posted at 5:48 pm on October 8, 2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh
Why, oh why is President Barack H. Obama taking so blasted long deciding what to do about Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy and troop request in Afghanistan?
The Commander in Chief let it languish at the Pentagon for a month before even requesting it. Obviously, he already knew what was in it; the Pentagon leaked it, and its major components were widely reported: Switch to a counterinsurgency strategy and send more troops, structurally very like the strategy Gen. David Petraeus used so successfully in Iraq.
But the Obamacle sat and sat, squirmed and squirmed, unable to decide what to do about it (which is why he didn’t request it be sent over to la Casa Blanca, because that formally “starts the clock”). Why? Why does he fiddle while Afghanistan burns? Our Marines and soldiers are dying.
The first is that Obama is congenitally incapable of making up his mind, of course. He has always been far more comfortable issuing lofty and vague encyclicals, then voting “present.”
But he seems more torn that usual this time… and I believe there is a deeper reason why this particular decision is such an Obamic dilemma. This is the biggest, most consequential military decision he has ever had to make in his life… and it is the first entirely lose-lose choice of his immature administration.
Other crossroads have always offered Obama at least one option that was a win. What makes this one lose-lose?
The One likes to claim there is a “third way” between accepting the recommendation and rejecting it. He thinks he can get away with “counterinsurgency lite,” which it pleases him to call a “counter-terrorist” strategy, whatever that means.
But in the end, no matter what alternative he picks, it will be seen by everyone as rejecting Stanley McChrystal’s strategy… which is odd, because McChrystal is Obama’s hand-picked choice to head up the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) commands — after he fired the previous commander, Gen. David D. McKiernan. And McChrystal’s report was the first and most urgent task Barack Obama was ordered to perform. Rejecting it would make Obama himself look weak… either he can’t pick a good general, or else he’s afraid of the course his general charted.
No matter, Obama has only two choices: accept McChrystal’s request or reject it.
If he rejects the proposal, then Barack Obama owns Afghanistan: If it goes south on us — which it likely will; it’s hard to believe that even President B.O. thinks Joe Biden is a better military strategist than a four-star general who has actually fought — if we end up retreating, if the Taliban makes great gains there and in Pakistan, if al-Qaeda returns to the Taliban-held territory… then everybody in the country blames Obama for losing the war.
We’re not likely to reelect a president who inflicted another unnecessary defeat on us, especially in a war so closely tied to the 9/11 attacks — “the war we should be fighting,” as everyone on the left said, including Obama himself as recently as August. Americans have experienced insufficient pain to be eager to accept defeat as the only way out, as we became anent Vietnam.
He’s already struggling because of his radical domestic agenda, which the American people have decisively rejected: government-controlled health care, massive bailouts, nationalizing banks and now even the automobile industry, and staggering tax increases coupled with an orgy of new spending. If we add “lost the war against al-Qaeda and screwed up the national security of the United States for decades to come” to the list of obstacles he must surmount to continue working at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., I think even the narcissism of the Obamas (B and M) would quail.
So the obvious choice is to accept McChrystal’s recommendation. Ah, but this is the other horn of the dilemma… because he promised his radical-left base an American military defeat; and they may fully and finally reject his presidency (and himself) if he betrays that promise.
The defeat was supposed to be in Iraq, of course; that was the unpopular war in 2008, while Afghanistan was the forgotten war. There was enough pain associated with Iraq (our threshhold of pain has dropped markedly in recent decades) that inflicting a military defeat upon us in Iraq would probably have been acceptable to the American people, if —
- If the war in Iraq were going as badly in 2009 as it was in 2006-7, when he made the promise…
- If the economy had come roaring back shortly after Obama was elected, so he could claim credit (even if he had nothing to do with it)…
- If his radical agenda had proved as popular as he convinced himself before the election that it would be.
But by the time Obama took command, the war had been won — and won so obviously that to turn it around then would have been too, too obviously anti-American. It’s not like in 1974; back then nearly everybody got his national news from one of three television networks or one of a small number of print sources, all linked together by a couple-three wire services. The political establishment could actually manage the news, feeding the American people what the powers that be thought they needed to know.
Too, the heavily Democratic Congress could blame the hated Republican president. Richard Nixon was already embattled, widely (and probably wrongfully) seen as corrupt, an easy target. His paranoia had all come true, and he barely even fought back. The 1972 reelection was his last hurrah; it was all downhill after that. With his resignation, to be replaced by his anti-war Vice President, Gerald Ford, there was nothing standing in the way of blaming Nixon for “losing the Vietnam war.”
None of that obtains today. The news comes from too many sources now and cannot be managed by a small cabal of center-left establishment kingmakers. The turn-around in Iraq was too widely covered to be covered-up. Gen. Petraeus is far too articulate and beloved to be spat upon by snatching Obamic defeat from the jaws of Petraeus’ victory.
Ergo, President Obama was forced to bless the Bush-Petraeus strategy; he was overtaken by events. But the Left exploded in rage anyway, unwilling to give him running slack; Cindy Sheehan is busily getting herself arrested outside the White House, a certain barometer of leftist Obamania dropping to a very stormy low.
Barack Obama promised the Left a defeat in Iraq if it supported him. When Obama defaulted, lefties came bawling at the White House gates, promissory notes in hand, demanding immediate payment.
The Left has always hated America more than any other country, for the obvious reason: We’re the world’s greatest bulwark of liberty, individualism, and Capitalism against international socialism. The revolution would eventually have to go through us before it could gain world domination; so leftists decided long ago that one of their strategies had to be to inflict military defeat on the United States whenever and wherever they could.
The Left needs us to be decisively and thoroughly bested by Jihadist terror organizations; it’s desperate for America to be crushed under the sandals of al-Qaeda, Iran, or the Taliban; and it wants the whole world to see it!
Then the Left can crow that America’s century has ended. It can encourage the spread of anti-Americanism, defeatism, despair, and fear — especially fear, their favorite tool for mass manipulation. It can begin to advance a “national front,” an alternative governing paradigm that can gain mass acceptance in this country, eventually allowing the Left to overthrow the American system and install internationalist socialism in its place. More than anyone else, the Left understands that to create a new governing paradigm, you first must utterly discredit the current one.
And historically, the best way to do that is to take advantage of a humiliating military defeat: in Vietnam/Indochina after the French occupation; in China right after World War II; in Germany after World War I; and of course in Russia itself during World War I.
Don’t panic. I don’t for one moment imagine it can actually pull off such an agenda. I argue only that it has exactly that agenda, and that it will pursue it with courage and vigor — forever. We — must — lose one of our wars.
So what’s left for us to lose? What other “funds of defeat” does Obama have to make good that promissory note to his natural base, the hard Left? He certainly can’t start his own war for the sole purpose of losing it!
The only actual war left over from the “previous regime” is Afghanistan. If Obama accepts the recommendation of Gen. McChrystal, and if Afghanistan turns around as Iraq did, and we’re seen to have won the war… then Obama may get a boost from the victory from real Americans; but that would probably come too late, after the 2010 congressional elections. It takes time to recreate a strategy: First one must design it, then select the leaders, transport the troops, order them, reorganize the supply lines, implement the new strategy — and then you must execute it for many months before you see the fruits of your labor. I predict it would be eighteen months or more from making the decision to seeing undeniable signs of victory.
But the tangible hit from the Left would be immediate and catastrophic. When the mid-term elections roll around, the Left — the most powerful engine of the Democratic Party — will idle defiantly, driven by anger to punish the president who first trod upon one foot then stomped even harder on the other. 2010 will go from very bad for the Democrats to a tidal wave that could even wash them from power; it has happened before, and not just in 1994.
So the president is in a quandry, better yet, a quagmire of his own making. He himself created this Slough of Despond by agreeing to this deal with the Devil in the first place: Elect me and I promise you an American military defeat! Now he balances precariously on the bull’s horns; and no matter which way Obama turns, he’s likely to topple the moment the bull begins to run, and he may even be gored or trodden underhoof.
And that, I believe, is why the One We Have Been Waiting, Waiting, and Waiting For is in such a lather about what to do, and why he lashes out, furious but impotent, at his own general, who put him in such a pickle. My heart bleeds for Barack Obama, abandoned child of the Left.
The president must decide between betraying the American people but satisfying the Left, or the other way ’round. In the final cut, I cannot believe that he could ever cut loose from the ideology that has suckled and comforted him since childhood; I think he will land on the side of paying off that massive political debt: He will reject the recommendation and just hope to high heaven that Afghanistan just magically turns around on its own.
Or that unemployment miraculously drops to 4%, the economy roars back, and Obama gets to press the reset button on reaction to his entire domestic agenda. Then he can pray that the American voter has the memory of a mayfly, and the Democratic Party retains a strong majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate… because Barack Obama is incapable of doing what Bill Clinton did after 1994; it takes brains and courage to “triangulate,” and I sincerely doubt the current fellow has either.
But such a fortuitous (to B.O.) sequence of events seems delusional to me.
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…