June 23, 2010

The Most Unpardonable Sin: Lèse Déité - Instant Update!

Hatched by Dafydd

(Update: See below.)

Lèse majesté, pardon my French, is "an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign." In the Obamacle's case, one supposes the more appropriate crime would be lèse déité, or "insulting the local demigod."

Today's example (subscription to the Wall Street Journal Online possibly required):

U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal faced a barrage of criticism -- and little public support -- from top aides to President Barack Obama and senior politicians for reportedly mocking Vice President Joe Biden and others in a magazine article, casting doubt over future of the top commander in the Afghan war.

Mr. Obama summoned Gen. McChrystal to the White House from Kabul because of the article, an eight-page profile in Rolling Stone magazine titled "The Runaway General." It portrays Gen. McChrystal, the commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, and his staff as rogues with little regard for Washington officials, including Mr. Obama.

If one can believe the reactions by various stuffed shirts, the vice president, the Secretary of Defense, Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, and the Stuffed Shirt in Chief himself are all furious about tiny little digs uttered by McChrystal or even by his aides... such as quipping about Vice President Joe Biden, "who's that?" (Well, who is that?)

The WSJ makes clear the problem is not any policy difference between Barack H. Obama and Gen. McChrystal -- apart from that whole, you know, "victory" thing. It appears to be just petty ubrage that the general "poked a finger in the zoo, punctured all the ballyhoo," as the poet said. The Journal contrasts this micro "scandal" with the interview in Esquire that got George W. Bush to fire Adm. William Fallon from his position as Commander of Central Command in 2008:

In the Esquire piece, however, Adm. Fallon appeared to directly contradict White House policy on Iran and other parts of the Middle East. The Rolling Stone article makes no such allegation, but rather is full of jokey put-downs of important Washington players.

Lèse majesté, lèse déité.

Capital punishment -- or even corporal -- being already ruled off the table, the next most likely response for his infuriated Holiness would be to fire Gen. McChrystal. Yes, right in the middle of the Afghan campaign, and damned to the consequences. But what difference does it make? President Barack H. Obama shows every intention of "presid[ing] over America's second lost war" anyway, as the editorial board of the Washington Times put it.

However, I don't think the president will fire McChrystal: It would be too humiliating to oust the man he only "inst" a few months ago.

Instant Update: Toby Harnden of the Daily Telegraph of England reports that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has "tendered his resignation" to the Commander in Chief. However, it is of course up to President Obama whether to accept it or not. I still predict he will not accept it; there is no "replacement general" who is both prepared to take on the job and able to pass Senate muster without a fight that the president can ill afford. I strongly believe the Obamunist will swallow his tongue and retain Stan the Man.

Be that as it falls out, all the players are dancing around the dead horse in the punchbowl; there is a much more serious conundrum that rightly should engage President B.O. much more than whether somebody made mock of him: Some of our evidently troops believe the Afghanistan rules of engagement (ROEs) are so restrictive, they're hurting the war effort:

As levels of violence in Afghanistan climb, there is a palpable and building sense of unease among troops surrounding one of the most confounding questions about how to wage the war: when and how lethal force should be used.

On the other hand, the counterinsurgency doctrine promulgated by McChrystal and his immediate boss, Gen. David Petraeus, calls for just such tight ROEs, because the entire strategy depends upon winning the "hearts and minds" of Afghans. Or to put it another way, we can only win the war against the insurgency by winning the propaganda war at the same time. In Iraq, for example, we didn't win by shipping ten thousand tanks into the Land of Two Rivers and refighting the North Africa campaign; we won it by persuading Sunni tribal leaders to abandon support of al-Qaeda in Iraq and shift to our side:

Since last year, the counterinsurgency doctrine championed by those now leading the campaign has assumed an almost unchallenged supremacy in the ranks of the American military’s career officers. The doctrine, which has been supported by both the Bush and Obama administrations, rests on core assumptions, including that using lethal force against an insurgency intermingled with a civilian population is often counterproductive....

“Winning hearts and minds in COIN is a coldblooded thing,” General McChrystal was quoted as telling an upset American soldier in the Rolling Stone profile that has landed him in trouble. “The Russians killed 1 million Afghans, and that didn’t work.” COIN is the often used abbreviation for counterinsurgency.

The rules have shifted risks from Afghan civilians to Western combatants. They have earned praise in many circles, hailed as a much needed corrective to looser practices that since 2001 killed or maimed many Afghan civilians and undermined support for the American-led war.

But the new rules have also come with costs, including a perception now frequently heard among troops that the effort to limit risks to civilians has swung too far, and endangers the lives of Afghan and Western soldiers caught in firefights with insurgents who need not observe any rules at all.

Like Hugh Hewitt, I tend to side with Petraeus and McChrystal, even against the NCOs and low-level officers: Those at the pointy end of the stick do the real fighting, but they often can't see the big picture. I note that Petraeus scored a tremendous victory in Iraq by following his own understanding of COIN, ignoring the well-meant advice both from those above and those below him.

But at the very least, we need more instruction in the basics of COIN for the troops, so they know why they risk their own lives and their fellow troopers'... so they understand the theory and how well it worked in the real-world crucible of Iraq. As Sachi said last night, "the purpose of the Army is not to protect the lives of soldiers; it is to complete the mission."

It would also help if we didn't have a Cowerer in Chief who sees any minor setback not as part of the vicissitudes of war but as an unmistakable augury that it's time to declare defeat and go home.

Having an unconventional commander lead troops in a counterintuitive counterinsurgency is hard enough, without having to serve under a feckless civilian government comprising anti-war, anti-American academics with visions of Schlessinger, jr. dancing in their heads. Behind the snarky comments, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his aides may have hoped the message sent would be received: War is not a timed event.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 23, 2010, at the time of 1:28 AM

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Comments

The following hissed in response by: RRRoark

Eikenberry's animosity toward Karzai guarantees failure in Assf**kistan. Until we recall those demoretins trying to dictate to the Afghan government, we're following LBJ's strategy, and we all know how that comes out. When I was with MAC-V 40 years ago we had a goal that restated the "hearts an minds" strategy in a way that just might work, "When you have them by the b*lls, their hearts and mnds will follow", but democretins would rather we lose than win unless we are fighting on the side of the communists.

The above hissed in response by: RRRoark [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 23, 2010 5:16 AM

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