ISIS: Is Barack Obama merely “incompetent,” or malevolently so?

June 10, 2015
Leadership

Leadership

I was wondering what that sound was I heard the other day. Turns out it was jaws dropping at the Pentagon when they heard their commander in chief say this:

The US does not yet have a “complete strategy” for helping Iraq regain territory from Islamic State (IS), President Barack Obama has said.

He said the Pentagon was reviewing ways to help Iraq train and equip its forces.

But Mr Obama said a full commitment to the process was needed by the Iraqis themselves.

How long has ISIS/Daesh/The Islamic State been in the news as they rampage across what used to be Syria and Iraq butchering thousands? Over a year? And yet the president says his military still hasn’t presented him with a “complete strategy?” (Which begs the question of why he wasn’t pounding his desk demanding one, being the commander in chief, after all.)

Reacting to the news that they’ve just been thrown under a bus, a Pentagon official had this to say:

One military official reacted angrily to Obama’s blamesmanship:

“What the f— was that,” the official told Fox News. “We have given him lots of options, he just hasn’t acted on them.”

I guess this is how community organizers smooth over civil-military relations: take no responsibility for what’s in your job description and then find a scapegoat to take the fall for you, hoping enough of your toadies in the press will run with that to at least confuse the issue of your own failings. Deflect and distract, it’s the Obama way.

Of course, we’ve known for years that he just isn’t really that interested in his job, especially foreign affairs, which is one of his three major constitutional responsibilities. Hence his failure to really act on the options the military chiefs have given him and his need to blame someone else for his own failings.

As the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, sometimes says, if Obama really were trying to destroy America’s foreign relations, what, exactly, would he do differently?

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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.


Obama’s FDR moment

September 22, 2009

Churchill once said to President Roosevelt, “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” It appears that President Obama has reached or is fast approaching that moment in Afghanistan, the war he has declared a war of necessity, for what else could one call it than a “crisis” when the nation’s top field commander threatens to resign if he doesn’t get the support he needs?

Within 24 hours of the leak of the Afghanistan assessment to The Washington Post, General Stanley McChrystal’s team fired its second shot across the bow of the Obama administration. According to McClatchy, military officers close to General McChrystal said he is prepared to resign if he isn’t given sufficient resources (read “troops”) to implement a change of direction in Afghanistan

(…)

In Kabul, some members of McChrystal’s staff said they don’t understand why Obama called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” but still hasn’t given them the resources they need to turn things around quickly.

Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he’d stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy.

“Yes, he’ll be a good soldier, but he will only go so far,” a senior official in Kabul said. “He’ll hold his ground. He’s not going to bend to political pressure.”

I was going to write a long post analyzing and criticizing the White House’s unconscionable vacillation in our commitment to victory in Afghanistan (though that vacillation in any recent conflict seems to be a feature, not a bug, of the Democratic Party), but I really cannot do better than this piece by Baseball Crank, which I urge you to read.

Presidents have often had trouble with generals, of course. Truman famously had to fire MacArthur for insubordination, but found a superb (and superior) replacement in Ridgway. Lincoln ran through generals like a man changes socks until he found a group that was not only competent, but would actually fight.

But President Obama doesn’t have President Lincoln’s problem. General McChrystal is highly regarded and quite willing to fight. But, to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he recommends (and which is supported by his boss, General Petraeus, the guy who saved Iraq), he needs more troops, the request for which the article at Baseball Crank reminds us generated shocking warnings of a WTF moment at the White House.

The question then becomes “How committed is the White House to victory in the war it declared a ‘necessity?'” Or was this, as a prominent liberal blogger declared, “…a political strategy, not a serious foreign policy?” To turn Churchill’s statement into a question and ask it for General McChrystal, “Will you give us the tools to finish the job, Mr. President?”

Or will Americans be left asking “WTF?”

LINKS: Allahpundit; Ed Morrissey; PoliGazette.