The official Bookworm statement on the whole McChrystal/Obama/Petraeus affair *UPDATED*

I feel I should say something, so I will.  Being me, of course, what I say will be discursive.

Re McChrystal:  An excellent general who didn’t hit it off with Obama from the git-go (blame lies, I believe, with Obama), and who failed utterly in the diplomatic discretion category — something that’s true whether you regard the revelations in Rolling Stone as big deals or little ones.  Was the latter a firing offense?  I don’t know.  It depends on how the Commander in Chief chooses to handle it.  Which leads me to Obama….

Re ObamaAs I noted earlier, Obama is either apathetic or agitated.  One of the things about which he’s never been sufficiently agitated is the war in Afghanistan.  Sure, he didn’t pull out immediately, but his initial decisions to announce a withdrawal time table and to refuse to meet with McChrystal until McChrystal was forced to use the media against Obama (something that probably created a bad precedent in terms of McChrystal’s ideas about using the military to achieve his goals) show that he never gave a flying whatsit about American troops trying to win against Muslim jihadists.

On the other side of the scale, the things that do agitate Obama include the Joos; attempts to stop potential new Democratic party voters from sneaky in over the border and sparking crime waves; and offenses to his dignity.  McChrystal committed the latter crime.  Obama could have glossed the whole thing over, downplaying McChrystal’s errors (as he’s done with every one of his other appointees) or he could have done what he did, which is to fire McChrystal for having hurt his feelings.  The only way to come out smelling like a rose from letting his ego lead was for Obama to have appointed someone better than McChrystal.  Which leads me to Petraeus….

Re Petraeus:  When Obama was a Senator, he denigrated Petraeus’ task and, by his behavior, Petraeus himself.  Petraeus, however, is the real deal when it comes to counterinsurgency, and I can’t think of a better person to try his hand at Afghanistan.  Peter Wehner spells out Petraeus’ virtues:

General Petraeus is the man who, more than any other single individual, turned around the war in Iraq. It was a nation on the brink of civil war when he was named commanding general there — and today it is a nation on the mend. That is the result of many hands and many hearts — but no single individual is more responsible for what happened in Iraq than Petraeus. In addition, General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency, having authored the Army’s manual on the subject. Petraeus, then, is both the intellectual architect of our COIN strategy and its best practitioner.

Beyond that, Petraeus — like McChrystal before him — has the confidence of President Karzai, which U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and National Security Adviser Jim Jones (among others) do not. He understands, unlike others in the Obama White House, that the way to deal with someone like Karzai is to support him in public and make demands of him in private. Nouri al-Maliki was no walk on the beach, either; but Petraeus, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, dealt with him extremely skillfully, holding him close while moving him along the right path.

What is also significant is that Petraeus has the confidence of our troops because of what he has achieved. He is not only a respected figure; he is very nearly legendary among them. The troops in Afghanistan will treat him as college basketball players would treat Mike Krzyzewski, if he took over another basketball program. There is instant trust, instant credibility, and instant confidence. And that matters.

I wish Petraeus every bit of luck available to him.  Combine that luck with his skills and intellect, apply all those to the best military in the world, and there might be a good outcome here (including Obama being able to back down from his withdrawal timetable while still saving face).

Conclusion:  Obama first seeded the lemons, starting with his long-ago refusal to take either General McChrystal or the Afghanistan war serious.  He harvested the lemons when he elected to let his ego lead in what could have been a down-played, and therefore negligible, situation.  And he managed to create lemonade by replace McChrystal with only the best general out there.  Let’s hope the best general chews up Afghanistan, rather than vice versa.

(Just FYI, The Anchoress has a stellar round-up of responses to the whole saga.)

UPDATE:  Bruce Kesler, who understands more about what’s going on than I ever could, is pleased okay with Petraeus’ appointment, but would have preferred General Mattis.  Blackfive thinks the timing of this whole thing is more than a little suspicious.  (The first story will make you happy sanguine; the second, angry.)

UPDATE II:  Was Obama just trying to keep Petraeus out of the 2012 race?  I doubt it.  For one thing, that’s two years ahead, and a lot can change between now and then.  For another thing, I have it on good authority that Petraeus is saying right now, with a straight face, that he’s not running.  If this is preemptive action, it’s really preemptive.  Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke.

My sense is that Petraeus genuinely doesn’t want to run.  It’s a lousy job, and Petraeus isn’t an egotist.  He is, however, a patriot.  If he feels that America truly needs his unique skills, Afghanistan will be the smallest part of the U.S.’s problems, and he’ll run regardless.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Pingback: The Anchoress | A First Things Blog()

  • Pingback: MacArthur – parked. « The Radio Patriot()

  • Ymarsakar

    I predict Obama will try to make Petraeus fail in Afghanistan. Long enough that Obama can push through a butt load of troops, get them killed, then exit the stage and have a Republican President pull them out or carry on the fight.
    Then it will be known as the Republican’s war.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I have to agree with Obama’s decision. We can’t have generals insubordinate to the commander in chief if we respect the democratic system and civilian control of the military. So, in this case, I put a “plus” in Obama’s column. Petraeus was a good choice, as well.

  • suek

    >>Then it will be known as the Republican’s war.>>
    Hmmm.  That would require 2.5 more years in A’stan.  I hope not.
    I suspect that instead, O will initiate withdrawal, and it will be another Democrat defeat – which (I agree) they will somehow manage to blame Repubs for.
    Like Vietnam.  Kennedy started it, Johnson expanded it, Nixon actually won it, but the Dems pulled the carpet out from under So. Vietnam and managed to give victory to N. Vietnam – but somehow, it’s a Republican defeat.  Something else I just don’t understand.

  • suek

    >>We can’t have generals insubordinate to the commander in chief if we respect the democratic system and civilian control of the military.>>
    Except that McChrystal wasn’t.  He criticized _Holbrook_.  Now granted that Holbrook was also an Obama appointee, but Holbrook is _not_ Obama.  So…while I agree with your statement, I don’t think it actually applies.  I think there’s more here than meets the eye…

  • Oldflyer

    Agree with you Suek.  It is a bit frustrating that after the Rolling Stones article is available to read, many people continue to mis-characterize what it says.  Even on FNC.  Note, that many of the more damaging  “quotes” are from un-named Aides.
    My take since I found out what was actually in the article was that there was definitely a choice in how the WH handled it.  Could have stated that Obama and McC talked,  McC was sorry that things got out of hand;  that a combination of fatigue and frustration with the difficulties of the situation caused a momentary lapse, and it wouldn’t happen again.  In the big picture this  is a blip, blah, blah.   Or Obama could. . .
    Of course if you are a wimp trying to look tough, there was only one acceptable action. (I assume that O had sense enough not to literally try to kick McC’s ass. Talking tough is different from walking tough.)  The whole thing was made easy by the fact the Petraeus was there and was willing to bite the bullet.
    Interesting that not a soul has commented on the facts that the last time Petraeus was seen publicly, he fainted while sitting at a table.  Nor any notice that he had radiation treatment for prostate cancer in 2009.  It remains to be seen whether his health is robust enough to withstand the obvious rigors of this job.
    None of it really matters (except to McChrystal, who may be well out of it) if Obama doesn’t step up and make it clear that he is in Afghanistan for the long-haul.  Those folks are very good at reading tea leaves, and they will be choosing sides pretty soon, if not already.  The stakes are life and death for them.


    Bookworm, really liked the ‘lemon analogy’, but all of this is leaving sour taste in my mouth.
    It’s a war with a strange mix of rules and regs. Soldiers are building schools and women are voting and our ‘supposed’ ally, Hamid Karzai has said some pretty off the wall remarks [threatening to join the Taliban]. Karzai’s brother, Achmed of Kandahar is reportedly a major opium dealer, 7 year boys are hanged and just how can one General, no matter what his last name and one POTUS, who announced a draw down date coupled with NATO Forces, who are not representative in the numbers needed or equal to our own actually ‘win a war’ in the loosest sense of the term here.
    If any dates are to be issued, they should be for the Taliban and posted.
    Attention Taliban and Jihadists
    You have xx days to xx. Failure will result in carpet bombing, death, destruction.
    Bring us the heads of OBL and all his cohorts and you get to keep yours if you stop the following:
    [fill in the basic rules of humanity and dignity here]

  • Ymarsakar

    Lincoln could have booted McClellan off way earlier, but he didn’t. It wasn’t until the general’s politics actually went into intentionally prolonging the war by refusing to take the South’s capital (because he was hoping to get elected), that Lincoln gave him the boot.
    The Left is, again, counting on basic Republican decency and patriotism for the country as cover for the Left’s evil shenanigans. But it doesn’t cover up the fact that the Left are using human shields and that our Republic is the shield.
    The regime and their supporters that cheered over getting rid of “conservatives” at WACO does not give a damn whether military rule is subordinate to civilian authority.

  • Ymarsakar

    A lot of Americans blame Republicans in Congress for going along with the Left’s spending plans.
    But if you support Obama’s decision on McChrystal, ostensibly because it reinforces something that is good for the Republic, then how are you better? A lot of people want to blame the Republicans and say that they could have done better.
    Better as what? The Democrat deal was, “work with us and get some of what you have” or “don’t work with us and we’ll shoot the hostage in the head”. The more idealistic the Republican, the more they were co-opted by corrupt DC politics.
    It’s not so easy now, is it, to sacrifice the hostage to defeat Democrats. They always have a hostage. Whether in war or in domestic affairs. They always threaten a counter-attack, not just against the person of politicians or businessmen in their way, but against the very health of the Republic itself if they don’t get their way.
    That’s just how they are. They give you the choice of either giving into their demands or seeing the Republic harmed. You can either support Obama’s decisions and reinforce civilian chain of command, or you can be against him and see your Republic harmed in the long term. Obama doesn’t give a damn what happens to the Republic in the long term, so it’s a plus for him regardless of what choice people make. A catch 22.
    It’s not so easy resisting Democrat policies and agendas, when you’re the one that have to decide whether to pull the trigger on the hostage or not. And that’s exactly why they have won so much power as they have. Because it was just as hard for anybody else trying to fight them.

  • Pingback: » Links To Visit – 06/24/10 The Progressive Hunter()

  • Mike Devx

    This is the same Obama that spent eight minutes while Senator from Illinois criticising and bullying General Petraeus for his supposedly worthless and inept strategy for the Iraq surge and labelled the surge a complete failure even while it was succeeding.
    I would love to see Petraeus say, “OK, Obambi, I’ll take your fricking Afghanistan job… but first you must go on national TV and spend exactly as much time praising my Iraq policy, and calling it wonderful, as you spent criticising it.  Else, you couldn’t possibly want me – such a failure and worthless strategist as me! – for this job.”
    I’d love to see you take THAT, Obama… you incompetent excuse for a President, you amoral manipulator with no honor.


    Mike Devx call it progressive flexibility. You know the drill – I was against the war before I voted for it style.

  • Murray Lawrence

    It’s become something of a Homeric epithet, like “Achilles, stormer of cities,” to call General Petraeus “the man who wrote the book on counterinsurgency,” but it would be truer to say that he translated the book and added his own revisions. After hearing for the 100th time that Petraeus “wrote the book,” I jogged my memory and found a copy in my files of Arthur Herman’s “How to Win in Iraq – and How to Lose” (Commentary, April 2007), in which Herman discusses the insurgency of the National Liberation Front in Algeria (FLN), which he calls “a direct prototype of today’s al Qaeda,” whose leaders were “motivated less by nationalism than by virulent anti-Western (and, not incidentally, anti-Jewish) ideologies.” He goes on to speak of “a French lieutenant colonel of Tunisian descent named David Galula,” who responded “To the FLN’s unconventional mode of warfare” with “unconventional methods of his own. These proved so successful so quickly that they were soon adopted by French commanders in other parts of Algeria.” Galula went on to write “Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,” which, according to Herman, “was virtually unknown in Pentagon circles” as late as 2005. “Today,” he writes, “it has become the bible of American counterinsurgency thinkers like General Petraeus, whose field manual (known as FM 3-24) it largely informs” and “is the core of our revised near-term strategy for Iraq, a strategy based, in Petraeus’ words, on the principle that ‘you’re not going to kill your way out of an insurgency.'” Herman’s essay should be required reading for anyone who wants to get a glimpse into the military history that Petraeus studied to such great effect, especially by contrast with the near-treasonous defeatism of the Democrats just before and during the early progress of his operations in Iraq. Herman’s insights are all the more valuable in light of Democrat opposition to the war, which reached its height at this most trying time for President Bush, about whom the media has fallen mysteriously silent as they praise Obama for his “brilliant” replacement of McChrystal with the commander that Bush put in the field against all the odds.

  • Mike Devx

    Wow, Murray Lawrence, that was one hell of a great comment post.   I haven’t seen you here before, so let me say, Welcome!
    ‘Cept now I have to give the French credit for something, and I have to be dragged kicking and screaming into *that*.  Well, here comes the kicking and screaming.

  • Ymarsakar

    To clarify my position, I support McChrystal’s resignation. That was his duty and obligation. But I will have no words of support for Obama’s decision to relieve McChrystal of his command. McChrystal did resign in order to maintain the authority of the office of the US President.
    Anything Obama does, including using or not using the Presidency, does harm to the Republic and the office of the President. I will support the power and authority of the office of the President, but the man sitting in it is an enemy of the United States Constitution.
    I will give no words of support, indirect or direct, for that individual.

  • Mike Devx

    Ymar says,
    > Anything Obama does, including using or not using the Presidency, does harm to the Republic and the office of the President. I will support the power and authority of the office of the President, but the man sitting in it is an enemy of the United States Constitution.

    Hear, Hear!

    The far left wants to cut and run out of Afghanistan.  They’d love to be gone yesterday.  So would Obama.  However, out of pure political expediency, he knows he cannot simply cut and run.  So he’s trying to make the best of a situation he despises.  If he *must* stay a while longer in Afghanistan, he will put the best face on it he can.  He does *not* want to win; but he does not want to lose, either.

    Will he allow Petraeus to win?   I do not think so, but it will be due to chaos, incompetence, and neglect within the Obama Administration/Executive Branch.  Exactly as with the oil spill cleanup, the Administration’s bureaucracy will hamstring Petraeus, creating conditions on the ground that lead directly to failure.  The fact that the State Department is involved – as it is not in the oil spill cleanup – makes the situation in Afghanistan even worse.

    (And I don’t blame Hillary C for the State Department.  For far too long it’s been under the control of a cadre of diplomats that can best be described as leftist appeasers.  It could use a few well-placed neutron bombs.)

  • suek

    The article is interesting…the comments are even more so.  Be sure and check them out – some interesting info there – though no guarantees of reliability.

  • Ymarsakar

    It would help to know what happened with ROE, McChrystal, and Afghanistan to know what kind of ROE restrictions Obama told McChrystal that had to be there.
    If people can find this out, you can find out the answer to how Afghanistan’s still going to hell now.


    There will be changes. As to how many and what .. to be determined.


    Another view …


    Musical political chairs is an old Afghan tradition. It provides work for all who are worthy and many who aren’t. The intrigue around the Karzai court apparently has infected the American and British side just as earlier Afghan politics played havoc with Russian efforts to secure the country to their end.