Obama’s Afghanistan strategy: Don’t listen to the generals

posted at 9:30 am on September 22, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

During the Iraq War, Democrats ripped George W. Bush for supposedly not listening to his generals about sufficient troop commitments and strategic and tactical decisions in the field.  Consider that when reading the Washington Post’s report from Bob Woodward’s inside look at the stewardship of Barack Obama in the Afghanistan war.  Not only did Obama ignore the recommendations of his generals, he wound up writing his own war plan to spite them:

President Obama urgently looked for a way out of the war in Afghanistan last year, repeatedly pressing his top military advisers for an exit plan that they never gave him, according to secret meeting notes and documents cited in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

Frustrated with his military commanders for consistently offering only options that required significantly more troops, Obama finally crafted his own strategy, dictating a classified six-page “terms sheet” that sought to limit U.S. involvement, Woodward reports in “Obama’s Wars,” to be released on Monday.

According to Woodward’s meeting-by-meeting, memo-by-memo account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review, the president avoided talk of victory as he described his objectives. …

Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”

This explains why it took Barack Obama months to finally decide on a plan — but not how he got himself in that position in the first place.  Recall that Obama campaigned on fighting in Afghanistan more robustly than Bush did, blaming him for using resources on Iraq that should have gone into the Af-Pak theater.  Starting in 2007, Obama publicly embraced the COIN strategy for Afghanistan that wound up working in Iraq.  What Woodward describes is a man who got confronted with the definition and costs of the strategy he had loudly espoused for years for the first time, and realized he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about the entire time.

The rest of the Post report focuses on the interpersonal conflicts within the war management structure, which given the above, hardly seems surprising at all.  The military men don’t trust the political aides, which isn’t exactly a new phenomenon in American warfare, although one has to derive a little humor from national security adviser James Jones’ nickname for them: “Politburo.”  (I bet that went over well in the West Wing when it came out.)  Petraeus may be the loyal company man publicly but privately told his aides that the administration was “[expletive] with the wrong guy” during this period.

The only really notable revelation here is not that surprising:

An older war – the Vietnam conflict – does figure prominently in the minds of Obama and his advisers. When Vice President Biden rushed to the White House on a Sunday morning to make one last appeal for a narrowly defined mission, he warned Obama that a major escalation would mean “we’re locked into Vietnam.”

Obama kept asking for “an exit plan” to go along with any further troop commitment, and is shown growing increasingly frustrated with the military hierarchy for not providing one. At one strategy session, the president waved a memo from the Office of Management and Budget, which put a price tag of $889 billion over 10 years on the military’s open-ended approach.

And instead of listening to his generals, particularly Petraeus, who kept saying that the only exit strategy was to defeat the enemy and keep Afghanistan secure, the man with no military experience whatsoever wrote his own doctrine.  Petraeus, ironically, wound up having to implement a plan he very much opposed.  This sounds closer to the errors of Vietnam than their solution.

Update: Heritage’s Conn Carroll says they called this when Obama announced his Afghanistan strategy.


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The Dems and the Left are obsessed with creating another Vietnam. They tried to do it in Iraq, and they are trying to do it again in Afghanistan. They want America to lose at their hands because they believe America needs and deserves to be taken down a notch or three, and because it will demonstrate just how much power they wield.

Christien on September 22, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Yeah, politicians running a war, that worked out real well in Vietnam, didn’t it? The libs keep comparing the Afgan war to Vietnam, and make the same mistakes.

Has Barry ordered the white flags yet?

GarandFan on September 22, 2010 at 11:40 AM

That would be like me going in for surgery, getting a “local”, and coaching the surgical team through the procedure.

reaganaut on September 22, 2010 at 11:48 AM

Petraeus may be the loyal company man publicly but privately told his aides that the administration was “[expletive] with the wrong guy” during this period.

…Dam# Petraeus is the man.

Where do you start with such blatant incompetence coming from the “Hope and Change” administration.

It was obvious from the beginning of Obama’s term that he was talking out of his a$$ concerning the War on Terrorism.
He put off doing anything for months then brought McCrystal in to implement the troop plan left to him from the Bush administration.Then refused to support and implement this plan which eventually led to him taking almost a year to decide on a toothless strategy big on appearances but way short on defeating the enemy……

…..I still think it is a stretch to believe that a General with the special ops background and success rate that McCrystal gained was somehow not smart enough to think a Rolling Stone reporter would not publish the comments and attitudes they had towards the Obama administration.

I think the revelations of Obama’s incompetence and politicization coming from Woodward add to the theories that McCrystal wanted out of this disaster.

Behind the scenes Petraeus is obviously not happy with Mr. Hope and Change either.

Now it’s our Soldiers that are fighting and dying on the front lines while their Commander and Chief does everything he can do to “surrender with style” in an attempt to save his a$$ politically.

Baxter Greene on September 22, 2010 at 11:51 AM

None of this is surprising. Anyone paying attention knew what Obama was doing .. channeling LJB.

We were fighting a global war in two active theatres and the electorate put an anti-war, anti-American in the CinC chair who campaigned on ENDING the Afghanistan war.

God protect those who risk their lives protecting us.

Texas Gal on September 22, 2010 at 11:56 AM

It’s freaking Johnson all over again:

“I won’t be the American President who loses a war”

but

“It’s a mess and I don’t want to get more involved in it”.

Look, either you are in, or your out. That was the lesson of Vietnam.

But once again we got stuck with a President who thinks that he doesn’t want to “go all in” but also won’t just get out.

Sackett on September 22, 2010 at 11:58 AM

PakviRoti on September 22, 2010 at 11:20 AM

The time has passed for this kind of political BS.

MrScribbler on September 22, 2010 at 11:25 AM

It isn’t Political BS. It is about inflicting enough pain and suffering on the soporific cattle that continuously vote for these thieves…until they get it through their skulls that they are hurting themselves and the Nation. They want Socialism, then force feed them all they can take and them some.

PakviRoti on September 22, 2010 at 12:03 PM

Rookie in Chief. ……

Jill1066 on September 22, 2010 at 12:05 PM

He doesn’t listen to anybody but himself. And maybe the ghost of his Marxist teacher in Hawaii growing up.

Hummer53 on September 22, 2010 at 12:11 PM

Not surprising but horrible nonetheless.

Esthier on September 22, 2010 at 12:25 PM

(via Drudge)
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/world/asia/22policy.html

Mr. Obama’s struggle with the decision comes through in a conversation with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who asked if his deadline to begin withdrawal in July 2011 was firm. “I have to say that,” Mr. Obama replied. “I can’t let this be a war without end, and I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

Once again we have the supposed Commander and Chief showing that politics and keeping his base happy are more important than winning the war.

Showing once again how idiotic it is to compare Obama to the likes of FDR or Lincoln.

You can bet that FDR did not say “I don’t want to lose my democratic allies….so you can only have a few troops for Normandy and you have to be out by the end of the week.”

You can bet Lincoln did not say “Forget heading to Atlanta…the war is unpopular so I need an exit strategy.”

….and you know who else did not concentrate on politics and surrender……..


President Bush announces a surge in troops to Iraq after losing Congress in 06.

Lincoln,FDR,and Bush put country before politics….just the opposite of what Obama is doing.

Even after he agreed to send another 30,000 troops last winter, the Pentagon asked for another 4,500 “enablers” to support them.

The president lost his poise, according to the book. “I’m done doing this!” he erupted.

Liberal speak for : I don’t give a dam# about what our Soldiers need……I can’t have Pelosi,huffington,and my code pink friends getting mad at me.”

Anybody paying attention knows that another 30,000 troops was not going to be able to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and take on the problems across the boarder in Pakistan while waiting for the Afghan Army/Police to be ready for takeover.

Only Obama would send 30,000 troops over and then pitch a hissy fit when asked for 4,000 more.

The president concluded from the start that “I have two years with the public on this” and pressed advisers for ways to avoid a big escalation, the book says. “I want an exit strategy,”

How pathetic…..

So this is the liberals idea of “The Greatest Administration Evaaaaaaa”…….

Instead of being concerned about our troops and the success of the mission…..
……instead of standing strong and doing what it takes to win this war…..

….Obama is making political calculations and demanding a plan for surrender.

Oh Yea!!!!…..Obama is FDR/Lincoln/JFK all rolled into one….because everybody knows that these leaders talked about retreating day in and day out…..

Obama is so narcissistic and weak that he makes Carter look like a Spartan.

Privately, he told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings,

This is unforgivable and a total dereliction of Presidential duty……
How corrupt is it to send our men and women to the front lines to fight for a mission that Obama laid out,then turn around back home and push for just the opposite behind the scenes.
This is straight up using our Soldiers as pawns to provide political cover for the Obama administration…..an administration that wants to surrender but does not have the guts or political backbone to do it.

Biden plan was strongly rejected by the military and foreign policy advisors as any way to win this war.
It is nothing more than phased surrender.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was overall commander for the Middle East until becoming the Afghanistan commander this summer, told a senior aide that he disliked talking with David M. Axelrod, the president’s senior adviser, because he was “a complete spin doctor.” General Petraeus was effectively banned by the administration from the Sunday talk shows but worked private channels with Congress and the news media.

So you ban the one person who has already proven that he knows what it takes to defeat the enemy from discussing anything publicly(more liberal hypocrisy on free speech) but let your head Propagandist do as he pleases.

This administration is beyond irresponsible…..this incompetence is criminal and hearings should be initiated to get to the bottom of this travesty .

Our Soldiers deserve much better than this….

Baxter Greene on September 22, 2010 at 12:37 PM

PakviRoti on September 22, 2010 at 12:03 PM

So you believe the rest of us must suffer so the deluded fools who supported Osama Obama — many of whom already understand the enormity of their mistake — can be appropriately punished?

When you see a bridge on the verge of collapse, do you cut out the weak framing or let it fall to “punish” the incompetent engineer who designed it?

Many innocent Americans will be threatened (or even killed) because of the Traitor-in-Chief. I wouldn’t want their misery or blood on my hands just so I could say “I told you so.”

MrScribbler on September 22, 2010 at 12:42 PM

K.T. McFarland on The Fred Thompson Show just blasted Obama’s utter disregard for the human American lives he casts away in Afghanistan for his own political gain, to appear to care about national security for a time until elections are over when he will bring the troops home regardless of the effect of withdrawal.

Obama is the first CinC who really holds antipathy for all in the military.

maverick muse on September 22, 2010 at 12:49 PM

We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger.”

This is scary. The reason it is scary is that it places no value on individual human lives. Who does he mean by “WE”? The people who were murdered? Their families? When he says they will do everything possible to prevent an attack ( a doubtful proposition itself given his policies) it seems to be presented as a way to mollify potential critics. He seems unmoved by the potential loss of life. This is the big difference between Obama and Bush…Bush cared about every single loss of life. I have a doubt about Obama. I feel that to him statistics are academic.

Next thing we will hear that he can tolerate the killing of abortion survivors in order to maintain his standing with NARAL, NOW etc.

Oooops

Blaise on September 22, 2010 at 12:51 PM

Gates was offended by the DEPT.National Security Adviser (a purely Democrat lobbyist) bad mouthing the absent General [McChrystal].

Must have been really bad to have offended the bipartisan Gates.

maverick muse on September 22, 2010 at 12:51 PM

What the h3ll is the former Fanny Mae lobbyist doing as our nation’s deputy NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER?!

maverick muse on September 22, 2010 at 12:52 PM

“We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger.”

This scares the hell out of me and confirms all along his belief in his role of protecting the lives of every American citizen. I feel he believes we as American are expendable in order for him to get his way. Along with his non protection of the borders in Az. where Americans are at risk every day, and his neglect for the military, I don’t believe he gives a rip whether Americans die.

texriot on September 22, 2010 at 1:11 PM

MrScribbler on September 22, 2010 at 10:47 AM

My sentiments exactly.

I’ve seen pictures and video of some of the victims on September 11th. Not pictures normally viewed by the public, but pics entered into evidence in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial. They are horrifically graphic. But, to view them is to remind ourselves of EXACTLY what this president believes we should be able to “absorb”.

He seems to categorize the importance of another terrorist attack, as if to say “Yeah yeah, we may get hit again, big deal. We got through it once, we’ll do it again. No worries”. In my view, this is a clear indication that he’s put the safety of this nation somewhere down on his list of priorities, and not at the top where it should be. And it is for THAT reason alone that I believe he may be flirting with putting his tip-toes on the line between “idiot” and “impeached idiot”. He swore to protect this nation, and from the sounds of it, he’ll do it so long as it doesn’t get in the way of his golf game, his vacations, or his community-organizing via Washington D.C.

Mr president, America didn’t “absorb” September 11th 2001. We felt every bit of the horror. And it was what we felt that drove us to unite and persevere through the tragedy and the sadness. It was what makes American citizens great, as individuals, that brought the country through that horrific day. And that perserverance…Was not a gift from government. It was not a “bailout”. It was not inspired by “stimulus”. It is an oft unsung but always depended upon character trait in a majority of American citizens, young and old, past and present, which serves to prove that Americans CAN, as individuals, take care of themselves, if allowed to do so.

It is everything YOU tend NOT to believe about American citizens.
And if you cannot understand that…You do not deserve to be president.

Putting the safety of American citizens somewhere down on a shelf, below all of your other “presidential toys”, is a willful failure to fultill your constintutional duties, and is tantamount to ASKING for an impeachment.

Be careful what you ask for….The American people, including those within YOUR OWN PARTY, can’t take much more of your community-organizing, chicago-thug, narcissistic trainwreck of a presidency. Petitioning their elected officials to being impeachment proceedings isn’t something out of the realm of possibility, if the American people believe you are willfully putting them and their loved ones in harm’s way.

“Absorb” that.

Talismen on September 22, 2010 at 1:24 PM

“We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger.”

Dear leader of the free world. I know George W. Bush …. and you are no George W. Bush.

Texas Gal on September 22, 2010 at 1:34 PM

President Obama urgently looked for a way out of the war in Afghanistan last year, repeatedly pressing his top military advisers for an exit plan that they never gave him, according to secret meeting notes and documents cited in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

If he asked for an exit plan and his ‘top military advisers’ didn’t give him one, he should have canned them.

And instead of listening to his generals, particularly Petraeus, who kept saying that the only exit strategy was to defeat the enemy and keep Afghanistan secure,

Defeat the enemy? Petraues? With his very well documented almost Code Pink ROE/Islamic Hearts and Minds/Unicorns and Lollipos/Serving the Afghan people. You have got to be kidding. The best thing that Petraues has been good at fighting lately is the First Amendment and a very small Christian church pastor, certainly not Islam in any way.

Petraeus, ironically, wound up having to implement a plan he very much opposed.

Very much opposed? The ‘plan’ is pretty much the Petraues plan. COIN/”Hearts and Minds”.

This sounds closer to the errors of Vietnam than their solution.

This Afghanistan Cluster Farck is more and more making Vietnam look like pure genius by contrast.

Luka on September 22, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Obama channeling LBJ?

I hope he’s not picking the targets, too…

Khun Joe on September 22, 2010 at 4:26 PM

Petraeus as quoted by Woodward:

“You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war [presumably Afghanistan]. I think you keep fighting. It’s a little bit like Iraq, actually. . . . Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.

Clearly, if quoted accurately, he is talking about Afghanistan and Iraq, not the overall ‘War on terror by an enemy of an unknown religion’. And with him it is still, ‘See no Islam, hear no Islam, speak no Islam, know no Islam’.

Petraeus comes pretty close to being certifiably insane.

Luka on September 22, 2010 at 4:30 PM

Not only did Obama ignore the recommendations of his generals, he wound up writing his own war plan to spite them:

Well given the Petraeus plan -

“You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war [presumably Afghanistan]. I think you keep fighting. It’s a little bit like Iraq, actually. . . . Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it.This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.

the Indonesian Imbecile seems like Sun Tzu by contrast.

Luka on September 22, 2010 at 4:59 PM

The growing number of Afghans who have immigrated to the West are having an easier time of reporting back, another aspect of the cell phone revolution in Afghanistan

Another aspect that will not go away from the formerly stone age society that was Afghanistan.

America is winning.

Caststeel on September 22, 2010 at 5:05 PM

Attribution for the quote: Strategy Page

Caststeel on September 22, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Strategy Page:

The growing number of Afghans who have immigrated to the West are having an easier time of reporting back, another aspect of the cell phone revolution in Afghanistan

“Oh, no, you can’t take my cell phone from me.”

Caststeel on September 22, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Luka on September 22, 2010 at 4:59 PM

A bit of info for ‘ya. Islam has been in existence since c. 632 AD in substantially its present form. Converts are okay but all others are dhimmi.

Elsewhere this is called “The Long War”. And it is. Just the latest outbreak from the Middle East. Petreaus understands that. After 1400 years and a skirmish or two, 9/11/01 occurred.

The conflict is “all men have rights endowed by their creator” vs. “Allah uackbar” (one interpretation of which is ‘Allah willing’ but another is ‘Allah’s will be done’) The problem is who interprets ‘Allah’s will’.

Another way to frame this war is experience vs. belief. You know how that has worked.

Gentle and kind treatment always works but first you gotta get their attention.

Caststeel on September 22, 2010 at 5:35 PM

The Dems and the Left are obsessed with creating another Vietnam. They tried to do it in Iraq, and they are trying to do it again in Afghanistan. They want America to lose at their hands because they believe America needs and deserves to be taken down a notch or three, and because it will demonstrate just how much power they wield.

Christien on September 22, 2010 at 11:28 AM

It goes even deeper than that.

The modern-day “progressive” crowd is obsessed with the destruction of Western Civilization. They view it as inherently evil, dangerous, and destructive. They hate technology, loathe modernism, and dream of a “pre-technological” paradise that never actually existed, anywhere.

They were raised on a diet of Eastern pseudo-mysticism, born of the Beatles, the Maharishi, and Timothy Leary. They adopted Communism as an “ideal” because they saw it as “authentic” re the Eastern worldview. Plus, it told them that the world belonged to the “enlightened ones”, like themselves.

Since adolescence, they have tried to “get next” to every aggressive enemy the West has. Partly because of their belief that Eastern primitivism is inherently good, but also because they are convinced that after such “mystics” cause the fall of the Evil West, said mystics will realize that they are too stupid to run the Brave New World, and will then fall to their knees and beg the “enlightened elite” of the (former) Western left to rule them.

Where this relates to Obama’s “war plan”, or more accurately lack of same, in AFPAK, is that he and his cronies find themselves forced to engage an enemy whose worldview they find more congenial than ours. Simply put, they view the “mystical” Taliban as “authentic”- and the Afghans, etc., who oppose them (at tremendous risk of death at their hands) as “ideological backsliders” who, like the West, have turned their backs on “the proper order of things”.

Obama literally cannot bring himself to fight such a war. Nor can his staff, like Axelrod. To do so would force them to reject the dogmas they have lived by all their lives, and that they will never do.

Their barely-concealed hatred for everyone from the U.S. military to Israel is simply a symptom of their psychopathology. They view such institutions as instruments of Western “oppression” of the “enlightened” East. And to be true to their philosophy, they must do their best to destroy, or at least neutralize, both.

I predicted that Obama would do something like what Woodward describes when he was running for President. The only thing that surprises me about this book is that Woodward actually was intellectually honest enough to write it. (Something tells me it’s a one-time thing.)

We are dealing with pseudo-mystics, who live in their own parallel universe, who regard Seventh Century feudalism and a worldview which rejects facts in favor of magical thinking as vastly superior to “cold, unfeeling” Western logic. They reject the values of the Enlightenment in favor of rule by ignorant fanatics based on the worldview of people who considered religion useful primarily as a way of justifying living down to their basest motivations- to kill, destroy, and enslave. In short, we are dealing with the exact opposite of an “enlightened elite”, who nevertheless believe they are precisely that.

Having such people in the White House, and frankly in charge of Congress, makes dealing with the likes of the Taliban like trying to carry rocks up a hill with the “enlightened ones” standing on top throwing them back down. While lecturing us on how “unenlightened” we are for trying to move those rocks to begin with.

I can think of no better reason for voting these self-deluded fools out of office at the earliest opportunity.

clear ether

eon

eon on September 22, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Petreaus understands that.

Caststeel on September 22, 2010 at 5:35 PM

No he does not. It was pretty clear from what I quoted that he was revering to Afghanistan and Iraq (for what would be a hundred years of ‘Islamic Nation Building’ and probably going on from there) and he did not even mention Islam. I can not remember him ever having mentioned Islam. He has got to be the most overrated general of all time. If you examine into the facts of the matter, you can only concluded that he is not right in the head.

Luka on September 22, 2010 at 8:22 PM

The only thing that would surprise me about O is if he resigned.

Really? I would not be surprised at all. His type of narcissism is that you “take your toys and go home,” leave before you have a chance of being rejected. It’s less painful than being advised not to run again, or to be defeated in a primary.

Actually I keep expecting him to throw a hissy fit at one of his appearances or press conferences and stomp off the stage and never come back. He’s almost gotten to that point a few times, and as more people start to challenge and dislike him, he will get more pissed off.

YehuditTX on September 23, 2010 at 12:09 AM

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