I’m not sure what the bigger story is here… that the troops are feeling less than confident in their new Commander in Chief, or that this story is being reported in the New York Times.
But here it is… yesterday’s byline by Elisabeth Bumiller under the Military Memo, As the Commander in Chief Deliberates, Frustration Builds Within the Ranks
A number of active duty and retired senior officers say there is concern that the president is moving too slowly, is revisiting a war strategy he announced in March and is unduly influenced by political advisers in the Situation Room.
“The thunderstorm is there and it’s kind of brewing and it’s unstable and the lightning hasn’t struck, and hopefully it won’t,” said Nathaniel C. Fick, a former Marine Corps infantry officer who briefed Mr. Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign and is now the chief executive of the Center for a New American Security, a military research institution in Washington. “I think it can probably be contained and avoided, but people are aware of the volatile brew.”
Last week the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., gave voice to the concerns of those in the military when he issued a terse statement criticizing Mr. Obama’s review of Afghan war strategy.
“The extremists are sensing weakness and indecision within the U.S. government, which plays into their hands,” said Mr. Tradewell’s statement on behalf of his group, which represents 1.5 million former soldiers.
A retired general who served in Iraq said that the military had listened, “perhaps naïvely,” to Mr. Obama’s campaign promises that the Afghan war was critical. “What’s changed, and are we having the rug pulled out from under us?” he asked. Like many of those interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from the military’s civilian leadership and the White House.
Yes… Nero is fiddling while Rome burns. Instead, the POTUS uses the excuse of the recent Afghanistan election and accusations of corruption. Funny… that didn’t mean much when Iran had it’s election, and Ahmadinejad’s military might was killing protestors in the streets.
But since Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah have a runoff election scheduled, it would seem that excuse gets flushed down the toilet.
Or is the CIC now fiddling, waiting to see the outcome? Which then begs the question, is the US support for Afghanistan contingent upon who the population elects?
UPDATED: As Obama’s advisors seem to whisper “tread lightly” in the POTUS famous ears, his own Sec’y of Defense seems to have adopted US’s NATO head General Stanley McCrystal’s method of pressure… that of taking the case to the public via the media. The NYT’s Thom Shanker published his article today, Gates Says Afghan Vote Will Not Slow Strategy.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday that prolonged challenges to the political legitimacy of the government in Afghanistan should not halt the administration’s efforts to decide on a new strategy nor would it slow allied military operations there.
Speaking before meetings with senior Japanese officials, Mr. Gates warned that the anticipated runoff election and questions of installing a new, credible government in Kabul would be a lengthy process. During that time, administration discussions on strategy — and whether to send more troops — would not go into suspended animation, he said.~~~
“We are not going to just sit on our hands waiting for the outcome of this election and for the emergence of a government in Kabul,” Mr. Gates said. “We have operations under way and we will continue to conduct those operations.”
Mr. Gates, in assessing the impact on administration policy of strong charges of election fraud by supporters of President Hamid Karzai, noted that “whatever emerges in Kabul is going to be an evolutionary process.”
“It is not going to be complicated one day and simple the next,” he said. “I believe the president will have to make his decisions in the context of that evolutionary process.”
This is a completely different story than was conveyed by Rahm’bo Emanuel on the various talking head Sunday news shows. Emanuel characterizes the Obama decision stuttering as avoiding appearing “reckless” without [even more] analysis. In other words, they believe they need a *new* new strategy, deftly dodging their silent acknowledgement of their March strategy’s lack of success…. with Emanuel going so far as to classify it as the US “starting from scratch”.
Additionally, Emanuel places emphasis on the election and it’s outcome.
On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff, said in television interviews that the administration must first ensure it has a “credible” partner in the Afghan government before making a decision to send more troops.
Considering the candidates are well known to the admin, one has to wonder why either one, as leaders, wouldn’t meet their standards as a “credible” partner.
Such a disconnect…. END UPDATE
Perhaps the most eyebrow raising moment in the article is the lengths the WH mouthpieces will go to defend Obama’s indecision on his own “new strategy” for Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama’s civilian advisers on national security say the president is appropriately reviewing his policy options from all sides. They said it would be reckless to rush a decision on whether to send as many as 40,000 more American men and women to war, particularly when the unresolved Afghan election had left the United States without a clear partner in Kabul.~~~
The administration has made clear that Mr. Obama will not necessarily follow the advice of his generals in the same way Mr. Bush did, notably in the former president’s deference to Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the head of the Central Command, and that it does not want military leaders publicly pressing the commander in chief as they give their advice.
Well now, that’s interesting. Especially when you consider Obama’s own Organizing for America website has a page dedicated to how many times candidate Obama had consistently said he’d “listen to commanders on the ground”.
But that was then. This is now, and he’s already achieved the power he sought.
Obama may find that the military leadership, who may have remained quiet on disagreements with the prior administration, is not apt to be so acquiescing with the current admin.
Andrew M. Exum, a former Army officer in Afghanistan, an adviser to General McChrystal and a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said that the change in style from one administration to the next had led to some of the military’s discontent. “The Bush administration would settle on a strategy and stick to it, and you could argue often to ill effect,” he said, referring to the president’s decision not to send more troops to Iraq until 2007, after years of rising violence.
The Obama administration, he said, is not afraid to go back and question assumptions. “There’s a value in that,” Mr. Exum said, “but that can be incredibly frustrating for those trying to operationalize the strategy.”
Part of the strain comes from lessons learned from the generals who acquiesced to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s demands for a small invasion force in Iraq, then faced criticism that they had not spoken up for more troops to secure the country during the occupation.
The retired general who served in Iraq said that today’s senior officers had decided, “I won’t be so quiet, I won’t be a lap dog.”
In the meantime, the commanders focus their concern for the troops on the ground and their safety. Those risking life and limb, trying to do too much with too little.
Another source of tension within the military is the view that a delay is endangering the 68,000 American troops now in Afghanistan. “McChrystal has troops out there who are risking their lives more than they need to, partly because we have not filled in the gaps and we have not created a safe zone in southern and eastern Afghanistan,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a national security expert at the Brookings Institution.
A military policy analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing senior Pentagon leaders, said that “the military lives in a very rarefied environment,” and that “they are not out there every day having to meet citizens who say, ‘What the hell are we doing?’ ”
Senior military officers, the analyst said, “are smart guys, but they do not have the daily pulse of the American public in their face. They tend to interpret politicians who give voice to it as being weak, but none of this works if the public gives up on it.”
This all brings up memories of red phones and battles between then candidate Hillary Clinton and the eventual chosen one.
[Clinton campaign ad:] “It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep,” says the narrator in her commercial, while ominous music surges over dark black-and-white images. An undefined world crisis is brewing, and the red phone — a relic of the hot line to Moscow during the cold war — rings.
“Your vote will decide who answers that call,” the narrator says. “Whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military — someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.”
Candidate Obama’s response?
“In fact, we have had a red phone moment,” he said. “It was the decision to invade Iraq. And Senator Clinton gave the wrong answer, George Bush gave the wrong answer, John McCain gave the wrong answer,” voting to authorize force in Iraq.
The phone rang, and at least *someone* answered, Mr. Obama. Maybe one of your stellar czars and high paid advisors might want to let you know that red phone has been ringing… without an answer… for quite some time now.
Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.