General McChrystal speaking out

I am reminded of the extraordinary influence on the white house such as occurred after Reagan was shot and general Haig said he was in control. The President has to remember he is the President far above being a military commander. The military influence over the American population is so pervasive, I call it a false religion. I fear political leaders are influenced in their decisions because of this. We Americans are weary and leery of warfare and voted for ending the war in Iraq and perhaps most want a deescalation of what is happening in Afghanistan. The will of the people was realized in the election of Obama and we expected action along those lines, so why hasn't it happened? Specifically in regard to General McChrystal speaking out, it showed the modern lack of political control over the military OR the latent fact thereof. The General should not have spoken publicly, but through the chain of command. Robert Gates desire to keep it PRIVATE however, is wrong and is contrary to the ideals of a true democracy we claim to be. I hope he didn't mean secret. Actually, I believe it is imperative the military and the political people be frank and public in their deliberations comparing same to parliamentary process. It is very important that the debate be public as the entire countries population is affected in psychy and in actual life and death. Everyone must know their place but treat each others views equally. The civilian control of the military must be vigorously protected and preserved. The political people must have the last word.
— Patrick

Gen. McChrystal should not appear to present Mr. Obama with only one option …it smacks of the all to public dispute between Truman and MacArthur during the Korean War…

McChrystal is on to one important issue that goes unreported… The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Taliban are bitter enemies due to the centuries old animus between the Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam…

Further, a major debilitating problem in Iran, especially Tehran, is IV drug use and it is easy to figure out where the drugs come from …I’ve seen it first hand…

All in, Iran could be a very important natural ally to the U.S. and NATO forces in dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan…
— Obama Voter

This is the wrong war as it is no longer “The War on Terror” which practically expired when the Taleban Government fell.

What the NATO forces are dealing with is the wishes of the Pashtun tribes to do away with the British imposed “Durand Line” that was drawn up in 1893 to protect “British India” which included present day Pakistan from the threats by Imperial Russia (as it stands now there are about 15 million Pashtuns in Afghanistan and 30 million in Pakistan).

Pashtuns in Pakistan command and enjoy substantial economic, political and military power and are determined to absorb the Pashtun provinces in Afghanistan into greater Pakistan.

Karzai Government on the other hand is trying to accomplish the opposite and the NATO forces are caught in the middle of this vicious power play….

This issue will NOT be resolved till both Pakistan and Afghanistan Governments agree to a settlement and deal with the wishes and aspirations of the Pashtuns!

It is with great sadness to witness the loss of life both of the Pashtuns and the NATO forces day in and day out.

The UN needs to take charge here, bring Afghan and Pakistan leaders along-with the Pashtun Elders to the table and arrange for a transition period either way….

This needs a political solution as NATO nor any Army for that matter will have sufficient resources to fight 45 million Pashtuns, the corrupt Afghan Government dedicated to milking the sponsors of the War on Terror and a Pakistan Government bent on destabilizing Afghanistan.
— Hassan Azarm

Failure to listen very carefully, and with an open mind, to the General’s recommendations would in my opinion be Presidential malpractice. Does anyone really believe that we can just ignore the Taliban and defeat al Qaeda? Or, is the President just looking for an excuse to mollify the left wing of his party. I hope there is no truth to the notion that Obama is “giving” them Afghanistan in return for abandoning single payer and government option in health care.
— Jake

I’m a heck of a lot more interested in McChrystal’s comments than I am in most of the idiots in the present administration or anyone from the Washington Post.
— Bill

The general is correct on one thing: either turning Afghanistan into a clone of East Texas is a goal to which we should be fully devoted regardless of any future cost in American lives and fortune, or we should get out. Personally I would vote for getting out. Those who profit from the war itself or who have a financial stake in future possible pipeline routes from Turkmenistan quite understandably might feel differently.
— Donald Surr

I want generals to tell the American public what they think. If they do, then the American public can decide whether or not the political leaders are acting wisely. I remember General Shinseki (I hope I am spelling his name correctly) explaining to congress why the plan to pacify Iraq was doomed to failure. He was right which one one reason I did not support the last administration’s Iraq policy. I want generals, who are after all the people who know how to fight a war, to explain to me what is and what is not. Then and only then can I form a sound view of the reality in any theater of war.
— Jeff

Yes, Gen. McChrystal is being treated like Gen. Shinseki, and Obama should not make the same mistake Bush made of attempting to muzzle a general who brings inconvenient news. Biden’s Rumsfeld2.0 plan would be a disaster, just as his harebrained plan to divide Iraq up into 3 countries would have been a disaster if implemented. Both McChrystal and Petraeus are apolitical and supporters of civilian control of the military, in spite some suggestions from the right that Petraeus should eventually enter politics. McChrystal is to be thanked for stimulating public debate on the options in Afghanistan. These need to be discussed vigorously before a decision on troop strength is made, and demonizing McChrystal is a mistake.

My major criticism of McChrystal’s speech was that it did not adequately deal with a huge military problem that is just as serious as political corruption in Afghanistan. This problem is that the Afghan army is overwhelmingly controlled by leftovers from the old “Northern Alliance.” These are largely Turkic people who have long competed with the non-Turkic Pashtun, who support or at least tolerate the Taliban. If this northern-alliance-led Afghan Army does not expand into a national army subject to significant Pashtun control and leadership, the Afghan army will never gain the trust of Pashtun tribespeople, who will continue to actively or passively support the Taliban. And if the Afghan army is not viewed as a friendly force by Pashtuns, then no amount of US power will be effective. Reform — not simply training — of the Afghan army is the most urgent problem of all from a military point of view. To Pashtun villagers, it is probably even more important than the voting fraud in the recent election.
— C.C.

It’s time to get the hell out of there, period. what is it about END OF EMPIRE our nation cannot accept?

all of a sudden, once again, everyone is becoming an expert on an ancient nation thousands of miles away that poses no threat to us.

once again the military is talking up spending our blood and treasure in a place it absolutely does not understand.

once again we are defending a claque of drug dealers in the name of national security.

only one thing is certain: there will be a definitive defeat for the US in Afghanistan. the only question is when, how much will be squandered along the way, and will it destroy obama as it did lbj.
— harvey wasserman


Anonymous said...

Gorbachev Was Right

We’re all prisoners of our own experiences. Richard Holbrooke, the Obama Administration’s diplomatic point man on Afghanistan, and the subject of my colleague George Packer’s terrific Profile last week, arrives at the current dilemmas influenced by Vietnam and Bosnia. General David Petraeus, Obama’s commander for the Middle East and Central Asian region, and General Stan McChrystal, his commander in Afghanistan, arrive at this intersection with the recent lessons of counterinsurgency in Iraq ringing in their ears. In some respects the debate over what strategy Obama should now adopt in Afghanistan has become a debilitating contest of historical analogies and comparative case studies. A similar discourse broke out recently after Russia’s incursion into Georgia; the incident occurred during the Obama-McCain Presidential campaign, and McCain invoked comparisons to Hungary, 1956, and even the Second World War. The wise editor of this magazine, setting such comparisons aside, quoted the English theologian Joseph Butler, with whom, frankly, I was unacquainted. Anyway, Butler apparently once wrote, “Everything is what it is, and not another thing.” It is a more useful way to think about the value of history in policymaking than the historical-case-study debate method, I agree, and the quotation has stuck with me.

Anonymous said...

Of course, this philosophy does not make history irrelevant at moments like this. And you might argue that of all the analogies that should be reviewed as Obama makes his choices, those rooted in recent Afghan history are the most useful, since, in some respects, they are “not another thing.”

In the mid-nineteen-eighties, when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, he inherited a deteriorating war in Afghanistan. He wanted out but he was boxed in by hardliners in his Politburo and military. Gradually, however, he constructed an exit strategy from Afghanistan. It had several components, all of which are present, in amended forms, in the current Obama policy debate.

In Afghanistan, after an initial and failed attempt to use special forces more aggressively to hit Islamist guerrillas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the Soviets began to pull back into Afghanistan’s major cities and to “Afghan-ize” their military operations. As they prepared to withdraw, Soviet troops moved away from direct combat, particularly in the countryside, and instead concentrated on training and equipping the Afghan forces. They also provided supplies and expertise the Afghans lacked—air power, for example, and SCUD missiles. As I described in a previous post, this military strategy worked pretty well, and the Soviet city-fortresses withstood heavy assaults from the U.S.-financed mujaheddin even after Soviet troops left the country; they left only a thousand or two military and intelligence advisers behind.

Anonymous said...

Gorbachev’s Afghan client, President Najibullah, seized the space created by the Soviet transition. He negotiated with tribes, won defections, and preached relentlessly about national unity and Islam. If you listened to his unifying rhetoric by 1989, it would be very difficult to tell that he was once a communist secret-police chief; his playlist sounded similar to the Islam-friendly nationalism of the late Saddam Hussein period in Iraq. Najibullah was a tough guy, too, and in the Afghan context his strength and ruthless reputation seemed to aid his political strategy. In essence, he practiced and partially succeeded at a prospective Obama approach that is short-handed as “reconciliation” or “national reintegration” in reference to the Taliban. Najibullah never brought his main enemies into the fold, but he bought time and held his ground in what amounted to a prolonged stalemate.

Gorbachev had a broader vision for his exit strategy than merely propping up Najibullah to conduct tribal negotiations, however. He believed that the Soviet Union and the United States, having effectively concluded their debilitating and devastating proxy war in Afghanistan, now had a shared interest in promoting stability in South and Central Asia. Gorbachev advocated U.N.-brokered regional negotiations aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan and isolating Islamist extremists. This in turn would create stability along the southern rim of the Soviet Union, where Muslim populations resided. Surely, Gorbachev argued, the United States did not wish to see anti-American Islamic extremists come to power in Kabul, at least not without the ameliorating effect of coalition arrangements and power-sharing with Najibullah? Didn’t the United States want moderates to prevail in Pakistan, next door, where a fragile constitutional democracy had only recently been restored?

Anonymous said...

The U.N. attempted, with ambivalent U.S. involvement, to pursue this vision of regional diplomacy and stabilization, through negotiations between 1988 and 1992 that included Najibullah and other Afghan leaders. It failed, however, in part because the United States, until the end of 1991, continued to fund and support a “military solution” for the mujaheddin favored by Pakistan’s army and intelligence service. The C.I.A. argued in favor of the military solution. It then concluded, as one assault after another on Najibullah-defended cities failed, that the U.S. had no further interests in the country and should pack up its financing and diplomacy and go home. A few years later, the Taliban took Kabul. One of the American policymakers responsible for this sequence of policy decisions—who was deeply skeptical of Gorbachev during the late nineteen-eighties and who was present at the decision to abandon the difficult work of regional diplomacy in 1991-1992 that Gorbachev favored—was Robert Gates, who is now Secretary of Defense. By all accounts, Gates has been a successful, pragmatic, and reliable adviser to both Bush and Obama in his current role. He certainly has been open and contrite in public remarks about the lessons that United States learned on September 11th, an event rooted (but only in part) in the U.S. decision to abandon Afghanistan to extremism and chronic instability a decade before. Gates will be in the room when Obama makes America’s next fateful decisions about Afghan policy.

That decision should be made on the basis of realistic assessments of American interests and capabilities, as they are in the present and can be forecasted the future, not on the basis of the past. (Every thing is what it is.) But one of the questions facing Obama is whether a vision of regional stability and even prosperity in South and Central Asia—beyond the problem of Al Qaeda—is worth the price of prolonged and risky American investments. On that question, we can make an observation about the past: Gorbachev was right.

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