I have not paid terribly close attention to the specific recommendations of General Stanley McCrystal, but I’ve watched close enough to know that according to a classified report written by the general, he believes the war in Afghanistan “will likely result in failure” if more troops are not added next year.
During the Bush administration those on the left made a huge deal out of Gen. Eric Shinseki’s testimony that more troops should be sent to Iraq. The way they framed the debate, even if a thousand generals said the number of troops in Iraq was appropriate, since Shinseki said more were needed, Bush was not listening to the advice of his generals. I have never heard a general (or any member of the military) quoted as often as liberals quoted Shinseki, or more frequently, just mentioned his name in lieu of an argument.
When President Bush implemented the “surge” in Iraq those on the left gave him no credit for following the advice of Gen. David Petraeus. For many, many months, even when progress was obvious and measurable, most on the left refused to acknowledge the success of the new strategy, and certainly gave Bush no points for changing course to respond to facts on the ground. Many still cited Shinseki saying nothing Bush did later mattered since he did not follow the recommendation of Shinseki in 2003.
I can’t help but wonder at what point does Gen. McCrystal become Obama’s Gen. Shinseki.
Worse than not following the advice of McCrystal, it appears Obama is not even hearing that advice first hand on a regular basis. In a 60 Minutes interview over the weekend, Gen. McCrystal revealed that President Obama has only spoken to him once in the past 70 days. Steve Schippert has a must read post on the subject at Threatswatch. Here is an excerpt.
No time for updates from Afghanistan from the man tasked with commanding the operation. There are talks to be had with the Iranian regime and North Korean regime, after all. Government intervention in the Health Care sector is clearly a higher priority than chit chats with some sweaty guy in dusty camouflage pants half way around the world.
The president delivers a vital speech to union members at an AFL-CIO meeting in Pittsburgh, leading them in fever-pitched chants of “Are you fired up?!? Are you ready to go?!?” in reference to winning their support for the Obama Health Care effort.
Our troops meanwhile, from top to bottom, can pound sand in place where they stand in Iraq and Afghanistan. No such rallies for them or the American people for their efforts. Nope. None.
Zero. Zip. Nada. Oh, but President Obama did have a chit chat with General McChrystal one a couple of months ago. That’s got to count for something, right?
I’ve been in the Roosevelt Room off the Oval Office with a live secure video feed from Baghdad headquarters. I’ve been in the Situation room several times with live secure video feeds with commanders in both Baghdad and Kabul. It is not difficult. One merely needs the wherewithal, the intellectual curiosity and the sense of urgency to sit, listen and then converse.
Why is this president unable or unwilling to do this on a regular basis? After all, isn’t this the ‘good war’ that is “necessary” and “right”?
The answer, to put a necessarily blunt edge on it, is because on issues of National Security and the conduct of warfare, President Obama is woefully out of his depth and has not surrounded himself with the kind of people that can bridge the gap between what he understands and what he needs to understand. The absence of interest and/or priority is a horribly difficult challenge to overcome in a leader. Steve goes on to look at the weight Obama is putting on the opinion of VP Joe Biden compared to that of McCrystal and Petraeus.