June 23, 2010
McChrystal Out, Petraeus In: Color Me Surprised But Not Shattered
In the end, it appears that the wounded vanity of the notoriously thin-skinned Barack H. Obama won out over continuity and steadfastness in wartime: Obama sacked Gen. Stanley McChrystal over snarky remarks the latter and his aides made to a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine.
Obama said bluntly that Gen. Stanley McChrystal's scornful remarks about administration officials represent conduct that "undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system."
How exactly McChrystal "undermined the civilian control of the military" went unexplained. It did, however, prick the ego of the president, which is lèse déité, a greater sin than merely threatening rule of law in the United States.
But at least the likewise notoriously anti-victory president didn't use the opportunity to install a pet commander to declare defeat and go home -- as Obama himself tried to do anent Iraq when he was a (very) lowly senator. In fact, he decided to stick with a man previously confirmed in a higher position... McChrystal's direct boss, Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of Central Command.
(Amusingly, Obama was probably forced to tap Petraeus by the necessity of avoiding yet another confirmation fight in the Senate... one where the even more anti-victory Senate Democratic caucus could have destroyed our counterinsurgency [COIN] operation in Afghanistan merely by voting down all successors who might continue it.)
Although Petraeus must give up command of CENTCOM, and he does have to be confirmed by the Senate in his new, lower position, voting him down is really not an option: If Senate Democrats reject him now, after previously approving him for the higher job, the deliberate attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Afghanistan would be too brazen for the Left to possibly Blame It on Bush ™. Just as Obama was forced to name Petraeus, so too are the Senate Democrats forced to confirm him, and quickly.
No word yet on who Obama might name to take the reins at CENTCOM. This is still a threat to the mission, if he names someone who will undercut Petraeus and COIN.
Gen. Petraeus clearly intends to continue the offensive (against the Taliban, I mean, not against the president). He is certainly the most experienced COIN commander in the world right now, having pulled the mutton out of the burka in Iraq; on a purely military front, this may improve chances that we'll win in Afghanistan, too -- possibly in the 91st minute, after a heartstopping stalemate: David Petraeus is probably better trusted by the troops than was Stanley McChrystal, and is likely better able to explain to them why the emphasis in a countersurgency is on protecting the lives of civilian natives, not American military forces.
Thinking ahead -- far past the victory in Afghanistan, which I believe is well within our grasp, if we can be steadfast -- I have a remarkable scenario I would love to see play out. I doubt it will, but it's such a beautiful reverie I cannot resist:
- Petraeus takes charge and turns the Afghanistan campaign around, as he did before in Iraq.
- By mid-2011, things are going so well in Afghanistan that Petraeus is able to buy more time before the withdrawal. The withdrawal thus starts at the end of 2011, rather than July.
- Shortly thereafter, Gen. Petraeus retires from the Army.
- And in February of 2012, he announces that he is running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States -- on the strength of back-to-back victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his (by then) thirty-seven years experience as an "administrative manager" of one of the largest organizations in the United States, with more than a million active duty, Reserve, and Guard personnel.
So far, David Petraeus has resisted the blandishments of many to run for office; but I can dream, can't I?
If he did run against the Obamunist, the contrast in competence alone, let alone Americanism, might blow Obama right out of the race: President B.O. might declare, "My job here is done," and wangle appointment as Secretary General of the U.N. -- which he could portray as a promotion. (We all know that the job of President of the United States is just too small for the One We Have Been Waiting For.) Seriously, Obama might prefer MovingOn under his own steam to a humiliating defeat at the polls.
In any event, considering the personalities in motion on this self-inflicted scandal (self-inflicted by both parties!), this is probably the best result that could have prevailed.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 23, 2010, at the time of 3:39 PM
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The following hissed in response by: BlueNight
Now hold on here! Do you mean to say the cause of democracy in the Middle East may have just been advanced by Rolling Stone magazine?
Next you'll tell us of a rolling cold front in the infernal regions.
The above hissed in response by: BlueNight at June 23, 2010 7:49 PM
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
Ninth Circle... read your Dante!
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at June 24, 2010 4:26 AM
The following hissed in response by: cdor
Or, the dream turns to a nightmare...Petraeus runs as a Democrat and is a big government liberal. McCrystal voted for Obama, from what I've read. I have no idea where Petraeus stands politically. Do you have some inside info, Dafydd?
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
Do you have some inside info, Dafydd?
Nope, just playing the odds.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at June 24, 2010 10:29 PM
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