On Obama, McChrystal, and Petraeus

June 23, 2010

As I expected, President Obama has relieved General McChrystal of his command in Afghanistan:

President Obama named Gen. David Petraeus as top commander in Afghanistan on Wednesday after he relieved Gen. Stanley McChrystal for disparaging comments McChrystal and his staff had made about senior administration officials in a magazine article.

Petraeus, currently McChrystal’s boss as head of Central Command, needs to be confirmed by the Senate before he can assume the job. He is widely credited with turning the tide of the war in Iraq with a counterinsurgency strategy he authored. As Obama’s third top commander in Afghanistan, he will be expected to repeat his Iraq success.

“Make no mistake,” Obama said. “We have a clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban’s momentum.”

“This is a change in personnel, but it is not a change in policy,” Obama said Wednesday in a Rose Garden appearance.

Obama said he accepted McChrystal’s resignation because his conduct “does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general.”

And he’s right. McChrystal showed very bad judgment in granting that interview, letting his staff disparage the civilian leadership, and then doing nothing to repair things when allowed to review it. As Chuck DeVore, himself a retired Lt. Colonel in the US Army Reserve, pointed out, McChrystal was in violation of Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. For the sake of the office of the President and not just for himself, Obama had to accept McChrystal’s resignation.

The choice of General Petraeus to replace him is surprising, but, I think, a very good one. Not only was Petraeus the architect of victory in Iraq, but he has a well-deserved reputation for being able to handle the political and diplomatic challenges his new duties with throw at him, not the least of which being the very touchy Afghan President, Hamid Karzai. In other words, he carries both substantial military and political credibility.

He’ll need every bit of it, too. The current offensive is not going well, the Taliban is building momentum, the Afghan government is unsure they can rely on us, and this brouhaha over McChrystal has to hurt morale in the Afghan theater.  While it seems unusual for general to step down from a position with global responsibilities (in Petraeus’ case, head of Central Command)  to resume a field command, I believe he is perhaps the only general to possess what the Romans called auctoritas – the needed prestige, clout, and authority to do what needs to be done.

So here are some rare words of praise from me for the President: he did what needed to be done, he didn’t dither, he chose probably the best man to take over, and he recommitted his Administration to the fight. (Unavoidable grumble: I wish he had used the word “victory.”)

Let’s hope that good for us and for Afghanistan comes from this fiasco.

LINKS: More from Hot Air, with a compare and contrast video presentation, and from Michael Barone. The Anchoress has a round-up of reactions to the dismissal of McChrystal and the return of Petraeus.

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Obscure presidents worth remembering

June 23, 2010

Okay, I admit to having a fondness for obscure presidents. I mean, who isn’t fascinated by the Fillmore administration? And Chester Arthur? Enough said, know what I mean?

Kidding aside, Alan Snyder at Big Government draws our attention to two nearly forgotten presidents who nevertheless have good advice for us, more than a century after they served: Presidents James Garfield (R) and Grover Cleveland (D). Snyder briefly tells their stories, showing why they were men of good character (fighting corruption and sticking to the Constitution, for example) and then gives quotes from each that are remarkably applicable to America’s present dilemmas. One of Garfield’s from before he was president serves to illustrate:

Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. …

If the next centennial [of the Declaration of Independence] does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

Take a good look at Congress the last several years and, especially, since the Democrats took over in 2007. Don’t Garfield’s words seem prescient? And don’t they point the way to fixing it, and who has to do it?

Be sure to read the rest.

PS: Back to being an obscure-presidents geek! Here are some fun trivia about James Garfield and the story of Grover Cleveland’s secret surgery.


Shouldn’t Ken Salazar be impeached?

June 23, 2010

Okay, we know it isn’t going to happen for two reasons:

  1. It’s a Democratic-controlled Congress through at least next January.
  2. And, as far as we know, he’s committed no criminal act, and precedent would seem to require that.

And yet, shouldn’t the Secretary of the Interior be impeached or, at the least, be fired or forced to resign for blatantly lying in the report that justified the Gulf drilling moratorium?

Much to the government’s discomfort and this Court’s uneasiness, the Summary also states that “the recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.” As the plaintiffs, and the experts themselves, pointedly observe, this statement was misleading. The experts charge it was a “misrepresentation.” It was factually incorrect. Although the experts agreed with the safety recommendations contained in the body of the main Report, five of the National Academy experts and three of the other experts have publicly stated that they “do not agree with the six month blanket moratorium” on floating drilling. They envisioned a more limited kind of moratorium, but a blanket moratorium was added after their final review, they complain, and was never agreed to by them. A factor that might cause some apprehension about the probity of the process that led to the Report.

That’s from the ruling (PDF) of Federal Judge Martin Feldman, whose restraining order blocked the moratorium. To translate that last sentence, it’s a nice way of calling Secretary Salazar a big, fat liar. For background on the controversy over the experts’ opinions and Salazar’s fictionalization, read this article from NOLA.com, which also reports Interior as claiming “the White House made us do it.”

Since it’s evident that Secretary Salazar is willing to lie to the American people and misrepresent facts in court in order to serve the (anti-drilling) political needs of the White House, and since he’s quite happy to use those lies to justify actions that would do undoubted harm to the people  of the Gulf states during a time of national disaster, shouldn’t he be forced out? Shouldn’t he be hounded into resignation? Shouldn’t his boss be made to pay a political price by firing him for being revealed as a willing and dishonest tool? Hasn’t he lost the confidence of the American people as steward of our natural resources?

Or does he get a pass for all this?

(via Michelle Malkin)