Monday, October 5, 2009

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair
General Stanley McChrystal has requested President Obama approve the deployment of 30-40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. Currently the U.S. has 68,000 plus troops in the country. McChrystal told the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that the formula, which is favoured by Vice-President Joe Biden, would lead to "Chaos-istan". In a speech made in London, the General said the delay in getting troops into the country is a mistake. "Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support." He told Newsweek he was firmly against half measures in Afghanistan: "You can't hope to contain the fire by letting just half the building burn."

It’s very rare for a commanding General to speak out so bluntly in public, but he is frustrated by the complete lack of a “sense of urgency” on the part of the administration. Why did a disciplined, service academy graduate, highly decorated General speak out so bluntly?
First, McChrystal believes in action and not indecisiveness. He delivered his formal report on Afghanistan more than a month ago, yet the debate in the Obama White House continues. Only two meetings have been held to discuss the issue. Second, since McChrystal’s appointment as the commander in Afghanistan, President Obama has only met with McChrystal twice and once was last week in Copenhagen on Air Force One. After the General made his speech, in London, he was summoned to a face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago's unsuccessful Olympic bid.

When asked about the commander's public lobbying for more troops, General Jim Jones, national security adviser, said: “Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command.” When Jones was asked if Obama asked McChrystal to stop speaking publicly about the issue, Jones said, "I wasn't there so I can't answer that question. But it was an opportunity for them to get to know each other a little bit better. I am sure they exchanged direct views."
Some liberals believe the General's London comments as verging on insubordination.

Bruce Ackerman, an expert on constitutional law at Yale University, said in the Washington Post: "As commanding general, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements. It is highly unusual for a senior military officer to "pressure the president in public to adopt his strategy". New York Times columnist Frank Rich has accused the general of an attempt to "try to lock him (Obama) in" on Afghanistan.

And McChrystal is not alone, more and more senior military officials are now openly criticizing the White House for not tackling the issue quickly and decisively. They have made no secret of their view that without the vast ground force recommended by Gen McChrystal, the Afghan mission could end in failure and a return to power of the Taliban. Top US military officer Admiral Mike Mullen and the head of the regional Central Command, General David Petraeus, have publicly endorsed the manpower-intensive strategy set out in a report by McChrystal.
The military leaders are “hedging their bets.” As Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense said, "They want to make sure people know what they asked for if things go wrong."

It would appear the President is more interested in trying to play “pitch man” for the United States than “commander in chief.” After his very public failed attempt to bring to Olympics to Chicago, perhaps Obama should get back to the job the people elected him to do- lead the country. Whether you liked his policies or his decisions, no one could fault George W on the speed in which he made a decision.

In the movie, Top Gun, Lt. Pete Mitchell tells Charlie, “when you’re up there, things are happening so fast, you don’t have time to think- instinct takes over.” Our leaders must have good instincts. They must have the education, temperament and background to make quick decisions. Its obvious Obama is no Maverick- he's more like Goose.

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