Obama needs advisers, but McCain has the experience

posted at 11:43 am on February 28, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Jack Jacobs at MS-NBC wonders who Barack Obama has as his military advisers. Based on his answers at the debate, Jacobs suggests replacing them at the first opportunity. No one expects a presidential candidate to be an expert on ground combat, but at the very least candidates can hire a few:

But last week, during his debate with Clinton, Obama tried speaking about substance when he mentioned the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he displayed an astounding ignorance of the military instrument. He said that an anonymous U.S. Army captain told him that his infantry platoon was split and sent to different areas of operations; that they were lacking vehicles; and that they had insufficient ammunition to fight.Although problems do occur in combat situations to be sure, none of what Obama related makes any sense and is, according to people with whom I spoke, untrue. Units the size of platoons are not sent to separate theaters, ammunition has been plentiful, and an investigation indicates that the unit in question was missing only one of its Humvees, all to no peril of the unit. ….

Politicians rely heavily, on almost every subject, on advisors to get them educated and keep them current. And nobody really expects Obama or Clinton or even McCain, who was a Navy aviator, to know anything about ground combat. But one does expect the candidate to employ advisors who know what they are talking about and to prevent their candidate from embarrassment.

While Obama has attracted money, notoriety and delegates, he has yet to attract military advisers who know what they are doing.

It helps to understand the macro concepts as well. When Obama talked about our military “air raiding villages and civilians” in Afghanistan, he showed a remarkable disengagement from the actual events in a theater even he calls critical to the war on terror. The use of close air support in fighting Taliban attacks derailed their last spring offensive, and it helped kill some of their highest-ranking leaders.

Obviously, his advisers either haven’t improved since then, or they haven’t been replaced with people who know what they’re doing. Democrats can be forgiven for their continued support of Obama, however, because the alternative doesn’t appear to be much of an improvement. Hillary Clinton has shown the same kind of diffidence to military strategy and policy as Obama, even though she has better sense about making sweeping pronouncements on the subject.

John McCain should focus on this gap, and based on his rapid-fire engagement with Obama on al-Qaeda in Iraq yesterday, he looks ready to do so. McCain may have served as a naval aviator, but he has also served on the Armed Services Committee for years. He knows a platoon from a battalion, and he knows the structure, purpose, and strategy for the American military better than most of the people in and out of Washington. Wartime is not the moment for apprenticeship at the highest level of command, and McCain needs to remind America of that truth.


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