Obama WH bought COIN without understanding the cost: WaPo

posted at 9:30 am on October 8, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

If nothing up to this point convinced people of the amateurish and bungling nature of Barack Obama and his administration, this Washington Post story makes the case all by itself.  For two years, Obama campaigned on changing the strategy in Afghanistan to a more effective counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy, claiming that the Bush administration had dropped the ball in the Af-Pak theater in large part by not committing the resources needed for an effective battle plan (an assessment shared by John McCain).  On taking office, Obama quickly increased troop levels in Afghanistan and appointed COIN strategist Gen. Stanley McChrystal to lead the mission.

However, the Post reports that Obama and his team never understood the implications of his demand for the new strategy.  McChrystal’s assessment of the needs for his COIN plan sent them into “sticker shock,” according to one Post source in the White House (emphasis mine):

In early March, after weeks of debate across a conference table in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the participants in President Obama’s strategic review of the war in Afghanistan figured that the most contentious part of their discussions was behind them. Everyone, save Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, agreed that the United States needed to mount a comprehensive counterinsurgency mission to defeat the Taliban.

That conclusion, which was later endorsed by the president and members of his national security team, would become the first in a set of recommendations contained in an administration white paper outlining what Obama called “a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Preventing al-Qaeda’s return to Afghanistan, the document stated, would require “executing and resourcing an integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency strategy.” …

To some civilians who participated in the strategic review, that conclusion was much less clear. Some took it as inevitable that more troops would be needed, but others thought the thrust of the new approach was to send over scores more diplomats and reconstruction experts. They figured a counterinsurgency mission could be accomplished with the forces already in the country, plus the 17,000 new troops Obama had authorized in February.

“It was easy to say, ‘Hey, I support COIN,’ because nobody had done the assessment of what it would really take, and nobody had thought through whether we want to do what it takes,” said one senior civilian administration official who participated in the review, using the shorthand for counterinsurgency.

The failure to reach a shared understanding of the resources required to execute the strategy has complicated the White House’s response to the grim assessment of the war by the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, forcing the president to decide, in effect, what his administration really meant when it endorsed a counterinsurgency plan. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s follow-up request for more forces, which presents a range of options but makes clear that the best chance of achieving the administration’s goals requires an additional 40,000 U.S. troops on top of the 68,000 who are already there, has given senior members of Obama’s national security team “a case of sticker shock,” the administration official said.

After two years of campaigning on this new strategy and eight months of ordering it as Commander in Chief, Barack Obama now has to make up his mind what he meant?  It was the single most important issue on the war during the general campaign, thanks to the sharp improvement in Iraq that Obama predicted would never happen.  He had hundreds of military officers and foreign-policy experts advising him on this issue — and none of them apparently ever taught the young candidate what COIN actually entailed.

This is a damning indictment of the President and his lack of preparation for the job, but it goes farther than that.  Obama has essentially been “on the job” since the transition, which started eleven months ago.  Considering the priority of any policy that puts American men and women in battle, Obama should have worked to understand the implications of his COIN solution from Day 1 in the transition, if not Day 1 of his term in office.  He appointed McChrystal for this specific purpose in the spring without bothering to understand the concepts and the resources required for COIN.

In other words, Obama has half-assed it, and has gotten caught.

Update: Michael Yon links to an intriguing report from Anthony Lloyd from Afghanistan.  Don’t forget to hit Michael’s tip jar.  We’re going to need him on the ground more than ever.


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I saw that in the primaries. That’s why I voted McCain. When McCain actually knocked off the campaign tone and just talked, he was 100% sharper than Obama on issues.

Alas, he rarely let himself talk that way.

AnninCA on October 8, 2009 at 10:47 AM

One of the oddest aspects of election 2008 is that the Republican party choose the candidate that the media said it wanted us to:

1) Combat veteran
2) Extensive political record and experience, especially on military related issues
3) Moderate and not particularly partisan
4) Gravitas
5) Personally disliked George Bush

and they still turned on him. I knew it was going to happen – but boy did he seem surprised.

18-1 on October 8, 2009 at 10:51 AM

Obama should have worked to understand the implications of his COIN solution large book advance from Day 1 in the transition after receiving it, if not Day 1 of his term in office start of writing it. He appointed McChrystal Ayers for this specific purpose in the spring without bothering to understand the concepts and the resources required for COIN writing a book.

I sense a pattern re-emerging….

ted c on October 8, 2009 at 10:51 AM

One of the first things you learn in the military is how to salute. It’s not complicated by any means.

“Your fingers are together, straight, and your thumb snug along the hand in line with the fingers. Your hand, wrist, and forearm are straight, forming a straight line from your elbow to your fingertips. Your upper arm (elbow to shoulder) is horizontal to the ground.”

Obama salutes like a campfire girl with a broken wrist.

I’ll never forget attending a movie with hundreds of other grunts back when I was in basic training. We were watching “The Dirty Dozen”, and Ernest Borgnine (who played a general, emphasis on “played”) gave a salute with a limp wrist and droopy hand, and the entire audience laughed their butts off. Like our current president, Hollywood didn’t have a clue about proper military conduct. It’s like when they show someone throwing a grenade in a movie, with a big looping straight arm as if it weighed as much as a bowling ball. Anyone who has served knows you throw it just like a baseball.

I’m sure today’s grunts laugh in a similar manner whenever they see Obama attempt to pull off a military salute. It’s laughable, and to be honest, disrespectful.

He fails even in the simplest of tasks. An embarrassment, who the military despises. And I have that on good authority.

fogw on October 8, 2009 at 10:55 AM

I still don’t get how he could spend time on the Olympics while his commanders are awaiting a decision from him on Afghanistan. If not for that magic D next to his name the media would have, rightly, crucified him.

18-1 on October 8, 2009 at 10:41 AM

It’s not just the Olympics. The filthy lying coward had the assessment since mid-August. He knew that a request for more troops was forthcoming. He also knew what the strategy was since before his election. With all of that he dithers while American soldiers are being killed fighting the strategy he endorsed. There is no excuse for the needless loss of life going on because the rat bastard traitor in the White House refuses to make a decision. The bastard needs to go to each family who lost a servicemember and personally explain to them why partying with Oprah in Denmark was more important than the life of their loved one.

highhopes on October 8, 2009 at 10:55 AM

What these guys are telling the Post (and the Post is too ignorant or biased to explain) is that many of Barack’s top advisors went into the meeting never having read either Petraeus’ COIN Manual or David Kilcullen’s COIN books and articles. These jerks should have been thrown out of the meeting.

If a Marxist didn’t write it Obama’s team hasn’t read it.

rcl on October 8, 2009 at 10:56 AM

Sure he is incompetent but he gives a hell of a speech.

jukin on October 8, 2009 at 10:57 AM

One of the oddest aspects of election 2008 is that the Republican party choose the candidate that the media said it wanted us to:

1) Combat veteran
2) Extensive political record and experience, especially on military related issues
3) Moderate and not particularly partisan
4) Gravitas
5) Personally disliked George Bush

and they still turned on him. I knew it was going to happen – but boy did he seem surprised.

18-1 on October 8, 2009 at 10:51 AM

I disagree with your number 3. McCain is a social liberal and completely partisan, usually siding with the Democrats. He gave us McCain-Feingold which abridges the Constitution. He attempted to give illegals no-strings attached citizenship with Teddy Kennedy. He hates Christian conservatives and their issues. He led a personal and unfair vendetta against Donald Rumsfeld because one of his pet projects got cut. McCain is many things but moderate and not so partisan are not two of them.

highhopes on October 8, 2009 at 11:02 AM

As predicted, Barry’s turning out to be a gigantic fcuk-up. It may be a blessing in disguise: let us pray that he once and for all thoroughly discredits this current brand of “liberalism” and other forms of socialism/communism.

mr.blacksheep on October 8, 2009 at 11:02 AM

If a Marxist didn’t write it Obama’s team hasn’t read it.

rcl on October 8, 2009 at 10:56 AM

The filthy liar’s team thinks COIN refers to the new quarter design they plan on introducing- Obama’s profile on the front. Obama shaking hands with Lincoln on the back and “I was too born in Hawaii” around the edge.

highhopes on October 8, 2009 at 11:06 AM

And these people are running the U.S. auto industry, and most of the banking system, and want to run our health care system! What could go wrong?????

rockmom on October 8, 2009 at 11:11 AM

How exactly could we get him impeached before 2011 with the congress so heavily warped toward the D’s?

B Man on October 8, 2009 at 9:48 AM

If Congress won’t get Rangel off the Ways & Means committee, what chance in hell do we have to impeach Obama? Its just fricking sad………….

Flyboy on October 8, 2009 at 11:20 AM

What is this I hear that Obama does not know what he is doing.
Way back in Nov. of 2008 Obama was already laying the ground work of his master plan to beat the Taliban in Afghanistan:


Military Ready To Implement Obama’s Plans
Joint Chiefs Chairman Says Forces Are Ready To Shift From Iraq To Afghanistan

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/11/18/iraq/main4615328.shtml?source=related_story

(CBS/AP)  The top U.S. military officer said Tuesday the Defense Department is developing plans to get troops quickly out of Iraq and into Afghanistan to battle a more confident and successful Taliban.


Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Associated Press in an interview that the military can make the changes President-elect Barack Obama wants in both wars.

In his first television interview after winning the presidency, Obama told 60 Minutes Steve Croft, “as soon as I take office, I will call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my national security apparatus, and we will start executing a plan that draws down our troops (in Iraq). Particularly in light of the problems that we’re having in Afghanistan, which has continued to worsen. We’ve got to shore up those efforts.”

Obama was johnny on the spot.
Obama was another JFK.
Obama was another FDR.
Obama was another Lincoln.

Obama was the smartest man in the room ready to implement his “smart power” to defeat the jihadist in Afghanistan/Pakistan in a “smarter” way.

But after 10 months on the job, it looks like Obama is nothing more than a failed community organizer that was sold to the American people off of Bush hate and messiah worship in the media.

Not a lot of “hope” here but we certainly are getting a lot of “change”.

We won in Iraq under Bush/American Soldier and with continued strong leadership and commitment from the White House can win in Afghanistan.

The problem is Obama is anything but a leader and has only shown strength when confronting his political opponents.

If we can convince the White House that the jihadist are Republican and pro-life then maybe it would enrage the democrats enough to defeat them.

Baxter Greene on October 8, 2009 at 11:21 AM

One of the oddest aspects of election 2008 is that the Republican party choose the candidate that the media said it wanted us to:

1) Combat veteran
2) Extensive political record and experience, especially on military related issues
3) Moderate and not particularly partisan
4) Gravitas
5) Personally disliked George Bush

and they still turned on him. I knew it was going to happen – but boy did he seem surprised.

18-1 on October 8, 2009 at 10:51 AM

Sacrificial lamb

Flyboy on October 8, 2009 at 11:23 AM

Racist racist racist. You can’t critique the historically historic history of our first black CiC! To imply that he’s not a hard worker unhelpfully feeds the worst racial stereotypes and stokes extremist extremism of the extreme right and is just like telling him to get to the back of the political bus, the bus that will no doubt have an Afghan adviser thrown under it soon.

cpr on October 8, 2009 at 11:27 AM

“In other words, Obama has half-assed it, and has gotten caught.”

You just summed up Obama’s entire career…

… to bad our troops have to pay for his mistakes.

Seven Percent Solution on October 8, 2009 at 11:31 AM

But after 10 months on the job, it looks like Obama is nothing more than a failed community organizer that was sold to the American people off of Bush hate and messiah worship in the media.

Obama was quite successful at tearing things down in the name of community organization. It’s the leadership and governing things he sucks at.

highhopes on October 8, 2009 at 11:37 AM

Now, now. Settle down. We lived through Carter. We’ll make it.

faraway on October 8, 2009 at 9:50 AM

I agree. Patience young Jedi, if this comes down to REAL violence it would be terrible. 2010 should stop Obama’s clock in Congress.

GunRunner on October 8, 2009 at 11:39 AM

Only if they do it in public. Humiliation should be part of the 12-step process for atonement from Obamulation.

highhopes on October 8, 2009 at 10:38 AM

Better yet. Much better!

Gang-of-One on October 8, 2009 at 11:44 AM

I still don’t get how he could spend time on the Olympics while his commanders are awaiting a decision from him on Afghanistan.

18-1 on October 8, 2009 at 10:41 AM

I’d say dhunter sums it up below pretty well..

Pinnochio cares not a wit about Afghanistan or our sons and daughters only to the extent they are pawns in his reelction.

dhunter on October 8, 2009 at 10:39 AM

Gang-of-One on October 8, 2009 at 11:54 AM

Don’t worry about the Commander In Chief or any other issues regarding Afghanistan. Worry about what you are doing to support those in battle for our country. It is time for you to step up and do something to support the men and women fighting for you and your family. You have control over one thing. What are you doing to support those serving? It is time for you to step up and answer the call. Help out those serving, SUPPORT THEM. Here are two websites that make it easy for YOU to support those that serve, do it now and do it today. You can have a positive impact. You can place a smile on someone’s face that is serving in combat.

http://www.anysoldier.com

http://www.soldiersangels.org

Sanmon on October 8, 2009 at 11:57 AM

Obama salutes like a campfire girl with a broken wrist.

fogw on October 8, 2009 at 10:55 AM

I remember shaking my head in disgust the first time I saw the Limp-wrist in Chief saluting as he deboarded AF-1. An insult.

Gang-of-One on October 8, 2009 at 12:06 PM

1. 400K? I don’t think so. We don’t have the infrastructure to support that number in Afhganistan at this time. Food, housing, supply – all would have to be increased dramatically.

2. Ernest Borgnine served in the Navy for 10 years. Obama, he’s not.

3. The link to story concerning bad morale is the usual kind of report. If you talk to someone who had a friend killed a few days ago, I would think that his morale might be slightly down. Its the type of story that even if there isn’t any validity to it, will get touted as proof that we should end whatever action we’re involved in. I’ve seen this many times over my 26 years in the military.

keyboarddude on October 8, 2009 at 12:11 PM

In other words, Obama has half-assed it, and has gotten caught.

The term “half-assed” gives this maroon 50% more credit than he has earned.

Coup.

eyesky on October 8, 2009 at 12:14 PM

Sure he is incompetent but he gives a hell of a speech.
jukin on October 8, 2009 at 10:57 AM

————————————————————————–
He sure does. How about henceforth our SOB-in-Chief gives one of those eloquent speeches at the funeral of every soldier who dies in Afghanistan.

ziggyville on October 8, 2009 at 12:29 PM

What makes me saddest is that brave men and women are risking their lives while a man who does not have a clue is commander in chief.

Hera on October 8, 2009 at 12:36 PM

I have a client that is an Army Ranger and is currently in Afghanistan.
Please pray for for all of our military personnel, ask your family and friends and associates to pray for them.
Please.

mountainmanbob on October 8, 2009 at 12:42 PM

George S. Patton was one of the truly smart military leaders. One thing he had figured out, that he was a an egotistical jerk with a god complex, and more importantly, the world is full of other egotistical jerks with a god-complex.
Most egotists, don’t recognize the second part. They tend to think the world loves the sound of their voice as much as they do.

America will give an extra long pass to new Presidents and the military actions they must perform, especially if they’re a Democrat. They tend to think being C in C comes built in for Republicans, where with a Democrat, America thinks right away of a beta male wimp with anti-military ideals That long pass, that “honeymoon” during a war time, is now officially closed, EVEN for a wimpy Democrat..

Jeff from WI on October 8, 2009 at 1:00 PM

I have a client that is an Army Ranger and is currently in Afghanistan.
Please pray for for all of our military personnel, ask your family and friends and associates to pray for them.
Please.

mountainmanbob on October 8, 2009 at 12:42 PM

Amen to that!

Jeff from WI on October 8, 2009 at 1:01 PM

In other words, Obama has half-assed it, and has gotten caught.

Obama is an ass, was, and always will be one, in more ways than one:

- donkey
- behind
- Arschloch
- derriere
- etc.

Schadenfreude on October 8, 2009 at 1:13 PM

This is a damning indictment of the President and his lack of preparation for the job …

I agree – and this is terrifying.

We didn’t just elect a Socialist bent on overthrowing the foundation of Liberty this nation was founded upon …

We also elected an awesomely unprepared one.

I was thinking the other day about all the failures Obama has chalked up. Many of his failures – like the Olympic Games plea – are the kind of failures you’d expect a High School kid to make if he or she were suddenly thrust into the job of President of the United States.

And then I thought – for all practical purposes – that is exactly what we have in Mr. Obama – a guy who has essentially the professional life experience of a high school kid. He’s never run anything, therefore – he’s never really FAILED at anything. Experience with failure is a vital component of one’s professional education. Failure gives you visibility on your limitations. It teaches you what questions to ask and what to look out for when you’re treading on dangerous ground.

But Obama never learned this. From the moment of his birth – he’s been doted over. All of the doors he’s had to walk through were opened for him by his speaking ability and looks. I think he’s also benefited from a certain amount of the tyranny of low expectations of affirmative action. He wrote about this in his book – about the fact that if you behaved “comfortably” for White people – they would like you – because they wanted to like you. He’s ridden a long way, I think, on the back of white guilt alone.

Could I be wrong? Sure – but … someone needs to find me the professional resume of a President in his background. I just don’t see it. Earning a law degree doesn’t prepare one to be President. Being a community organizer doesn’t either.

I think we’d have been better off if we had picked a name at random out of the Picayune, MS telephone book and said … “Congratulations! You’re now the President!”

HondaV65 on October 8, 2009 at 1:18 PM

Joke in Chief

Political satire matters when it is larger than the joke. The growing rap on Obama is that he is a man both ineffective and meek; a man who is loved by all and feared by none.

“The world loves him, and ignores him.”

Schadenfreude on October 8, 2009 at 1:35 PM

It was the single most important issue on the war during the general campaign

Translation: As usual, he said what he did to get what he wanted. And it worked.

and has gotten caught

Not until he loses the house, senate, or presidency has he “gotten caught”. Even if he loses all 3 eventualy, he won’t have lost, and we won’t have won, until the inevitable hagiographies are scorned and burned, and you can walk down the streets of an urban mostly black community and have the residents disavow that they voted for him.

AnotherOpinion on October 8, 2009 at 1:43 PM

The Weasel in Chief wants to split the difference, as he always does. The Democrats have, and will have much more, blood on their hands, make no mistake about this.

Schadenfreude on October 8, 2009 at 1:46 PM

I don’t know why people keep talking about impeachment, it’s not going to happen. Screwing up wars is not a crime in the USA, it’s been a tradition since about 1950. And no one has been impeached over it.

There is only one hope for our country, and that is to take back the Congress in 2010. That won’t solve all our problems, but it would be a start in the right direction.

This is another nail in the coffin of those who claim there is “really no difference between the parties.” Both parties are crummy, and littered with crooks, but there are differences. Those differences work more to our disadvantage under Democrat rule.

Meremortal on October 8, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Couple of Thoughts on POTUS:
1. He is naive
2. He is a leftist
3. He is weak
4. He is a wimp
5. He has not understanding of American uniqueness,
although he is a prime example of what make this country great
6. He is an attorney who has not run anything every
7. He doesn’t understand capitalism
8. He is enamoured with himself
9. He is enamoured with soicalism
10. Elections have consequences – we’re living with that

georgeofthedesert on October 8, 2009 at 2:02 PM

Good Grief

franksalterego on October 8, 2009 at 2:06 PM

Welcome to warfare under a modern Democrat. I’d pray we won’t ever have to face it again, but no one ever learns from history so we will in 30 or so years. After all this isn’t the first time we’ve gone through this.

And these people are running the U.S. auto industry into the ground, and most of the banking system, and want to run our health care system! What could go wrong?????

rockmom on October 8, 2009 at 11:11 AM

Fixed for you given GM and Chrysler’s latest sales figures. The banks aren’t far off themselves, and medicare/caid/VA/indian health care are already a joke.

Well I guess the fixed part should be on “Waht could go wrong?”, it’s already gone wrong.

jarodea on October 8, 2009 at 2:39 PM

“he’s never really FAILED at anything” “He wrote about this in his book – about the fact that”
HondaV65 on October 8, 2009 at 1:18 PM

He’s never been allowed to fail.

School records/work, sealed? Why?
What is being hidden?

Actually Ayers wrote “His” book.

DSchoen on October 8, 2009 at 2:41 PM

When you guys are truly fed up with this usurper, I’ve got two words for you: Quo Warranto“. It’s the only way to get him out of office now (since Dem Congress will never go the impeachment route).
.
Waiting until 2012 to change Congress will be too late- as is evidenced by the damage he has done. With 10 months down and 14 months to go- fuggetaboutit.

NightmareOnKStreet on October 8, 2009 at 3:26 PM

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