Colo, at a town hall meeting in Greeley last Saturday, Aug 21 said we had nothing to show for the debt incurred by the stimulus package and other expenditures calling the recession  the worst since the Great Depression.” That’s a campaign ad for certain.

Everything may be coming home to roost: Bennet trails Ken Buck by nine in the latest poll.

Everything is up for grabs this year. Barbara Boxer is in a dead heat with Carly Fiorina.

Everything is so darn hard for senators. Max Baucus whines: “I don’t think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the healthcare bill. … You know why? It’s statutory language. … We hire experts.” Or the voters could hire people who read what they are voting on.

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Figuratively Speaking …

In remarks yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden said: “For eight years before we arrived in the West Wing, Mr. Boehner and his party ran the economy literally into the ground. We’ve seen this movie before, Mr. Boehner. We’ve seen it before and we know how it ends.”

What Biden meant to say — before mixing his metaphors — is that Boehner and his party ran the economy figuratively, not literally, into the ground. But I suppose we shouldn’t create terribly high standards for a man who thinks “jobs” is a three-letter word.

In remarks yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden said: “For eight years before we arrived in the West Wing, Mr. Boehner and his party ran the economy literally into the ground. We’ve seen this movie before, Mr. Boehner. We’ve seen it before and we know how it ends.”

What Biden meant to say — before mixing his metaphors — is that Boehner and his party ran the economy figuratively, not literally, into the ground. But I suppose we shouldn’t create terribly high standards for a man who thinks “jobs” is a three-letter word.

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Petraeus on Afghanistan

This past weekend, General David Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, granted interviews to the Washington Post, New York Times, and Meet the Press [here and here].

Acknowledging that the mission is at a stage in which “what you have to do is to start turning inputs into outputs,” Petraeus said that the new U.S. war strategy is “fundamentally sound.” He sees incipient signs of progress in parts of the south, in new initiatives to create community defense forces, and in nascent steps to reintegrate low-level insurgents who want to stop fighting. According to the Post:

Petraeus contends that the counterinsurgency strategy is showing momentum in Helmand province, where about 20,000 U.S. Marines and 10,000 British troops have sought to create inkblots of security in six key districts. Some areas, such as Marja, a former Taliban stronghold, have proved to be tougher to pacify … but other places, such as the districts of Nawa and Garmsir, are becoming more stable and may feature prominently in his year-end presentation to the White House.

He also said he is encouraged by developments in Arghandab district on Kandahar’s northern fringe, where two U.S. Army battalions have been engaged in an arduous mission to clear insurgents from pomegranate orchards and vineyards seeded with makeshift but lethal anti-personnel mines.

Petraeus points out that what we face is not a monolithic Taliban enemy; he describes it more like a crime syndicate. In the southern part of the country we face the Afghan Taliban; in the eastern part, the Haqqani network linked to the Taliban but not subservient to it. There are small elements of al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and some Pakistani Taliban as well.

Petraeus, who appears intent on taking a harder line against corruption in the Karzai government than we’ve seen in the past, says his most significant accomplishment since arriving in Kabul has been to get President Karzai to endorse the creation of armed neighborhood-watch groups. He also argues against any precipitous withdrawal of forces in July 2011. When asked by NBC’s David Gregory how stifling the deadline is, Petraeus said this:

I don’t find it that stifling. I’m not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact, the president has been very clear, Vice President Biden’s been very clear as well, more recently, that this is a date when a process begins that is conditions based. And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and to security forces and, and in various governmental institutions, and that enables a responsible drawdown of our forces. … I think the president’s been quite clear in explaining that it’s a process, not an event, and that it’s conditions based. … I think that we will have an enduring commitment here in some fashion, the character of which may change over time as our Afghan partners can do more and we’re able to do less in certain areas, certainly.

Articulating traditional counterinsurgency doctrine, Petraeus went on to say, “At the end of the day, it’s not about [the Afghan people’s] embrace of us, it’s not about us winning hearts and minds. It’s about the Afghan government winning hearts and minds.” And when asked if the outcome is like Iraq, whether that constitutes achieving the mission, Petraeus said this:

Well, the outcome in Iraq is still to be written, but if you could reduce the level of violence by some 90 to 95 percent, as was the case in Iraq, to below a threshold which allows commerce and business and outside investment to take place, where there is an election that’s certainly at least elected representatives, and now you have to see if they can come together and form a government that is still representative of and responsive to the people, as was the previous one. If that can all be achieved there, that would be a reasonable solution here as well.

“It’s a gradual effort,” Petraeus told the Post. “It’s a deliberate effort. There’s no hill to take and flag to plant and proclamations of victory. Rather, it’s just hard work.”

It is indeed. But America is fortunate to have one of the greatest military commanders in its history now in the lead. If we give him the tools and the time, he and the American military can finish the job.

This past weekend, General David Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, granted interviews to the Washington Post, New York Times, and Meet the Press [here and here].

Acknowledging that the mission is at a stage in which “what you have to do is to start turning inputs into outputs,” Petraeus said that the new U.S. war strategy is “fundamentally sound.” He sees incipient signs of progress in parts of the south, in new initiatives to create community defense forces, and in nascent steps to reintegrate low-level insurgents who want to stop fighting. According to the Post:

Petraeus contends that the counterinsurgency strategy is showing momentum in Helmand province, where about 20,000 U.S. Marines and 10,000 British troops have sought to create inkblots of security in six key districts. Some areas, such as Marja, a former Taliban stronghold, have proved to be tougher to pacify … but other places, such as the districts of Nawa and Garmsir, are becoming more stable and may feature prominently in his year-end presentation to the White House.

He also said he is encouraged by developments in Arghandab district on Kandahar’s northern fringe, where two U.S. Army battalions have been engaged in an arduous mission to clear insurgents from pomegranate orchards and vineyards seeded with makeshift but lethal anti-personnel mines.

Petraeus points out that what we face is not a monolithic Taliban enemy; he describes it more like a crime syndicate. In the southern part of the country we face the Afghan Taliban; in the eastern part, the Haqqani network linked to the Taliban but not subservient to it. There are small elements of al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and some Pakistani Taliban as well.

Petraeus, who appears intent on taking a harder line against corruption in the Karzai government than we’ve seen in the past, says his most significant accomplishment since arriving in Kabul has been to get President Karzai to endorse the creation of armed neighborhood-watch groups. He also argues against any precipitous withdrawal of forces in July 2011. When asked by NBC’s David Gregory how stifling the deadline is, Petraeus said this:

I don’t find it that stifling. I’m not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact, the president has been very clear, Vice President Biden’s been very clear as well, more recently, that this is a date when a process begins that is conditions based. And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and to security forces and, and in various governmental institutions, and that enables a responsible drawdown of our forces. … I think the president’s been quite clear in explaining that it’s a process, not an event, and that it’s conditions based. … I think that we will have an enduring commitment here in some fashion, the character of which may change over time as our Afghan partners can do more and we’re able to do less in certain areas, certainly.

Articulating traditional counterinsurgency doctrine, Petraeus went on to say, “At the end of the day, it’s not about [the Afghan people’s] embrace of us, it’s not about us winning hearts and minds. It’s about the Afghan government winning hearts and minds.” And when asked if the outcome is like Iraq, whether that constitutes achieving the mission, Petraeus said this:

Well, the outcome in Iraq is still to be written, but if you could reduce the level of violence by some 90 to 95 percent, as was the case in Iraq, to below a threshold which allows commerce and business and outside investment to take place, where there is an election that’s certainly at least elected representatives, and now you have to see if they can come together and form a government that is still representative of and responsive to the people, as was the previous one. If that can all be achieved there, that would be a reasonable solution here as well.

“It’s a gradual effort,” Petraeus told the Post. “It’s a deliberate effort. There’s no hill to take and flag to plant and proclamations of victory. Rather, it’s just hard work.”

It is indeed. But America is fortunate to have one of the greatest military commanders in its history now in the lead. If we give him the tools and the time, he and the American military can finish the job.

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What Objection to the Ground Zero Mosque Is Not

Liberals who two years ago abandoned their humdrum lives to become career alarmists about Sarah Palin’s Pentecostalism now wish to be taken seriously as misty-eyed champions of America’s tolerance of diverse faiths. Whatever the intent of the planned Cordoba House Mosque Community Center Bowling Alley Drive-in Imax Nail Salon and Day Spa actually is matters not at all. It is to be celebrated because it is Islamic and because America does not discriminate on the basis of religion. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd laments that President Obama, in his muddled failure to partake in the festivities, has “allowed himself to be weakened by perfectly predictable Republican hysteria.” After all, says Dowd,“By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.”

Braille has come a long way. When I read that Rauf refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization and that he respects the doctrine of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini I could swear I took it in with my eyes. Just as I seemed to do when in 2008 I read that Dowd, the declared enemy of predictable hysteria, asked of Sarah Palin, “When the phone rings at 3 a.m., will she call the Wasilla Assembly of God congregation and ask them to pray on a response, as she asked them to pray for a natural gas pipeline?”

Feisal Rauf is A-OK with Khomeini-ism and he’s a welcome voice of reason; Sarah Palin prays and that makes her an unhinged zealot.

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Liberals who two years ago abandoned their humdrum lives to become career alarmists about Sarah Palin’s Pentecostalism now wish to be taken seriously as misty-eyed champions of America’s tolerance of diverse faiths. Whatever the intent of the planned Cordoba House Mosque Community Center Bowling Alley Drive-in Imax Nail Salon and Day Spa actually is matters not at all. It is to be celebrated because it is Islamic and because America does not discriminate on the basis of religion. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd laments that President Obama, in his muddled failure to partake in the festivities, has “allowed himself to be weakened by perfectly predictable Republican hysteria.” After all, says Dowd,“By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.”

Braille has come a long way. When I read that Rauf refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization and that he respects the doctrine of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini I could swear I took it in with my eyes. Just as I seemed to do when in 2008 I read that Dowd, the declared enemy of predictable hysteria, asked of Sarah Palin, “When the phone rings at 3 a.m., will she call the Wasilla Assembly of God congregation and ask them to pray on a response, as she asked them to pray for a natural gas pipeline?”

Feisal Rauf is A-OK with Khomeini-ism and he’s a welcome voice of reason; Sarah Palin prays and that makes her an unhinged zealot.

Religion is  deserving of mockery at all turns—unless it is the Muslim strain to be practiced two blocks from Ground Zero. Of course, objections to the comparison are predictable. Palin was vying for the vice president’s office and Rauf is merely . . . the bridge-building embodiment of Muslim outreach that the post-9/11 world has been waiting for.

The Left’s shift from defamers of faith to champions of faith has come complete with the characterization of the Right as hateful bigots. That thousands of American liberals have in the past protested Papal visits, with some placards comparing Christianity to Nazism, is a testament to freedom of speech. That non-liberal Americans protest only the building of a specific mosque in a specific location is a testament both to prejudice and to indifference on religious freedom.  In the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart asks, in high dudgeon, “Remember when George W. Bush and his neoconservative allies used to say that the ‘war on terror; was a struggle on behalf of Muslims, decent folks who wanted nothing more than to live free like you and me?” No matter that neoconservatives like the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens writes that the problem with celebrating Rauf as a moderate is that doing so steals support and recognition from “Muslims in the U.S. like Irshad [Manji] who are working, tirelessly but mainly out of view, toward the cause of reform.” And never mind that in the New Republic Reuel Gerecht, a neoconservative,  envisions a potential mosque built by a true moderate that “would honor us all.” Dowd, Beinart, and the like can only enjoy hero status if their opponents are depicted as convincing villains.

The myths about those opposed to the mosque don’t stop there. Conservatives, we are told, are eager to invent new instruments of government to block the mosque’s construction. While fewer than a handful of conservatives have made passing references to zoning laws, the overwhelming majority have gone out of their way to note that there is no legal argument against the mosque. As Peter Kirsanow pointed out at National Review’s Corner blog, “You don’t need to have been a lecturer in constitutional law like Obama to know that the mosque’s backers have a right to build at Ground Zero.”

Those uneasy about Rauf and the Cordoba House project are not hysterical, hateful, or statist. Their objections have to do with something less devious than prejudice and simpler than the law: common sense. Here is a thought experiment: If the mosque was slated to be built not two blocks away from Ground Zero, but actually on it, would those opposed still be exposing their contemptible hysteria by complaining? The site would still be private property, after all. And if the imam of that mosque openly preached a naked form of extremist Islam, should anyone who objects still be ashamed of themselves, as New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg has suggested? Freedom of religion would still be a fundamental American tenet, would it not? In other words, there are points at which it is very clear that non-prejudiced objections to legal undertakings become common sense. For the mosque’s unflappable admirers, the current location and the current imam don’t court that tipping point. For most Americans, forever transformed by the deadly attack on our homeland, they eclipse it.

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RE: Bad News, Again

Jennifer, in your post you reported the (depressing) news that the initial jobless claims rose from 12,000 to 500,000 in the week ending August 14. That 500,000 figure is notable. Why? Because back in April, Vice President Joe Biden said this: “Well, I’m here to tell you, some time in the next couple of months, we’re going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month.”

Not quite.

I suppose this kind of thing is what you come to expect from an administration that assured us the passage of its stimulus package would keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent.

For the record: unemployment broke the 10-percent mark, it’s now 9.5 percent, and last month — during this marvelous, sparkling Obama Recovery Summer — we lost 131,000 jobs.

Jennifer, in your post you reported the (depressing) news that the initial jobless claims rose from 12,000 to 500,000 in the week ending August 14. That 500,000 figure is notable. Why? Because back in April, Vice President Joe Biden said this: “Well, I’m here to tell you, some time in the next couple of months, we’re going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month.”

Not quite.

I suppose this kind of thing is what you come to expect from an administration that assured us the passage of its stimulus package would keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent.

For the record: unemployment broke the 10-percent mark, it’s now 9.5 percent, and last month — during this marvelous, sparkling Obama Recovery Summer — we lost 131,000 jobs.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Independents are fleeing from Obama and the Democrats: “Independents who embraced President Barack Obama’s call for change in 2008 are ready for a shift again, and that’s worrisome news for Democrats. Only 32 percent of those citing no allegiance to either major party say they want Democrats to keep control of Congress in this November’s elections, according to combined results of recent Associated Press-GfK polls.”

Johnny Rotten is showing more brains and character than what passes for the liberal intelligentsia: “”If Elvis-f***ing-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated.”

Dore Gold is warning about the Obami’s infatuation with the “1967 borders” (in other words, the status quo after the 1990 armistice, a nonstarter for Israel, and another instance of reneging on the Bush-Sharon 2004 letter, which recognized that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949″). But then this is all moot so long as the PA refuses to get in the room with the Israelis and lacks the will and ability to make a binding peace deal.

The left is reeling from Obama’s backtracking on the Ground Zero mosque: “Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and liberal blogger, summed up the frustration of those on the Left … by tweeting on the microblogging website Twitter: ‘Well, it was nice spending a day thinking Obama did something courageous.'” Silly them.

The shills are straining to explain Obama’s reversal. David A. Harris of the NDJC: “I applaud his clarion statements on this matter that cut to the heart of what our country stands for — including religious liberty for all peoples and the separation of church and state.” The clarion statement praising a mosque on the graves of 3,000 dead Americans or the clarion statement that he didn’t mean it?

The Democratic leadership is sounding desperate to shut up not just the public but also the media and even Obama. “Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and appeared on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ to talk about the upcoming election, was asked for his personal view on whether the mosque should be built in New York. ‘It would be wrong to politicize the issue,’ he said, adding that the decision should be ‘up to the people of New York’ on where the Islamic center should be built.'” The people of NYC don’t want it, and Obama made it front-page news, so I think he’ll have to do better than that.

Conservative blog readers are putting it together. Here’s a particularly apt summary of Obama’s behavior on the Ground Zero mosque debacle: “He is a man of the Left, and for him and many others in this country 9/11 was the big comeuppance. There were many people who came out after 9/11 to say America had it coming, and one of them was Obama’s old friend and ghost autohagiographer Bill Ayers. In his ideas about America’s relationship with the Muslim world, Obama has much more in common with Imam Rauf than with he does with ordinary Americans and he’s not afraid to say so; he’s just really really bad at handling the blow back.”

Obama is still tanking in the polls, reaching a new low in Gallup.

Gen. David Petraeus is struggling to get out from under his commander in chief’s troop deadline for Afghanistan: “‘I don’t find it that stifling,’ he said. ‘I’m not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact the president has been very clear, Vice President [Joe] Biden has been very clear as well more recently that this is a date when a process begins, that is conditions-based. And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and the security forces and in various governmental institutions, and that enables a quote ‘responsible’ drawdown of our forces.'”

Independents are fleeing from Obama and the Democrats: “Independents who embraced President Barack Obama’s call for change in 2008 are ready for a shift again, and that’s worrisome news for Democrats. Only 32 percent of those citing no allegiance to either major party say they want Democrats to keep control of Congress in this November’s elections, according to combined results of recent Associated Press-GfK polls.”

Johnny Rotten is showing more brains and character than what passes for the liberal intelligentsia: “”If Elvis-f***ing-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated.”

Dore Gold is warning about the Obami’s infatuation with the “1967 borders” (in other words, the status quo after the 1990 armistice, a nonstarter for Israel, and another instance of reneging on the Bush-Sharon 2004 letter, which recognized that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949″). But then this is all moot so long as the PA refuses to get in the room with the Israelis and lacks the will and ability to make a binding peace deal.

The left is reeling from Obama’s backtracking on the Ground Zero mosque: “Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and liberal blogger, summed up the frustration of those on the Left … by tweeting on the microblogging website Twitter: ‘Well, it was nice spending a day thinking Obama did something courageous.'” Silly them.

The shills are straining to explain Obama’s reversal. David A. Harris of the NDJC: “I applaud his clarion statements on this matter that cut to the heart of what our country stands for — including religious liberty for all peoples and the separation of church and state.” The clarion statement praising a mosque on the graves of 3,000 dead Americans or the clarion statement that he didn’t mean it?

The Democratic leadership is sounding desperate to shut up not just the public but also the media and even Obama. “Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and appeared on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ to talk about the upcoming election, was asked for his personal view on whether the mosque should be built in New York. ‘It would be wrong to politicize the issue,’ he said, adding that the decision should be ‘up to the people of New York’ on where the Islamic center should be built.'” The people of NYC don’t want it, and Obama made it front-page news, so I think he’ll have to do better than that.

Conservative blog readers are putting it together. Here’s a particularly apt summary of Obama’s behavior on the Ground Zero mosque debacle: “He is a man of the Left, and for him and many others in this country 9/11 was the big comeuppance. There were many people who came out after 9/11 to say America had it coming, and one of them was Obama’s old friend and ghost autohagiographer Bill Ayers. In his ideas about America’s relationship with the Muslim world, Obama has much more in common with Imam Rauf than with he does with ordinary Americans and he’s not afraid to say so; he’s just really really bad at handling the blow back.”

Obama is still tanking in the polls, reaching a new low in Gallup.

Gen. David Petraeus is struggling to get out from under his commander in chief’s troop deadline for Afghanistan: “‘I don’t find it that stifling,’ he said. ‘I’m not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact the president has been very clear, Vice President [Joe] Biden has been very clear as well more recently that this is a date when a process begins, that is conditions-based. And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and the security forces and in various governmental institutions, and that enables a quote ‘responsible’ drawdown of our forces.'”

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No Victory Laps in Iraq — Yet

President Obama delivers a speech today marking the end of combat operations in Iraq as the number of U.S. troops falls to 50,000 by the end of the month. Politico describes this as “the first steps of a U.S. victory lap on the war.” Meanwhile, Iraq continues to suffer from chronic electricity shortages, terrorists have stepped up their attacks this summer, and, most worrying of all, Iraqi politicos agree there is no chance of a government being formed before the fall. These worrisome trends on the ground shouldn’t obscure the amazing progress that has been made since 2007, but they should warn us against the kind of complacency the administration has fallen prey to in the past.

Having 50,000 troops remain in Iraq for at least another year still gives us considerable leverage to influence events in a more positive direction — if we have smart representatives capable of doing that and if they have the support they need in Washington. General Ray Odierno, the senior military commander (who, unfortunately, is about to depart), has done a tremendous job, but he has been let down by his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Chris Hill, who had never served in the Arab world before being appointed last year and has taken a curiously hands-off attitude toward the Iraqi political process.

The good news is that Hill is on the way out and a more experienced ambassador, Jim Jeffrey, who has served in Iraq before, is due to arrive soon. He is smart enough to bring back a few key staff members from the “Dream Team” that helped General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker manage the surge:

Brett McGurk, an Iraq adviser to then-President George W. Bush who was among the key negotiators of a 2008 bilateral agreement, recently arrived in Baghdad. Sadi Othman, who was Gen. David H. Petraeus’s main interlocutor with Iraqi politicians during the surge, has been asked to return to work for the incoming U.S. commander, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III. Ali Khedery, who was an adviser to then-U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, will work temporarily for the next ambassador, James F. Jeffrey.

General Austin, the new military commander, doesn’t have the same level of experience in Iraq as Odierno, but overall this is a big upgrade of the American presence. Still, it’s not enough to have better representatives on the ground; success in Iraq will also require high-level engagement of the sort that the White House has conducted only intermittently. President Obama needs to pay closer attention and not simply hand Iraq off to Vice President Biden. It is still possible for our hard-won achievements in Iraq to be dissipated if the president is more interested in taking victory laps than in pushing the country forward.

President Obama delivers a speech today marking the end of combat operations in Iraq as the number of U.S. troops falls to 50,000 by the end of the month. Politico describes this as “the first steps of a U.S. victory lap on the war.” Meanwhile, Iraq continues to suffer from chronic electricity shortages, terrorists have stepped up their attacks this summer, and, most worrying of all, Iraqi politicos agree there is no chance of a government being formed before the fall. These worrisome trends on the ground shouldn’t obscure the amazing progress that has been made since 2007, but they should warn us against the kind of complacency the administration has fallen prey to in the past.

Having 50,000 troops remain in Iraq for at least another year still gives us considerable leverage to influence events in a more positive direction — if we have smart representatives capable of doing that and if they have the support they need in Washington. General Ray Odierno, the senior military commander (who, unfortunately, is about to depart), has done a tremendous job, but he has been let down by his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Chris Hill, who had never served in the Arab world before being appointed last year and has taken a curiously hands-off attitude toward the Iraqi political process.

The good news is that Hill is on the way out and a more experienced ambassador, Jim Jeffrey, who has served in Iraq before, is due to arrive soon. He is smart enough to bring back a few key staff members from the “Dream Team” that helped General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker manage the surge:

Brett McGurk, an Iraq adviser to then-President George W. Bush who was among the key negotiators of a 2008 bilateral agreement, recently arrived in Baghdad. Sadi Othman, who was Gen. David H. Petraeus’s main interlocutor with Iraqi politicians during the surge, has been asked to return to work for the incoming U.S. commander, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III. Ali Khedery, who was an adviser to then-U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, will work temporarily for the next ambassador, James F. Jeffrey.

General Austin, the new military commander, doesn’t have the same level of experience in Iraq as Odierno, but overall this is a big upgrade of the American presence. Still, it’s not enough to have better representatives on the ground; success in Iraq will also require high-level engagement of the sort that the White House has conducted only intermittently. President Obama needs to pay closer attention and not simply hand Iraq off to Vice President Biden. It is still possible for our hard-won achievements in Iraq to be dissipated if the president is more interested in taking victory laps than in pushing the country forward.

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Don’t Believe Everything You Read in the Times

It is always dismaying to discover how gullible readers of the New York Times can be. I was interviewed on Sunday night by the BBC regarding a “change of strategy” in Afghanistan. What change is that? Why the change from counterinsurgency to targeted killings. I expressed some incredulity about this supposed shift. Having just returned from Afghanistan, I had heard of no such change of focus. What evidence is there that it’s happening? None that I can find beyond this page-one Times article by Helene Cooper and Mark Landler whose headline claims: “Targeted Killing Is New U.S. Focus in Afghanistan.”

The article claims that the “counterinsurgency strategy has shown little success” — hardly surprising since it has only recently begun to be implemented. “Instead,” the article goes on to assert, “what has turned out to work well is an approach American officials have talked much less about: counterterrorism, military-speak for the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Faced with that reality, and the pressure of a self-imposed deadline to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011, the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents. The shift could change the nature of the war and potentially, in the view of some officials, hasten a political settlement with the Taliban. ”

I have no idea what Cooper and Landler mean when they write that “the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents.” In fact, Vice President Biden had urged a narrow counterterrorism focus for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan — and he lost the internal administration debate. You don’t need 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan simply to hunt down terrorist leaders. They are there to carry out a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy that General David Petraeus is now implementing.

As part of that strategy, there has been a shift of more Special Operations forces to Afghanistan and, as a result, more targeted hits on top Taliban leaders. But Petraeus realizes (as did his predecessor Stan McChrystal, a veteran Special Operations commander) what the Times concedes: “Based on the American military experience in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, it is not clear that killing enemy fighters is sufficient by itself to cripple an insurgency.” In fact, it is clear that targeted killings by themselves will not cripple a determined insurgency. That is precisely why it is extremely unlikely that Petraeus will do what the Times reporters claim — shift to a focused counterterrorism strategy.

Informed consumers of the news — especially those in other news organizations who too often take their cues from the Times — should take such supposed “scoops” with a big grain of salt.

It is always dismaying to discover how gullible readers of the New York Times can be. I was interviewed on Sunday night by the BBC regarding a “change of strategy” in Afghanistan. What change is that? Why the change from counterinsurgency to targeted killings. I expressed some incredulity about this supposed shift. Having just returned from Afghanistan, I had heard of no such change of focus. What evidence is there that it’s happening? None that I can find beyond this page-one Times article by Helene Cooper and Mark Landler whose headline claims: “Targeted Killing Is New U.S. Focus in Afghanistan.”

The article claims that the “counterinsurgency strategy has shown little success” — hardly surprising since it has only recently begun to be implemented. “Instead,” the article goes on to assert, “what has turned out to work well is an approach American officials have talked much less about: counterterrorism, military-speak for the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Faced with that reality, and the pressure of a self-imposed deadline to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011, the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents. The shift could change the nature of the war and potentially, in the view of some officials, hasten a political settlement with the Taliban. ”

I have no idea what Cooper and Landler mean when they write that “the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents.” In fact, Vice President Biden had urged a narrow counterterrorism focus for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan — and he lost the internal administration debate. You don’t need 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan simply to hunt down terrorist leaders. They are there to carry out a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy that General David Petraeus is now implementing.

As part of that strategy, there has been a shift of more Special Operations forces to Afghanistan and, as a result, more targeted hits on top Taliban leaders. But Petraeus realizes (as did his predecessor Stan McChrystal, a veteran Special Operations commander) what the Times concedes: “Based on the American military experience in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, it is not clear that killing enemy fighters is sufficient by itself to cripple an insurgency.” In fact, it is clear that targeted killings by themselves will not cripple a determined insurgency. That is precisely why it is extremely unlikely that Petraeus will do what the Times reporters claim — shift to a focused counterterrorism strategy.

Informed consumers of the news — especially those in other news organizations who too often take their cues from the Times — should take such supposed “scoops” with a big grain of salt.

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A Stroll Down Memory Lane

According to USA Today, in an interview Vice President Biden said that

former president George W. Bush deserved some credit for sending additional troops to Iraq in 2007. But even though Biden said the surge worked militarily, he said he didn’t regret his vote in the Senate against it because Bush did not include a plan to address Iraq’s political problems. “I don’t regret a thing, what I said or did about Iraq policy,” he said. It was the Obama administration, Biden said, that put in the plan that led to success. “What was lacking in the past was a coherent political process.”

Where oh where to begin? Perhaps with a short journey down Memory Lane.

In January 2007, after President Bush announced the so-called surge of forces in Iraq, then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” He called it “doomed” and “a fantasy.”

“The surge isn’t going to work either tactically or strategically,” Biden assured the Boston Globe in the summer of 2007. Even well into 2008, when the surge had made undeniable progress, Biden was still insisting it was a failure, that Bush had no strategy, and that “there is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.”

If you’d like to see Biden in his own inimitable words, take a look at this.

One would be hard pressed to think of another person who was as persistently and consistently wrong about the surge as Biden (though Barack Obama would give him a good run for his money). Biden went so far as to advocate dividing up Iraq into three parts based on ethnicity, one of the more ill-informed and dangerous ideas to emerge among war critics.

The truth is that if Joe Biden had had his way, the war would have been lost, Iraq would probably be engulfed in something close to genocide, al-Qaeda would have emerged with its most important victory ever, and America would have sustained a defeat far worse than it did in Vietnam.

As for Biden’s claim that what was lacking in the past was a “coherent political process,” let’s be generous to the vice president: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The then-American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was one of its outstanding diplomats. And unlike the situation in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, in Iraq the commanding general at the time (David Petraeus) and the U.S. ambassador (Crocker) worked hand-in-glove. They were an extraordinarily effective team. In order to refresh Biden’s memory of the coherent political process that was in place, he might want to review Ambassador Crocker’s Senate testimony from September 2007, before a committee Biden himself sat on.

Of course, none of what Biden said is especially surprising. Over the years he has shown himself to be loquacious, personable, comically self-important (this video is priceless), and a somewhat buffoonish figure (who can forget this gem or these incidents here and here). Beyond that, if you go back to his record since he was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s, you will find few if any members of Congress whose record on national-security matters can be judged to have been as consistently bad as Biden’s (see here).

Over the years, Mr. Biden has said a countless number of things that are silly and wrong. We can add what he said to USA Today to the list. And you can bet there will be plenty more to come.

According to USA Today, in an interview Vice President Biden said that

former president George W. Bush deserved some credit for sending additional troops to Iraq in 2007. But even though Biden said the surge worked militarily, he said he didn’t regret his vote in the Senate against it because Bush did not include a plan to address Iraq’s political problems. “I don’t regret a thing, what I said or did about Iraq policy,” he said. It was the Obama administration, Biden said, that put in the plan that led to success. “What was lacking in the past was a coherent political process.”

Where oh where to begin? Perhaps with a short journey down Memory Lane.

In January 2007, after President Bush announced the so-called surge of forces in Iraq, then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” He called it “doomed” and “a fantasy.”

“The surge isn’t going to work either tactically or strategically,” Biden assured the Boston Globe in the summer of 2007. Even well into 2008, when the surge had made undeniable progress, Biden was still insisting it was a failure, that Bush had no strategy, and that “there is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.”

If you’d like to see Biden in his own inimitable words, take a look at this.

One would be hard pressed to think of another person who was as persistently and consistently wrong about the surge as Biden (though Barack Obama would give him a good run for his money). Biden went so far as to advocate dividing up Iraq into three parts based on ethnicity, one of the more ill-informed and dangerous ideas to emerge among war critics.

The truth is that if Joe Biden had had his way, the war would have been lost, Iraq would probably be engulfed in something close to genocide, al-Qaeda would have emerged with its most important victory ever, and America would have sustained a defeat far worse than it did in Vietnam.

As for Biden’s claim that what was lacking in the past was a “coherent political process,” let’s be generous to the vice president: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The then-American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was one of its outstanding diplomats. And unlike the situation in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, in Iraq the commanding general at the time (David Petraeus) and the U.S. ambassador (Crocker) worked hand-in-glove. They were an extraordinarily effective team. In order to refresh Biden’s memory of the coherent political process that was in place, he might want to review Ambassador Crocker’s Senate testimony from September 2007, before a committee Biden himself sat on.

Of course, none of what Biden said is especially surprising. Over the years he has shown himself to be loquacious, personable, comically self-important (this video is priceless), and a somewhat buffoonish figure (who can forget this gem or these incidents here and here). Beyond that, if you go back to his record since he was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s, you will find few if any members of Congress whose record on national-security matters can be judged to have been as consistently bad as Biden’s (see here).

Over the years, Mr. Biden has said a countless number of things that are silly and wrong. We can add what he said to USA Today to the list. And you can bet there will be plenty more to come.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The local Pennsylvania media find Joe Sestak’s answers on earmarks to be all wet (“a vague, disingenuous attempt to polish his own credentials”): “The Democratic congressman and Senate candidate should work a little harder to reconcile taking campaign contributions from those benefiting from federal ‘earmarks’ (which direct money to be spent on specific projects) while claiming ‘a personal policy’ against doing so.”

As hopes for direct peace talks slip away, Hillary frantically “burns up the phone lines” to the players in the Middle East.

Obama’s approval ratings in Gallup continue to nosedive (45% approval, 49% disapproval).

A federal-court judge torpedoes the Arizona immigration law (a ruling certain to be appealed): “Judge [Susan] Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge [Susan] Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law. ‘Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,’ she said. ‘There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens.'”

Democrats are awaiting the November wave – so what’s the message for avoiding a wipeout? The other guys are wackos. This is the argument: “The Republicans want to be mayors of crazy-town. They’ve embraced a fringe and proto-racist isolationist and ignorant conservative populism that has no solutions for fixing anything and the collective intelligence of a wine flask.” How can the voters resist?

Al Gore is in hot water: “Before all the unpleasantness, the former vice president was mainly known as the planet’s premiere environmentalist and anti-global-warming crusader. He has been a bestselling author, Oscar-winning filmmaker, successful businessman and, lest we forget, the man millions still believe should have been sworn in as president in January 2001. But now the 62-year-old Gore is tabloid fodder—notorious as a ‘crazed sex poodle.'”

Obama’s plea that he really isn’t anti-business is being drowned out: “Republicans and business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have driven home the message that the Obama administration is curtailing private-sector growth. They point to tax increases proposed by the White House as well as an uncertain regulatory environment brought about by massive reforms to the healthcare sector and Wall Street. Businesses are said to be sitting on $2 trillion in income but are not hiring, partly because of the administration’s policies, according to Republicans.”

The local Pennsylvania media find Joe Sestak’s answers on earmarks to be all wet (“a vague, disingenuous attempt to polish his own credentials”): “The Democratic congressman and Senate candidate should work a little harder to reconcile taking campaign contributions from those benefiting from federal ‘earmarks’ (which direct money to be spent on specific projects) while claiming ‘a personal policy’ against doing so.”

As hopes for direct peace talks slip away, Hillary frantically “burns up the phone lines” to the players in the Middle East.

Obama’s approval ratings in Gallup continue to nosedive (45% approval, 49% disapproval).

A federal-court judge torpedoes the Arizona immigration law (a ruling certain to be appealed): “Judge [Susan] Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge [Susan] Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law. ‘Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,’ she said. ‘There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens.'”

Democrats are awaiting the November wave – so what’s the message for avoiding a wipeout? The other guys are wackos. This is the argument: “The Republicans want to be mayors of crazy-town. They’ve embraced a fringe and proto-racist isolationist and ignorant conservative populism that has no solutions for fixing anything and the collective intelligence of a wine flask.” How can the voters resist?

Al Gore is in hot water: “Before all the unpleasantness, the former vice president was mainly known as the planet’s premiere environmentalist and anti-global-warming crusader. He has been a bestselling author, Oscar-winning filmmaker, successful businessman and, lest we forget, the man millions still believe should have been sworn in as president in January 2001. But now the 62-year-old Gore is tabloid fodder—notorious as a ‘crazed sex poodle.'”

Obama’s plea that he really isn’t anti-business is being drowned out: “Republicans and business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have driven home the message that the Obama administration is curtailing private-sector growth. They point to tax increases proposed by the White House as well as an uncertain regulatory environment brought about by massive reforms to the healthcare sector and Wall Street. Businesses are said to be sitting on $2 trillion in income but are not hiring, partly because of the administration’s policies, according to Republicans.”

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House Democratic Memo Is Another Blow to J Street

Last week,  Jennifer noted the Democrats’ panic, which led to the release of the Howard Berman e-mail extolling the Obama administration’s supposedly pro-Israel record. The memo seemed to be a reaction to the beating that Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak is taking in Pennsylvania in ads from the Emergency Coalition for Israel.

But there’s more to discuss here than just the fact that Sestak has been wrong-footed on the issue and forced to play defense. The Berman memo is yet more proof that J Street’s assertion that the Democrats have embraced its idea — that criticism of Israel is the highest form of love for the Jewish state — is bunk.

The memo is yet another aspect of the charm offensive that has been conducted by the administration since its disastrous decision to pick a fight over building in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Ever since the supposed insult to Vice President Joe Biden was answered with unprecedented discourtesy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the administration has been backtracking furiously from its desire to distance itself from Israel. Rather than follow along with the J Street program of putting pressure on Jerusalem to acquiesce to Palestinian demands, the Obama team has been going out of its way to cozy up to Netanyahu since the spring. Given the instincts of those running things in both the White House and the State Department, this has been an awkward and at times inconsistent change of heart. But as much as Obama’s critics are still right to question both his sincerity and his long-term intentions, in the last few months the heretofore rapidly expanding amount of daylight between the positions of Washington and Jerusalem has been shrinking.

Ever since November 2008, leftists have been trying to assert that the Jewish vote for Obama was proof that J Street and not AIPAC or other mainstream pro-Israel groups truly represented Jewish opinion. But if that were so, why would Obama be trying so hard to convince everyone that his administration was as reliable a supporter of Israel as any of its predecessors? Perhaps the answer is that Obama and his advisers know that many, if not most, of the Jewish votes he received came from people who were convinced by his 2008 campaign statements that attempted to show that he was an AIPAC-style friend of Israel rather than a J Street critic. And with the Democrats heading for a midterm disaster this November and putting their Congressional majorities in jeopardy, it’s no wonder that their caucus is producing memos drawing attention to the common ground between the administration and Israel rather than harping on settlement policy and the need for more concessions to the Palestinians, as J Street preaches.

It is true that most Jews are not single-issue voters who care only about Israel. But as shown by the administration’s recent behavior as well as by the House Democrats’ memo, liberals know that a candidate, party, or president who is seen as a critic rather than a friend of Israel will lose Jewish votes and campaign contributions. It is deeply ironic that it turns out that the most cogent skewering of J Street’s basic premise about public opinion has come from their idol in the White House and the political party they support, not their Jewish critics.

Last week,  Jennifer noted the Democrats’ panic, which led to the release of the Howard Berman e-mail extolling the Obama administration’s supposedly pro-Israel record. The memo seemed to be a reaction to the beating that Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak is taking in Pennsylvania in ads from the Emergency Coalition for Israel.

But there’s more to discuss here than just the fact that Sestak has been wrong-footed on the issue and forced to play defense. The Berman memo is yet more proof that J Street’s assertion that the Democrats have embraced its idea — that criticism of Israel is the highest form of love for the Jewish state — is bunk.

The memo is yet another aspect of the charm offensive that has been conducted by the administration since its disastrous decision to pick a fight over building in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Ever since the supposed insult to Vice President Joe Biden was answered with unprecedented discourtesy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the administration has been backtracking furiously from its desire to distance itself from Israel. Rather than follow along with the J Street program of putting pressure on Jerusalem to acquiesce to Palestinian demands, the Obama team has been going out of its way to cozy up to Netanyahu since the spring. Given the instincts of those running things in both the White House and the State Department, this has been an awkward and at times inconsistent change of heart. But as much as Obama’s critics are still right to question both his sincerity and his long-term intentions, in the last few months the heretofore rapidly expanding amount of daylight between the positions of Washington and Jerusalem has been shrinking.

Ever since November 2008, leftists have been trying to assert that the Jewish vote for Obama was proof that J Street and not AIPAC or other mainstream pro-Israel groups truly represented Jewish opinion. But if that were so, why would Obama be trying so hard to convince everyone that his administration was as reliable a supporter of Israel as any of its predecessors? Perhaps the answer is that Obama and his advisers know that many, if not most, of the Jewish votes he received came from people who were convinced by his 2008 campaign statements that attempted to show that he was an AIPAC-style friend of Israel rather than a J Street critic. And with the Democrats heading for a midterm disaster this November and putting their Congressional majorities in jeopardy, it’s no wonder that their caucus is producing memos drawing attention to the common ground between the administration and Israel rather than harping on settlement policy and the need for more concessions to the Palestinians, as J Street preaches.

It is true that most Jews are not single-issue voters who care only about Israel. But as shown by the administration’s recent behavior as well as by the House Democrats’ memo, liberals know that a candidate, party, or president who is seen as a critic rather than a friend of Israel will lose Jewish votes and campaign contributions. It is deeply ironic that it turns out that the most cogent skewering of J Street’s basic premise about public opinion has come from their idol in the White House and the political party they support, not their Jewish critics.

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It’s Getting Ugly for the Democrats

Earlier today, I quoted William Galston telling the Financial Times: “Just as BP’s failure to cap the well has been so damaging, Obama’s failure to cap unemployment will be his undoing. There is nothing he can do to affect the jobless rate before November.”

In the New Republic, Galston, after analyzing the data, writes this:

As if things weren’t bad enough for Democrats, something I didn’t believe possible six months ago has happened: The Senate is now in play. … It’s entirely possible that when the dust settles this November, Republicans will have hit the trifecta — President Obama’s former seat, Vice President Biden’s former seat, plus the Senate majority leader’s seat.

Professor Galston has been sounding the midterm alarm bell for months now while many of his fellow Democrats engaged in self-delusion. That self-delusion is now giving way to panic and recriminations. It’s getting ugly — and it will get uglier still.

Earlier today, I quoted William Galston telling the Financial Times: “Just as BP’s failure to cap the well has been so damaging, Obama’s failure to cap unemployment will be his undoing. There is nothing he can do to affect the jobless rate before November.”

In the New Republic, Galston, after analyzing the data, writes this:

As if things weren’t bad enough for Democrats, something I didn’t believe possible six months ago has happened: The Senate is now in play. … It’s entirely possible that when the dust settles this November, Republicans will have hit the trifecta — President Obama’s former seat, Vice President Biden’s former seat, plus the Senate majority leader’s seat.

Professor Galston has been sounding the midterm alarm bell for months now while many of his fellow Democrats engaged in self-delusion. That self-delusion is now giving way to panic and recriminations. It’s getting ugly — and it will get uglier still.

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Religious Intolerance in the Middle East: Where Should We Focus?

In the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog, Menachem Rosensaft looks at Morocco’s expulsion of  Christian missionaries who were accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage earlier this year. As Rosensaft explains:

A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a [briefing] at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.

At the [briefing], some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980’s. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.”

Rosensaft provides some much-needed perspective on the incident. Morocco, as he observes, is the least of our concerns when it comes to suppression of religious freedom in the Middle East:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, “during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco .” Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.

Rosensaft notes that an anti-proselytizing law, common throughout the Middle East, is what is at issue and what was the basis for the missionaries’ expulsion. Rosensaft concludes:

Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.

Rosensaft is not alone in raising a cautionary flag. The World Jewish Congress last week wrote to the House Foreign Affairs Committee members and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Wolf and James McGovern. The letter included this:

As Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States, I have met with Moroccan leaders on several occasions to discuss our shared commitment in building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities. I am aware first hand that the Kingdom of Morocco is determined to strengthen interfaith relations. As has historically been the case, Morocco’s leaders continue to promote dialogue based on tolerant speech, good intention and honored objectives.

Morocco in the Middle East is a paradigm of religious freedom and tolerance. The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. During World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. There are centuries old synagogues, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants throughout Morocco that are well kept by Muslims. And, there are close ties between Morocco and the State of Israel.

Raphael Benchimol, the rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, also wrote to Wolf this month, urging him to consider Morocco’s record on religious tolerance. He included this account of a synagogue trip this February:

We visited the sites of Moroccan synagogues, places of historic and religious importance to the Moroccan Jewish community, and the final resting places of many of the righteous Moroccan rabbis and sages who have rested in Morocco, in harmony, for thousands of years. Never once during our stay did I see any lack of religious tolerance or freedom. Never once did I sense the “precarious” situation you describe vis-à-vis our religion. To the contrary, I always felt safe and secure to pray and visit any of the Jewish sites without any fear whatsoever. The Muslim citizens of each of the cities we visited were polite, courteous and respectful of our religious tour. Indeed, I observed how many of the locals have a deep reverence for our holy sites. …

To give you an idea of how important the Jewish “minority religion” is to the King and to the Moroccan government, this past May we hosted a special event at our synagogue where several representatives of the Moroccan government, including Ambassador Mekouar, were present. Serge Berdugo, a Jewish Ambassador of the King of Morocco, beautifully presented to our congregants “His Majesty’s gracious and holy plan to identify, refurbish and protect all the Jewish cemeteries and mausoleums in Morocco.” The Ambassador also proudly announced that “as Commander of the faithful, His Majesty safeguards the sacred values of His subjects, Jew and Muslims alike.” This positive message as well as the gracious offer of the King was received with deep gratitude and sheer excitement by the entire congregation.

There is a disturbing pattern of religious oppression and intolerance in Muslim countries — but not in Morocco. The unfortunate situation at the Christian orphanage (how many of those exist in Muslim countries?) should not obscure this. As a savvy analyst explains, “They should never have let evangelicals run orphanages; that was the mistake. When a kid has no home to return to, the religious influence of those acting in loco parentis is inevitable.” But that is a discrete issue, and resolvable by the Moroccan government. It would seem that the best use of the time and focus of Congress — which is at least making a good effort to pick up the slack from an administration utterly indifferent to the issue of religious freedom — would be to focus on the worst actors in the Muslim World, not the best.

In the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog, Menachem Rosensaft looks at Morocco’s expulsion of  Christian missionaries who were accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage earlier this year. As Rosensaft explains:

A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a [briefing] at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.

At the [briefing], some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980’s. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.”

Rosensaft provides some much-needed perspective on the incident. Morocco, as he observes, is the least of our concerns when it comes to suppression of religious freedom in the Middle East:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, “during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco .” Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.

Rosensaft notes that an anti-proselytizing law, common throughout the Middle East, is what is at issue and what was the basis for the missionaries’ expulsion. Rosensaft concludes:

Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.

Rosensaft is not alone in raising a cautionary flag. The World Jewish Congress last week wrote to the House Foreign Affairs Committee members and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Wolf and James McGovern. The letter included this:

As Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States, I have met with Moroccan leaders on several occasions to discuss our shared commitment in building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities. I am aware first hand that the Kingdom of Morocco is determined to strengthen interfaith relations. As has historically been the case, Morocco’s leaders continue to promote dialogue based on tolerant speech, good intention and honored objectives.

Morocco in the Middle East is a paradigm of religious freedom and tolerance. The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. During World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. There are centuries old synagogues, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants throughout Morocco that are well kept by Muslims. And, there are close ties between Morocco and the State of Israel.

Raphael Benchimol, the rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, also wrote to Wolf this month, urging him to consider Morocco’s record on religious tolerance. He included this account of a synagogue trip this February:

We visited the sites of Moroccan synagogues, places of historic and religious importance to the Moroccan Jewish community, and the final resting places of many of the righteous Moroccan rabbis and sages who have rested in Morocco, in harmony, for thousands of years. Never once during our stay did I see any lack of religious tolerance or freedom. Never once did I sense the “precarious” situation you describe vis-à-vis our religion. To the contrary, I always felt safe and secure to pray and visit any of the Jewish sites without any fear whatsoever. The Muslim citizens of each of the cities we visited were polite, courteous and respectful of our religious tour. Indeed, I observed how many of the locals have a deep reverence for our holy sites. …

To give you an idea of how important the Jewish “minority religion” is to the King and to the Moroccan government, this past May we hosted a special event at our synagogue where several representatives of the Moroccan government, including Ambassador Mekouar, were present. Serge Berdugo, a Jewish Ambassador of the King of Morocco, beautifully presented to our congregants “His Majesty’s gracious and holy plan to identify, refurbish and protect all the Jewish cemeteries and mausoleums in Morocco.” The Ambassador also proudly announced that “as Commander of the faithful, His Majesty safeguards the sacred values of His subjects, Jew and Muslims alike.” This positive message as well as the gracious offer of the King was received with deep gratitude and sheer excitement by the entire congregation.

There is a disturbing pattern of religious oppression and intolerance in Muslim countries — but not in Morocco. The unfortunate situation at the Christian orphanage (how many of those exist in Muslim countries?) should not obscure this. As a savvy analyst explains, “They should never have let evangelicals run orphanages; that was the mistake. When a kid has no home to return to, the religious influence of those acting in loco parentis is inevitable.” But that is a discrete issue, and resolvable by the Moroccan government. It would seem that the best use of the time and focus of Congress — which is at least making a good effort to pick up the slack from an administration utterly indifferent to the issue of religious freedom — would be to focus on the worst actors in the Muslim World, not the best.

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Why We Must Prevail in Afghanistan

I don’t agree with everything in George Packer’s short New Yorker article on Afghanistan, but after reviewing the problems with the current policy, he makes a very important point that other critics miss:

No one, however, has been able to come up with an alternative to the current strategy that doesn’t carry great risks. If there were a low-cost way to contain the interconnected groups of extremists in the Hindu Kush—with drones and Special Forces, as Vice-President Biden, among others, has urged—the President would have pursued it. If a return to power of the Taliban, which may well be the outcome of a U.S. withdrawal, did not pose a threat to international security, Obama would have already abandoned Karzai to his fate. But anyone who believes that a re-Talibanized Afghanistan would be a low priority should read the kidnapping narratives of two American journalists, Jere Van Dyk and David Rohde, who were held by the Taliban, along with the autobiography of the former Taliban official known as Mullah Zaeef. Together, these accounts show that the years since 2001 have radicalized the insurgents and imbued them with Al Qaeda’s global agenda. Tactically and ideologically, it’s more and more difficult to distinguish local insurgents from foreign jihadists.

I think Packer is exactly right — which is why it’s so important that we prevail in Afghanistan. I believe our current strategy, under the leadership of General Petraeus and backed by what seems to be a freshly committed president, gives us a good chance to do that, notwithstanding the myriad difficulties we face. I will learn more, however, in Afghanistan itself, which is where I am currently headed.

I don’t agree with everything in George Packer’s short New Yorker article on Afghanistan, but after reviewing the problems with the current policy, he makes a very important point that other critics miss:

No one, however, has been able to come up with an alternative to the current strategy that doesn’t carry great risks. If there were a low-cost way to contain the interconnected groups of extremists in the Hindu Kush—with drones and Special Forces, as Vice-President Biden, among others, has urged—the President would have pursued it. If a return to power of the Taliban, which may well be the outcome of a U.S. withdrawal, did not pose a threat to international security, Obama would have already abandoned Karzai to his fate. But anyone who believes that a re-Talibanized Afghanistan would be a low priority should read the kidnapping narratives of two American journalists, Jere Van Dyk and David Rohde, who were held by the Taliban, along with the autobiography of the former Taliban official known as Mullah Zaeef. Together, these accounts show that the years since 2001 have radicalized the insurgents and imbued them with Al Qaeda’s global agenda. Tactically and ideologically, it’s more and more difficult to distinguish local insurgents from foreign jihadists.

I think Packer is exactly right — which is why it’s so important that we prevail in Afghanistan. I believe our current strategy, under the leadership of General Petraeus and backed by what seems to be a freshly committed president, gives us a good chance to do that, notwithstanding the myriad difficulties we face. I will learn more, however, in Afghanistan itself, which is where I am currently headed.

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Our Petulant President

I wanted to pick up on a point you made, Jen, about the latest example of petulance by our commander in chief. In Politico we read:

Obama chastised what he dubbed a current “obsession” over a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. “My focus right now is how do we make sure what we’re doing there is successful,” he said. “By next year we will begin a transition.”

Perhaps the “obsession” is based on the fact that (a) Obama included a deadline for beginning troop withdrawals in his December 2009 West Point speech; (b) Vice President Biden has said that in “July of 2011 you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it. Bet. On. It”; and (c) as recently as a week ago yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said that July 2011 is a “firm date. … The July 2011 date, as stated by the president, that’s not moving. That’s not changing.”

It’s clear that the government and people in Afghanistan, as well as the Taliban (among others), are “obsessed” about Obama’s timeline and take it seriously. Silly them.

If the president recognizes the errors of his ways and deems the deadline inoperative, terrific. And if he has to pretend that his shift is not really a shift, okay. But we could all do with a little less lecturing and self-righteousness from Captain Kick-A**.

As is usually the case with Obama, the weaker his arguments are, the more peevish and mocking of his critics he becomes. When he can’t refute criticisms with facts, he resorts to ridicule. It’s an old game — and when it comes to our president, an increasingly wearying one. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that as Obama’s failures mount, his ill-temper and irritation increase. Which means that Obama, and the country, have an increasingly dyspeptic few years ahead of us.

I wanted to pick up on a point you made, Jen, about the latest example of petulance by our commander in chief. In Politico we read:

Obama chastised what he dubbed a current “obsession” over a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. “My focus right now is how do we make sure what we’re doing there is successful,” he said. “By next year we will begin a transition.”

Perhaps the “obsession” is based on the fact that (a) Obama included a deadline for beginning troop withdrawals in his December 2009 West Point speech; (b) Vice President Biden has said that in “July of 2011 you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it. Bet. On. It”; and (c) as recently as a week ago yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said that July 2011 is a “firm date. … The July 2011 date, as stated by the president, that’s not moving. That’s not changing.”

It’s clear that the government and people in Afghanistan, as well as the Taliban (among others), are “obsessed” about Obama’s timeline and take it seriously. Silly them.

If the president recognizes the errors of his ways and deems the deadline inoperative, terrific. And if he has to pretend that his shift is not really a shift, okay. But we could all do with a little less lecturing and self-righteousness from Captain Kick-A**.

As is usually the case with Obama, the weaker his arguments are, the more peevish and mocking of his critics he becomes. When he can’t refute criticisms with facts, he resorts to ridicule. It’s an old game — and when it comes to our president, an increasingly wearying one. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that as Obama’s failures mount, his ill-temper and irritation increase. Which means that Obama, and the country, have an increasingly dyspeptic few years ahead of us.

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McChrystal Out, Petraeus In

Bill Kristol called it. General Petraeus is heading out to rescue yet another counterinsurgency effort in trouble. Give credit to President Obama for acting decisively by relieving General McChrystal and immediately picking the best possible replacement, not letting a dangerous vacuum develop.

If there is one general who can step quickly  into the top job in Afghanistan, it is Petraeus, who has been closely involved in formulating the campaign plan along with McChrystal. And if there is one general who knows how to handle the media and the political process (skills that McChrystal obviously lacked), it is Petraeus. That doesn’t mean that he is a “political general” — that dreaded epithet applied by combat soldiers to those who get ahead by playing office politics rather than by proving their worth on the battlefield. Petraeus has proven himself at every level of command, on the battlefield and off. His courage cannot be doubted. Neither can his skill. Already in Iraq, he has pulled off the greatest turnaround in American military history since Matthew Ridgway took over the 8th Army in 1950 during the dark days of the Korean War. Now he has to do it again in Afghanistan. Don’t bet against him.

As for General McChrystal, it is a tragedy that his sterling career has come to such an inglorious end. McChrystal is widely admired, especially in the Special Operations community, and for good reason. He turned the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq into a well-honed killing machine. He also did much to improve the situation in Afghanistan, injecting fresh energy into the war effort and designing a campaign plan that can succeed. He deserves enormous credit, too, for declaring in his first major report to the president last summer that the war effort would fail without a fresh injection of troops. That prompted Obama to send more troops, which now gives the NATO command a shot at success. Unfortunately the Rolling Stone incident showed that he was not quite ready to operate at the highest strategic level, where discretion and judgment are prized, and where Special-Forces swagger can be a liability.

But President Obama should not fool himself into thinking that, by replacing McChrystal with Petraeus, he has magically solved all of the problems with the war effort. There is still that little matter of the looming deadline — July 2011 — for troop withdrawals. Vice President Biden is pulling for a rapid pullout, and Defense Secretary Gates is taking a go-slow approach. McChrystal has been firmly aligned with Gates, while the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, has publicly backed the “light footprint” approach advocated by Biden. That tension will not disappear because of the change of command; Petraeus is a firm believer in the need for a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign, just as McChrystal was. So far, President Obama has been mum on what the deadline means and how many troops will actually come out. He should back his new commander with a firm pledge to make any withdrawal strictly contingent on conditions being met, and he should leave open the possibility of sending more troops if necessary.

Obama also needs to rethink the entire team in Kabul — not just the military component. In Iraq, Petraeus succeeded in part because he found such a capable and cooperative “wing man” — Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Perhaps Eikenberry will work better with Petraeus than he did with McChrystal; certainly Petraues is more diplomatic and better at tending to those kinds of relationships. But I hope that the president would give serious consideration to the other part of Bill Kristol’s suggestion to appoint Ryan Crocker as ambassador in Kabul. And if Crocker wouldn’t do it, because of his health and other reasons, no doubt there is another capable diplomat who could do the job. Whoever the top diplomatic representative is, he needs to cultivate a good relationship with Hamid Karzai — something that Eikenberry has notoriously lacked and that McChrystal, to his credit, did not.

The president has made a good start by putting our very best general into Kabul. But Petraeus will have a tough task ahead of him — and he will need complete support from the president to succeed. In particular, Obama needs to make sure that other members of his administration don’t undercut Petraeus as they once undercut McChrystal. More than that, Obama needs to show the same kind of will to win that President Bush displayed in Iraq when he ordered the surge. Instead, we have mostly had cool ambivalence from the Oval Office, and that has led to the tensions that boiled over in the Rolling Stone article with McChrystal’s aides expressing derogatory views of Biden and other administration higher-ups. It would be nice if Obama were to give speeches on Afghanistan more than once every six months. He can’t just hand off the war to David Petraeus and check that box; a successful war effort needs consistent presidential leadership in public as well as behind closed doors.

Bill Kristol called it. General Petraeus is heading out to rescue yet another counterinsurgency effort in trouble. Give credit to President Obama for acting decisively by relieving General McChrystal and immediately picking the best possible replacement, not letting a dangerous vacuum develop.

If there is one general who can step quickly  into the top job in Afghanistan, it is Petraeus, who has been closely involved in formulating the campaign plan along with McChrystal. And if there is one general who knows how to handle the media and the political process (skills that McChrystal obviously lacked), it is Petraeus. That doesn’t mean that he is a “political general” — that dreaded epithet applied by combat soldiers to those who get ahead by playing office politics rather than by proving their worth on the battlefield. Petraeus has proven himself at every level of command, on the battlefield and off. His courage cannot be doubted. Neither can his skill. Already in Iraq, he has pulled off the greatest turnaround in American military history since Matthew Ridgway took over the 8th Army in 1950 during the dark days of the Korean War. Now he has to do it again in Afghanistan. Don’t bet against him.

As for General McChrystal, it is a tragedy that his sterling career has come to such an inglorious end. McChrystal is widely admired, especially in the Special Operations community, and for good reason. He turned the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq into a well-honed killing machine. He also did much to improve the situation in Afghanistan, injecting fresh energy into the war effort and designing a campaign plan that can succeed. He deserves enormous credit, too, for declaring in his first major report to the president last summer that the war effort would fail without a fresh injection of troops. That prompted Obama to send more troops, which now gives the NATO command a shot at success. Unfortunately the Rolling Stone incident showed that he was not quite ready to operate at the highest strategic level, where discretion and judgment are prized, and where Special-Forces swagger can be a liability.

But President Obama should not fool himself into thinking that, by replacing McChrystal with Petraeus, he has magically solved all of the problems with the war effort. There is still that little matter of the looming deadline — July 2011 — for troop withdrawals. Vice President Biden is pulling for a rapid pullout, and Defense Secretary Gates is taking a go-slow approach. McChrystal has been firmly aligned with Gates, while the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, has publicly backed the “light footprint” approach advocated by Biden. That tension will not disappear because of the change of command; Petraeus is a firm believer in the need for a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign, just as McChrystal was. So far, President Obama has been mum on what the deadline means and how many troops will actually come out. He should back his new commander with a firm pledge to make any withdrawal strictly contingent on conditions being met, and he should leave open the possibility of sending more troops if necessary.

Obama also needs to rethink the entire team in Kabul — not just the military component. In Iraq, Petraeus succeeded in part because he found such a capable and cooperative “wing man” — Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Perhaps Eikenberry will work better with Petraeus than he did with McChrystal; certainly Petraues is more diplomatic and better at tending to those kinds of relationships. But I hope that the president would give serious consideration to the other part of Bill Kristol’s suggestion to appoint Ryan Crocker as ambassador in Kabul. And if Crocker wouldn’t do it, because of his health and other reasons, no doubt there is another capable diplomat who could do the job. Whoever the top diplomatic representative is, he needs to cultivate a good relationship with Hamid Karzai — something that Eikenberry has notoriously lacked and that McChrystal, to his credit, did not.

The president has made a good start by putting our very best general into Kabul. But Petraeus will have a tough task ahead of him — and he will need complete support from the president to succeed. In particular, Obama needs to make sure that other members of his administration don’t undercut Petraeus as they once undercut McChrystal. More than that, Obama needs to show the same kind of will to win that President Bush displayed in Iraq when he ordered the surge. Instead, we have mostly had cool ambivalence from the Oval Office, and that has led to the tensions that boiled over in the Rolling Stone article with McChrystal’s aides expressing derogatory views of Biden and other administration higher-ups. It would be nice if Obama were to give speeches on Afghanistan more than once every six months. He can’t just hand off the war to David Petraeus and check that box; a successful war effort needs consistent presidential leadership in public as well as behind closed doors.

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Should the General Be Called on the Carpet?

America’s top commander in the war in Afghanistan found himself in deep trouble this morning as the news spread about a profile in Rolling Stone magazine in which Gen. Stanley McChrystal and members of his staff were said to crack wise at the expense of several members of the administration and the president himself.

But having read the text of the article, which is not yet available in the magazine’s online edition, it is clear that the uproar about the general’s supposed insubordination is not justified by the text. The only direct quotes from McChrystal are hardly the sorts of things for which he deserves to be summoned, as he reportedly has been, to Washington for a dressing down by the commander in chief.

One supposedly damning quote was supposed to be a slur on Vice President Joe Biden, who opposed the surge and McChrystal’s recommendations for pursuing the war. But all it amounts to is an exchange in which an aide gives some ribald advice about how to avoid answering any questions about the vice president. The other was a quote in which the general did criticize Karl Eikenberry, America’s ambassador to Kabul. Last year Eikenberry leaked a memo criticizing McChrystal and his strategies to the press in an effort to derail Obama’s decision to send the general the reinforcements he asked for. McChrystal rightly called that act by a former military colleague a “betrayal.” Those expecting McChrystal to be sacked because of the fallout from the article should also remember that Eikenberry did not lose his job over that incident even though the president has made it clear that leaks are to be severely punished.

The rest of the article is a thinly veiled attack on the war effort and the idea that it can be won by the counterinsurgency tactics that McChrystal has championed. While the piece resurrects every unflattering incident in the general’s long career, the accounts of McChrystal’s own behavior in the field in Afghanistan portray him as a courageous soldier who cares for his men and sympathizes with their dilemmas in dealing with the highly restrictive rules of engagement he has designed, which often place them in danger so as to avoid civilian casualties.

As for the other controversial quotes, the contempt that the soldiers seem to have for National Security Adviser James Jones, special diplomatic envoy Richard Holbrooke, and Ambassador Eikenberry is justified. Their unhappiness with Vice President Biden’s influence on war policy is also understandable, as is their reaction to the president’s own uncertain grasp of military strategy. But however much one might sympathize with McChrystal’s plight today, allowing his aides to gripe about their civilian masters in the presence of a freelance writer for Rolling Stone, of all publications, is as dumb as anything Obama’s merry band of strategic incompetents might have done. In a democracy, civilian-military tensions can only be resolved in one way: in favor of the civilians, as Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Gen. George McClellan discovered to their great dismay. Right or wrong, it is not the place of a serving military commander to publicly question the wisdom of the president.

But if Obama takes the time to read the text of the article, he will see that McChrystal is not the disloyal soldier he is being painted as in the first press accounts of this story, such as in the New York Times’s account published today. Far from being evidence of McChrystal’s insubordination, the article actually says much more about the administration’s mistakes in the course of a war to which they have committed so much American blood and treasure. If there is dissension in the ranks about some of the political and diplomatic blunders of the past year and a half, it speaks more to Obama’s own failure to exert leadership than to McChrystal’s faults. While Obama may be annoyed at the publication of this piece, at a time when the outcome of the war is still very much in the balance the president’s focus now should be on how to help Stanley McChrystal win, not whether the general is sufficiently respectful of administration figures who are not helping him in that fight.

America’s top commander in the war in Afghanistan found himself in deep trouble this morning as the news spread about a profile in Rolling Stone magazine in which Gen. Stanley McChrystal and members of his staff were said to crack wise at the expense of several members of the administration and the president himself.

But having read the text of the article, which is not yet available in the magazine’s online edition, it is clear that the uproar about the general’s supposed insubordination is not justified by the text. The only direct quotes from McChrystal are hardly the sorts of things for which he deserves to be summoned, as he reportedly has been, to Washington for a dressing down by the commander in chief.

One supposedly damning quote was supposed to be a slur on Vice President Joe Biden, who opposed the surge and McChrystal’s recommendations for pursuing the war. But all it amounts to is an exchange in which an aide gives some ribald advice about how to avoid answering any questions about the vice president. The other was a quote in which the general did criticize Karl Eikenberry, America’s ambassador to Kabul. Last year Eikenberry leaked a memo criticizing McChrystal and his strategies to the press in an effort to derail Obama’s decision to send the general the reinforcements he asked for. McChrystal rightly called that act by a former military colleague a “betrayal.” Those expecting McChrystal to be sacked because of the fallout from the article should also remember that Eikenberry did not lose his job over that incident even though the president has made it clear that leaks are to be severely punished.

The rest of the article is a thinly veiled attack on the war effort and the idea that it can be won by the counterinsurgency tactics that McChrystal has championed. While the piece resurrects every unflattering incident in the general’s long career, the accounts of McChrystal’s own behavior in the field in Afghanistan portray him as a courageous soldier who cares for his men and sympathizes with their dilemmas in dealing with the highly restrictive rules of engagement he has designed, which often place them in danger so as to avoid civilian casualties.

As for the other controversial quotes, the contempt that the soldiers seem to have for National Security Adviser James Jones, special diplomatic envoy Richard Holbrooke, and Ambassador Eikenberry is justified. Their unhappiness with Vice President Biden’s influence on war policy is also understandable, as is their reaction to the president’s own uncertain grasp of military strategy. But however much one might sympathize with McChrystal’s plight today, allowing his aides to gripe about their civilian masters in the presence of a freelance writer for Rolling Stone, of all publications, is as dumb as anything Obama’s merry band of strategic incompetents might have done. In a democracy, civilian-military tensions can only be resolved in one way: in favor of the civilians, as Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Gen. George McClellan discovered to their great dismay. Right or wrong, it is not the place of a serving military commander to publicly question the wisdom of the president.

But if Obama takes the time to read the text of the article, he will see that McChrystal is not the disloyal soldier he is being painted as in the first press accounts of this story, such as in the New York Times’s account published today. Far from being evidence of McChrystal’s insubordination, the article actually says much more about the administration’s mistakes in the course of a war to which they have committed so much American blood and treasure. If there is dissension in the ranks about some of the political and diplomatic blunders of the past year and a half, it speaks more to Obama’s own failure to exert leadership than to McChrystal’s faults. While Obama may be annoyed at the publication of this piece, at a time when the outcome of the war is still very much in the balance the president’s focus now should be on how to help Stanley McChrystal win, not whether the general is sufficiently respectful of administration figures who are not helping him in that fight.

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McChrystal’s Media Woes

If there is one knock on Stanley McChrystal, generally considered one of the top generals in the entire armed forces, it is that, coming from the secretive world of “black” special operations, he is not experienced in dealing with the media. The consequences of that inexperience have now exploded in his face in the form of a hostile Rolling Stone article entitled “Runaway General.”

What on earth was McChrystal thinking, one wonders, when he decided to grant so much access to an anti-war reporter from an anti-war magazine? Michael Hastings’s animus against the war effort shines through every inch of his article. His conclusion is that “winning” in Afghanistan “is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.” Along the way he brands the counterinsurgency strategy that McChrystal is implementing “a controversial strategy” that is advocated only by “COINdiniastas” notorious for their “their cultish zeal.” When he quotes outside experts in the article, all of them express disparaging views about the prospects of success. For instance:

“The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people,” says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. “The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.”

There is no indication in the article that Macgregor is a notorious maverick widely known for his eccentric views, which included calling for the lightest of footprints in the invasion of Iraq (he thought that 50,000 troops would be sufficient) and later opposing the surge in Iraq.

Yet while Macgregor may think McChrystal is implementing an unworkable theory, McChrystal’s plan has had the solid support of General David Petraeus, head of Central Command; Admiral James Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Admiral Michael Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and, after an agonizing three-month review in the fall that considered every conceivable alternative, President Obama, himself.

McChrystal was undoubtedly stupid to grant so much access to a hostile reporter, and his aides were equally clueless in making some disparaging remarks in front of this reporter about Vice President Biden and National Security Adviser Jim Jones, among others. But that in no way invalidates McChrystal’s plan, which should be carried out, with some inevitable adjustments, by whomever is the NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Should that person be McChrystal? Despite the calls for his firing emanating from the usual quarters on the left, the general is certainly not guilty of violating the chain of command in the way that truly insubordinate generals like Douglas MacArthur have. Recall that MacArthur publicly disagreed with Truman’ strategy in the Korean War. Likewise, Admiral Fox Fallon was fired as Centcom commander in 2008 after publicly disagreeing in an Esquire article with Bush-administration strategy over Iran. McChrystal does nothing of the sort. At worst, one of his aides says that McChrystal was “disappointed” by his initial meetings with the president, who looked “uncomfortable and intimidated.” Most of the disparaging comments heard from McChrystal’s aides are directed not at the president but at presidential aides who oppose the strategy that the president himself announced back in the fall and that McChrystal is working 24/7 to implement. Is this type of banter enough for Obama to fire McChrystal?

It could be, but if he does it could represent a setback to the war effort — and to the president’s hopes to withdraw some troops next summer. The least disruption would occur if a general already in Afghanistan — Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day to day operations, is the obvious choice — takes over. If an outsider were chosen (e.g., Marine General Jim Mattis), there would likely be a delay of months while the new commander conducted his own assessment of the situation. That’s a delay we can ill afford right now. On the other hand, we can ill afford having McChrystal stay if he is so discredited with the commander in chief and so weakened in internal-administration deliberations that he cannot stand up to the attempts by Biden and other internal critics to downsize the mission prematurely.

McChrystal has undoubtedly created a major problem for himself, his command, and the larger mission in Afghanistan. But I still believe he is a terrific general who has come up with a good strategy and has energized a listless command that was drifting when he took over. Notwithstanding the current turmoil, the war remains eminently winnable, and the McChrystal strategy remains the best option for winning it.

If there is one knock on Stanley McChrystal, generally considered one of the top generals in the entire armed forces, it is that, coming from the secretive world of “black” special operations, he is not experienced in dealing with the media. The consequences of that inexperience have now exploded in his face in the form of a hostile Rolling Stone article entitled “Runaway General.”

What on earth was McChrystal thinking, one wonders, when he decided to grant so much access to an anti-war reporter from an anti-war magazine? Michael Hastings’s animus against the war effort shines through every inch of his article. His conclusion is that “winning” in Afghanistan “is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.” Along the way he brands the counterinsurgency strategy that McChrystal is implementing “a controversial strategy” that is advocated only by “COINdiniastas” notorious for their “their cultish zeal.” When he quotes outside experts in the article, all of them express disparaging views about the prospects of success. For instance:

“The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people,” says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. “The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.”

There is no indication in the article that Macgregor is a notorious maverick widely known for his eccentric views, which included calling for the lightest of footprints in the invasion of Iraq (he thought that 50,000 troops would be sufficient) and later opposing the surge in Iraq.

Yet while Macgregor may think McChrystal is implementing an unworkable theory, McChrystal’s plan has had the solid support of General David Petraeus, head of Central Command; Admiral James Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Admiral Michael Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and, after an agonizing three-month review in the fall that considered every conceivable alternative, President Obama, himself.

McChrystal was undoubtedly stupid to grant so much access to a hostile reporter, and his aides were equally clueless in making some disparaging remarks in front of this reporter about Vice President Biden and National Security Adviser Jim Jones, among others. But that in no way invalidates McChrystal’s plan, which should be carried out, with some inevitable adjustments, by whomever is the NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Should that person be McChrystal? Despite the calls for his firing emanating from the usual quarters on the left, the general is certainly not guilty of violating the chain of command in the way that truly insubordinate generals like Douglas MacArthur have. Recall that MacArthur publicly disagreed with Truman’ strategy in the Korean War. Likewise, Admiral Fox Fallon was fired as Centcom commander in 2008 after publicly disagreeing in an Esquire article with Bush-administration strategy over Iran. McChrystal does nothing of the sort. At worst, one of his aides says that McChrystal was “disappointed” by his initial meetings with the president, who looked “uncomfortable and intimidated.” Most of the disparaging comments heard from McChrystal’s aides are directed not at the president but at presidential aides who oppose the strategy that the president himself announced back in the fall and that McChrystal is working 24/7 to implement. Is this type of banter enough for Obama to fire McChrystal?

It could be, but if he does it could represent a setback to the war effort — and to the president’s hopes to withdraw some troops next summer. The least disruption would occur if a general already in Afghanistan — Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day to day operations, is the obvious choice — takes over. If an outsider were chosen (e.g., Marine General Jim Mattis), there would likely be a delay of months while the new commander conducted his own assessment of the situation. That’s a delay we can ill afford right now. On the other hand, we can ill afford having McChrystal stay if he is so discredited with the commander in chief and so weakened in internal-administration deliberations that he cannot stand up to the attempts by Biden and other internal critics to downsize the mission prematurely.

McChrystal has undoubtedly created a major problem for himself, his command, and the larger mission in Afghanistan. But I still believe he is a terrific general who has come up with a good strategy and has energized a listless command that was drifting when he took over. Notwithstanding the current turmoil, the war remains eminently winnable, and the McChrystal strategy remains the best option for winning it.

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The Military vs. Obama

The news of the day is certainly Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s interview with Rolling Stone magazine and the potential fallout. Fox News reports:

The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops. “I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. “I was selling an unsellable position.” It quoted an adviser to McChrystal dismissing the early meeting with Obama as a “10-minute photo op.” “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. The boss was pretty disappointed,” the adviser told the magazine.

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

Asked by the Rolling Stone reporter about what he now feels of the war strategy advocated by Biden last fall – fewer troops, more drone attacks – McChrystal and his aides reportedly attempted to come up with a good one-liner to dismiss the question. “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal reportedly joked. “Who’s that?”

Biden initially opposed McChrystal’s proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.

“Biden?” one aide was quoted as saying. “Did you say: Bite me?”

Another aide reportedly called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four star general, a “clown” who was “stuck in 1985.”

Some of the strongest criticism, however, was reserved for Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” one of the general’s aides was quoted as saying. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”

If [Karl] Eikenberry had doubts about the troop buildup, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal said he felt “betrayed” and accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” McChrystal told the magazine. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so.”‘

Yeah, wow. There are two issues here — McChrystal’s behavior and the president’s management of the war.

As to the first, Dana Perino wisely advises, “Unless you’re Al Gore or Robert F. Kennedy Jr., if Rolling Stone calls, it’s not because they want to do a positive profile about you.” It was, as McChrystal concedes, a lapse in judgment and a very bad idea to spill his guts to any reporter. He’s been called to Washington to “explain” himself to Obama. Should he be fired? If he is doing his job and is essential to the war effort, then no. But Obama could well decide otherwise. The president is a notoriously thin-skinned man and may also see this as a strategic opportunity to show how tough he is. (Yes, he has the annoying habit of demonstrating how tough he is to someone/some country other than an enemy — Israel, not Iran, for example.)

The substance of what McChrystal is saying is obscured somewhat by the personalized tone (no doubt encouraged by the Rolling Stone reporter to whom the general should not have spoken). But the gravamen of what he is saying is serious and deeply troubling. He is giving voice to what many have been fretting about and what critics outside the administration have been harping on for some time: the White House and the civilian leadership are hampering our war effort. This is not a question of “civilian control”; the president has already declared, albeit with caveats and reservations, that he considers it vital to prevail in Afghanistan. The issue is whether the White House is competent enough and its advisers grown-up enough to support and not hinder the military.

At the very least, this demonstrates Obama’s complete failure to manage the war and to gain the confidence of the military. When this occurs, you can blame the general (again, he’s not disobeying operational orders but merely speaking out of school), but the fault lies with the commander in chief. McChrystal may resign or be fired, but his successor will have the same problems unless the White House gets it act together.

The news of the day is certainly Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s interview with Rolling Stone magazine and the potential fallout. Fox News reports:

The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops. “I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. “I was selling an unsellable position.” It quoted an adviser to McChrystal dismissing the early meeting with Obama as a “10-minute photo op.” “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. The boss was pretty disappointed,” the adviser told the magazine.

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

Asked by the Rolling Stone reporter about what he now feels of the war strategy advocated by Biden last fall – fewer troops, more drone attacks – McChrystal and his aides reportedly attempted to come up with a good one-liner to dismiss the question. “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal reportedly joked. “Who’s that?”

Biden initially opposed McChrystal’s proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.

“Biden?” one aide was quoted as saying. “Did you say: Bite me?”

Another aide reportedly called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four star general, a “clown” who was “stuck in 1985.”

Some of the strongest criticism, however, was reserved for Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” one of the general’s aides was quoted as saying. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”

If [Karl] Eikenberry had doubts about the troop buildup, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal said he felt “betrayed” and accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” McChrystal told the magazine. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so.”‘

Yeah, wow. There are two issues here — McChrystal’s behavior and the president’s management of the war.

As to the first, Dana Perino wisely advises, “Unless you’re Al Gore or Robert F. Kennedy Jr., if Rolling Stone calls, it’s not because they want to do a positive profile about you.” It was, as McChrystal concedes, a lapse in judgment and a very bad idea to spill his guts to any reporter. He’s been called to Washington to “explain” himself to Obama. Should he be fired? If he is doing his job and is essential to the war effort, then no. But Obama could well decide otherwise. The president is a notoriously thin-skinned man and may also see this as a strategic opportunity to show how tough he is. (Yes, he has the annoying habit of demonstrating how tough he is to someone/some country other than an enemy — Israel, not Iran, for example.)

The substance of what McChrystal is saying is obscured somewhat by the personalized tone (no doubt encouraged by the Rolling Stone reporter to whom the general should not have spoken). But the gravamen of what he is saying is serious and deeply troubling. He is giving voice to what many have been fretting about and what critics outside the administration have been harping on for some time: the White House and the civilian leadership are hampering our war effort. This is not a question of “civilian control”; the president has already declared, albeit with caveats and reservations, that he considers it vital to prevail in Afghanistan. The issue is whether the White House is competent enough and its advisers grown-up enough to support and not hinder the military.

At the very least, this demonstrates Obama’s complete failure to manage the war and to gain the confidence of the military. When this occurs, you can blame the general (again, he’s not disobeying operational orders but merely speaking out of school), but the fault lies with the commander in chief. McChrystal may resign or be fired, but his successor will have the same problems unless the White House gets it act together.

Read Less




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