U.S. Commander to Obama: Give me what I want or I quit!

I mentioned yesterday that Obama was getting heavy pressure from the military brass to send more troops. The pressure has risen another notch. According to the always excellent Nancy Youssef at McClatchy, General Stanley McChrystal may quit if he doesn’t get the troops he thinks he needs.

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.”

Over at the Long War Journal, Bill Roggio calls this grumbling from the McChrystal team the “second shot across the bow of the Obama administration.” (The first being the leaked report, courtesy of Bob Woodward, that says we need more troops in Afghanistan.)

The threat from the McChrystal camp seems pretty significant to me. It’s really sending the message to Obama that ‘hey, you got no choice.’ One could even say that Obama is being bullied, and it’s unlikely he’s going to choose this moment to stand up to his generals.

But it also leaves me a bit confused–why is Obama dragging his feet? He can’t be too surprised McChrystal is asking for more troops–it’s what McKiernan was asking for, too–and escalating troop strength has been the conventional wisdom of ‘what needs to be done’ in Afghanistan for over a year now.  He said Afghanistan is a ‘war of neccesity’ and all that, and yet still seems hesistant to take the plunge. As Youssef reports:

“There has been a sense of ownership (within the White House) in the last six months . . . an awakening,” one senior defense official said. At this stage, the administration is asking itself whether it wants to “commit the troops, civilians, dollars and itself to Afghanistan.”

So maybe there is this robust debate going on inside the White House about what to do. Perhaps ‘robust period of indecision’ is a more apt description.  All the while, publicly, McChrystal and the other top military brass have already shaped the debate. As I said yesterday–do we want more troops or more troops? Now one of his generals is threatening to quit if he doesn’t get them. Isn’t that going to look bad in Woodward’s new book when Obama gives in to their demands?

BONUS SHOT AT MOVEON.ORG: I’ve criticized MoveOn in the past for their suspicious silence on Afghanistan. This is exactly why: there has been very little external political pressure on Obama against troop escalation. Sure, there are polls, and Rory Stewart, but that’s not enough. The only serious public pressure has been from one side–so, politically, it’s actually limited Obama’s options, and made the choice to do something other than escalate more difficult.

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About michaelhastings

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5 Responses to U.S. Commander to Obama: Give me what I want or I quit!

  1. libtree09 says:

    The military is mission focused, they want victory, it is their job to destroy the enemy. Obama, in recent interviews has stated he wants to examine if the strategy will work in achieving peace with a stable national government in Afghanistan. He wants to know how the current thinking makes America safer.

    The answer is elusive. Yes we need to be in the area, no there will never be a stable national government in Afganhistan. No the current strategy will not defeat the insurgents and yes we need more troops to carry it out.

    It is clear that Afghanistan is tribal, has been for centuries, it is culturally and religiously and ethnically divided. It would take generations to change that reality and it would take occupation to do it. Yet that is not on the table, militarily we are using an the Iraq counter-insurgent stratagem that Gen. Petraeus implemented with the surge. So this is where we are, talking about another surge. However the surge in Iraq was unsustainable and only put us in a holding pattern until we could escape the civil war by declaring victory and going home. Like Iraq we are now in the middle of another civil war where both sides hate us.

    The military is in a strong position to get what it wants, surge talk will be their next talking point and they can always use the AL Qaeda attacked us gambit. So Obama is in a tough position, in my opinion he knows he is in the same trap Bush was caught in, the faulty neoconservative idea of spreading democracy. Yet Obama also is aware of that the most dangerous place on the planet is Pakistan and the dangerous mix of radical Islam and nuclear bombs makes it imperative that we be in the neighborhood.

    What to do when all decisions have negative impact for us? Obama could do what should have been done from the beginning and use the Powell Doctrine by mustering 400,000 troops and all our air power and just crush the enemy and get out.
    Would our congress go along with that? Would the rest of the world? Would Islam accept it?

    It appears to me that Obama understands that the conflict with Iraq and Afghanistan are proxy wars, just like clashes in Vietnam and Central America, it is a bloody debate over ideals and culture. Then it was Communism, today it is Islam. It should be noted that the battle with Communism took half a century to resolve and it was by letting an oppressive government fall under its own weight in the USSR and co-oping the Chinese that settled the matter. On the battle field we lost one war and came to a draw in the others. They were expensive, destructive and deadly exercises. Are we ready to repeat the process?

    This writer does not see a solution in the making but finds some hope in the delay, hope that there is a vigorous debate with people who know the situation well and can find a way out of this terrible dilemma.

  2. Brian In NYC says:

    It’s looking like the president is putting more faith in his vice president than in the generals, thankfully.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/world/asia/23policy.html?_r=1

    Generals always make a mistake when they think they can dictate policy to a Democratic president. Also Michael it’s very telling as to where you coming from by your description of the president taking the time to make sure this is done right as “foot dragging”. The solution to every problem isn’t found at the end of a gun.

    • Michael Hastings says:

      Brian, I think it’s good he’s finally listening to Biden, but for the much of the past 10 months Obama had been trying to split the difference–not giving the military what they want, and not keeping a light footprint either. Waffling, and while waffling, Afghans and U.S. troops are getting killed, for what strategic end? It was clear the the generals were going to be pushing for more troops and resources, and Obama sent public signals that he would give them what they want…So now that they want it he’s stuck…

      Your remark about ‘not every solution’ comes at the end of the gun is correct, and it’s why sending 114,000 American soldiers to Afghanistan is a bad idea.

  3. jaimecolemansc says:

    For most of my life, Afghanistan has been paired with the words “war-torn” or “hell hole.” It wasn’t until I read The Kite Runner that I learned Afghanistan’s culture involved more than surviving wars and digging out of rubble. When the war on terror started in October 2001, I hoped Afghanistan would emerge from the clutches of extremism and be restored to just being Afghanistan, independent, unoccupied, and operating as the Afghan’s saw fit. (I also hoped “as the Afghan’s saw fit” would not involve any human-rights abuses. But, in places that are tribal, might usually makes right.) Watching the Taliban fall gave me a deep sense of hope that was extinguished as soon as it regrouped and violence returned. What I am trying to say is I would like for Afghanistan to be for Afghans, in whatever flavor they choose. And if our military needs more people and equipment to achieve that end, so be it. Present-day Afghanistan, I imagine, is not a place one wants to feel unprepared.

  4. Pingback: Michael Hastings on General Stanley McChrystal - Michael Roston - Newsbroke - True/Slant

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