You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (7)

President Obama and General McChrystal
No, General McChrystal hasn’t been demoted already – it’s an old photo.

Well, today General Stanley McChrystal went to the White House, resignation letter in hand. About time. An article by Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone has revealed him as the leader of an arrogant staff who billed themselves ironically as “Team America,” a reference to the film “Team America: World Police” (2004).

McChrystal and his inner circle, perhaps irritated by the almost-immediate failure of their Afghanistan counterinsurgency strategy, expressed extreme annoyance at President Obama and most of the administration’s national security officials (with the notable exception of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton).

On Danger Room, they weigh the problem and the opportunity:

If President Obama fires McChrystal, there’s a very real possibility of months of chaos as the commands switch over—just as there was last year, when McKiernan was axed. Worse still, it’s unclear that McChrystal’s original strategy can be pulled off without his staff there to push it down the chain of command. There’s also another possibility, namely that Team Obama could use this as an opportunity for reversing many of McChrystal’s astoundingly bad decisions (like going into Kandahar in the first place), focusing resources instead on winnable battlegrounds like Kunduz and Herat and Khost.

Unfortunately, whether or not McChrystal and “Team America” remain in charge, the Obama administration still shows no sign of considering a switch to a counter-terrorist strategy in Afghanistan-Pakistan in the near future. That means more reinforcements will be sent, providing more targets for Taliban IEDs. Six more NATO soldiers were killed in attacks in Afghanistan on Wednesday, bringing to 75 the number of foreign troops who have died there this month. June 2010 is the worst month for NATO casualties since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban.

Here’s a fact that won’t surprise you: Afghanistan ranks in the top ten of the Failed States Index again this year, as it has since the list was first compiled six years ago. In a failed state in the 21st Century, it’s fourth generation warfare (4GW). Counterinsurgency (COIN) is a non-starter.

Even if COIN were possible, it would take more than half a million troops to pacify Afghanistan — the planned 100,000 can’t do it. The key component of the few successful COIN campaigns has always been a strong national government with a good claim to legitimacy. Afghanistan has never had one.

Maybe people would be surprised to learn that U.S. taxpayers are helping to fund the Taliban. U.S. armed forces require a lot of logistical support. Transportation and security for the supplies is contracted out, and the contractors pay protection money to the Taliban for safe passage. A new report released yesterday by the House subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs found that they were paying as much as $1,500 per truck. Investigators say as much as $4 million per week end up in the hands of the Taliban via local security companies in return for not attacking convoys bound for American bases, and some 200 military combat outposts throughout Afghanistan.

Here’s another surprising fact: In Marjah, the largest military operation in Afghanistan since the initial U.S. invasion in 2001, has not defeated the Taliban after four months. The 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops provide a ratio of one occupying soldier for every two members of the population. Counter-insurgency doctrine normally calls for one counter-insurgent for every 20-50 people. The “government-in-a-box” arrived, but the box turned out to be empty. Force without good governance isn’t working.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran in the Washington Post:

Residents of this onetime Taliban sanctuary see signs that the insurgents have regained momentum in recent weeks, despite early claims of success by U.S. Marines. The longer-than-expected effort to secure Marjah is prompting alarm among top American commanders that they will not be able to change the course of the war in the time President Obama has given them.

Oh, and that Pentagon-planted New York Times story about $1 trillion in Afghan mineral deposits was nonsense. Afghanistan has no mining industry, and very little water or transportation infrastructure. Not to mention a considerable security problem.

UPDATE: General McChrystal has been relieved of command. CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus is going to take over. President Obama made clear that the change in generals will not bring a change in policy.

Previous One Utah posts in this series:
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (6) (November 11, 2009)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (5) (October 25, 2009)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (4) (October 7, 2009)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (3) (February 27, 2009)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (2) (February 3, 2009)
You’re Either the Commander-in-Chief Or You’re Not (January 29, 2009)

  1. #1 by Larry Bergan on June 23, 2010 - 4:13 pm

    UPDATE: General McChrystal has been relieved of command. CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus is going to take over. President Obama made clear that the change in generals will not bring a change in policy.

    Well that certainly figures! And thanks for reminding me that we are financing the Taliban.

    Who’s really running the show here: The Red Queen?

    Who are they going to replace Rahm with, Richard Pearle?

    Obama should be reading your series here, Richard!

  2. #2 by cav on June 23, 2010 - 4:59 pm

    Drones are people too. They’re just target-deprived. In a culture where up is down, why try to make it so black or white?

  3. #3 by cav on June 23, 2010 - 5:40 pm

    Would Osama Bin Laden please report to the reconditioning room.

  4. #4 by other on June 23, 2010 - 5:43 pm

    This admin is terribly funny. Worst president ever? Clowns I think McChrystal characterizes it as chock full of.

  5. #5 by other on June 23, 2010 - 5:48 pm

    Tim Osman has his orders from the CIA and won’t be making it in today cav, besides it is the public that needs the reconditioning.

  6. #6 by Ken on June 24, 2010 - 5:46 am

    US casualties have increased significantly since Obama took office. The problem is not with the general in charge but the fact we have a President that is 100% unfit for command.

  7. #7 by cav on June 24, 2010 - 7:12 am

    Ken, it’s possible McCrystal sort of veered away from the notion that the surge he’d been given the opportunity to oversee was supposed to provide for the beginning of troop withdrawal by this time next year. It’s possible that there were people with just that interest who would be seeking an adjustment in the approach to Afghanistan, that might have felt change was needed. McCrystal did Obama the favor of playing along with this directional shake-up.

  8. #8 by Ken on June 24, 2010 - 7:38 am


    Yes I have not been a big fan of McCrystal’s performance either. McCrystal should have resigned when Obama refused his troop requests. That would have sent a huge message and put Obama in the hot seat.

    Hopefully General Petraeus can bring it around. It all depends on how much Latitude Obama gives Petraeus. If he ties his hands it won’t matter what General is in command.

    Hopefully Petraeus will threaten to resign if Obama refuses to adequately prosecute the war.

  9. #9 by cav on June 24, 2010 - 7:48 am

    …if Obama refuses to adequately prosecute bringing the war’s end.

    Fixed that for you, Ken.

  10. #10 by cav on June 24, 2010 - 8:01 am

    BTW Ken, I wanted to comment on your

    The problem is not with the general in charge but the fact we have a President…

    That pinacle of responsibility is really more than one man can hope to carry, no matter what the experience or specialization. I don’t think this empiric tendency toward a ‘one-world-government is working out too well – whether in the hands of a dem, or a repub.

    One of the other commenters suggested – it’s the American People themselves who need reconditioning, and it’s precisely in this area that a reconditioning would best serve.

  11. #11 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on June 24, 2010 - 9:46 am

    “100% unfit for command”? Wow, Ken. I’m not sure I’d even say that of you. But absolutist statements are common coming from people who have decided that it’s against their interests and position to to judge something fairly—especially in politics.

    Sorry if that’s a misrepresentation of your perspective. You just don’t give me much cause to think your perspective is anything but. . .


  12. #12 by brewski on June 24, 2010 - 10:05 am

    It’s not that Obama is unfit for command, it’s that he is unfit for pretty much anything outside of academia and the Illinois Senate.

    Nothing personal against him, it’s just that he has never done anything, never led any organization since the Harvard Law Review, and pretty much less experienced than most people on this site.

    If IBM had gone out and hired as its CEO a former college professor who had a half a term in the US Senate (from which he was absent for most of the time campaigning) and had no bill credited to his name, you would sue IBM for gross negligence. But this is who we hired.

    What were we thinking?

  13. #13 by cav on June 24, 2010 - 11:28 am

    I was thinking about enduring wars, the collapse of the economy (bailing out those too big to fail), prosecuting war criminals, and what were the chances of Cynthia McCinney really getting the nod.

  14. #14 by Richard Warnick on June 24, 2010 - 12:07 pm

    There is a simple reason why NATO casualties have gone up. It’s because deploying more troops to Afghanistan (at a cost of $1 million per soldier/year), presented the Taliban with more opportunities to set ambushes.

    This is very cynical I know, but I wonder if President Obama decided for political reasons to give the Pentagon whatever they wanted and let the Afghanistan counterinsurgency strategy reach its inevitable point of failure– which it has, in record time. It might have seemed easier than taking on the burden of advocating for an alternative counter-terrorist strategy with practical objectives. Meanwhile, our CIA counter-terrorist operations in Pakistan have proceeded without fanfare.

    General Petraeus might be able to do the same thing he did in Iraq — buy off the other side and call it “counterinsurgency.” Let’s hope he can.

  15. #15 by Larry Bergan on June 24, 2010 - 10:49 pm

    Here’s what I think happened:

    McChrystal saw that things were going bad fast and decided to get drunk and say things about the Commander in Chief that he knew would get him booted so he can start making some REAL money on the Fox “news” channel.

    Petraeus found out about the Rolling Stone article on the same day he passed out in front of congress because he knew he was getting the hot potato.

  16. #16 by other on June 25, 2010 - 5:36 am

    Bad choice to begin with, Obama picked McChrystal, Afghanistan is a total failure with or without him, and it all reflects on the executive by now and his foreign policy.

    When we got Obama, we got shit concentrate, smears well. Bush was shit powder, for the “dry look”. Shit for as far as the eye can see, used to be from Sea to Shining Sea…little oleaginous now. Hey! It’s raining oil in the Gulf! “Fume” I think it is being called.

  17. #17 by cav on June 25, 2010 - 6:45 am

    We’ve gone from having sand in our Preparation H under Bush, to Gorrilla Glue in it nao.

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