Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Eugene Robinson Says Shut Up

Democrats have always been a voice of reason when it comes to Afghanistan. Even if political bickering has clouded judgment on Iraq, they have always been...

Oh, wow....

Generals Need to Shut Up and Salute

Maybe Eugene Robinson means that ironically. As though he's saying "look, Obama may not like what he's saying, but what is the alternative. Don't kill the messenger, eh?"

That, or he's about to embarrass himself again. Again, I take these as I go. I see the name, I see the headline, and I make assumptions.

How to proceed in Afghanistan will be among the most difficult and fateful decisions that President Obama ever makes. But he's the one who has to decide, not his generals.

So, not ironic, I take it. That's cool...

The men with the stars on their shoulders -- and I say this with enormous respect for their patriotism and service -- need to shut up and salute.

To which they respond, with no respect whatsoever intended to Robinson's profession, that he can perform the vulgar and anatomically impossible unto his person.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is entitled to his opinion about the best way forward.

Absolutely, considering he is, you know, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

But he has no business conducting a public campaign to build support for his preferred option, which is to send tens of thousands more troops into a country once called the "graveyard of empires."

The person who called it that (Milton Bearden) agrees with McChrystal that we will need more troops if we wish to continue to fight the Taliban. Hundreds of thousands of them. He said so in public.

McChrystal's view -- that a strategy employing fewer resources, in pursuit of more limited goals, would be "short-sighted" --

...gels with everything Democrats said between the years of 2003 and 2008.

is something the White House needs to hear.

So what, precisely, is your problem, Eugene?

He is, after all, the man Obama put in charge in Afghanistan,

Thesis: Gen. McChrystal should shut up about Afghanistan.

Supporting Argument A: He is in charge of Afghanistan.

Supporting Argument B: The White House should hear what he has to say about Afghanistan.

and it would be absurd not to take his analysis of the situation into account.

So why not make it public? What is the harm?

But McChrystal is out of line in trying to sell his position publicly, as he did last week in a speech in London.

With the approval of the White House.

National security adviser James L. Jones, a retired Marine Corps general, was right to lay down the law. Jones said Sunday on CNN that "Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command." I believe that's Pentagon-speak for: "Put a sock in it, Stan."

No. That's paid-shill speak for "I'm punting on the question of whether his claims are meritorious".

McChrystal's statements have come at a pivotal moment when the White House is engaged in a fundamental review of Afghanistan policy.

Which is White House speak for "you know, it's been eight months, maybe we should check in on Afghanistan".

Some officials, including Vice President Biden, have argued for a minimalist approach in terms of goals and resources.

So a retired marine and Joe Biden should speak out about this issue, but Gen. McChrystal should not offer White House approved commentary in London? Is this the argument?

Obama has called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" but now must face the implications of an open-ended escalation.

The last portion of this sentence isn't really English. Moving on.

McChrystal, in his public advocacy for more troops, seemed to be trying to limit Obama's options.

Yeah. Now Obama can't cut back troop levels and pretend we are advancing the mission. Gen. McChrystal has taken the bold-faced lie option off the table. What a jerk.

But what we want to achieve in Afghanistan is a political question,

To which McChrystal has not posited an answer, short of "what we don't want to achieve is sending our troops into a buzzsaw."

and we don't pay our generals to do politics.

But, rather, to make decisions about how to conduct military affairs, as Gen. McChrystal has done.

For the record, this would be my position even if McChrystal were arguing for an immediate pullout

He wouldn't have written an op-ed about it, but he totally would have held that position.

-- or even if George W. Bush, rather than Obama, were the president whose authority was being undermined.

See above.

In October 2006,

Here's where Robinson wastes word count to defend himself against a charge of hypocrisy.

when the chief of staff of the British army said publicly that Britain should pull out of Iraq because the presence of foreign troops was fueling the insurgency -- a view I wholeheartedly shared -- I argued that he ought to be fired.

Gen. Dannatt (to whom Robinson refers) is a religious conservative who sees triumph over Muslim oppressors as a function of faith conversion. Liberals like Robinson don't like him for that reason. And, really, he has to cite an example of commentary on British foreign policy in order to demonstrate his consistency?

In a confidential report to the president -- leaked two weeks ago to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post --

Very problematic, but also not McChrystal's fault. Also, Robinson only began caring about leaks in January of this year, before which they were fine and dandy.

McChrystal argued for a counterinsurgency strategy that would basically involve protecting the people of Afghanistan from the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and thus winning the population's hearts and minds. To do this would require lots more than the 62,000 U.S. troops now in the country. So, logically, McChrystal wants more forces -- and wants them soon.

And so he said so. Again, does any reasonable person have a problem with this?

But it would be a dereliction of duty for the president not to consider alternatives.

Which he is free to do, being president and all. What he is not free to do is pretend he's protecting Afghani citizens from the Taliban while scaling down troop levels.

It seems to me that there's a glaring contradiction in McChrystal's analysis.

Above, he describes it as "logical". Robinson then gives us the whole "more troops = more resistance" spiel that liberals love to give based on their Wikipedia research on the Middle East.

Yet carrying out McChrystal's plan will require substantially more U.S. troops -- reports say that the general wants as many as 40,000, which would make the U.S. "footprint" roughly as large as that of the Soviet military during the failed occupation of the 1980s.

Which failed because the United States put it's "footprint" on the Soviet's "asses".

One alternative would be to focus narrowly on eliminating the possibility that al-Qaeda could ever again use Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks on the United States or its allies. But that would mean tolerating and even negotiating with the odious Taliban, which is resurgent.

This is an extension of McChrystal's point.

Privately, Obama needs to hear McChrystal's advice. Publicly, he needs to hear one simple phrase from the general: "Yes, Mr. President."

Military generals are asked to testify. They are appointed, often on the basis of public pronouncements of their military philosophy. Is that how it should be?

Maybe not, but Eugene Robinson has added here a new wrinkle to the notion of military service. Generals are required to agree with him.


Anonymous bus said...

President obama quit the Afghan war.

12:14 AM  

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