“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, October 05, 2009

'Chaos-istan', More on Obama's 25 minutes with McChrystal

Will the general hold his ground?

Barack Obama furious at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan

The relationship between President Barack Obama and the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan has been put under severe strain by Gen Stanley McChrystal's comments on strategy for the war.

By Alex Spillius in Washington Telegraph
Published: 7:00AM BST 05 Oct 2009

According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.

The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago's unsuccessful Olympic bid.

Gen James Jones, the national security adviser, yesterday did little to allay the impression the meeting had been awkward.

Asked if the president had told the general to tone down his remarks, he told CBS: "I wasn't there so I can't answer that question. But it was an opportunity for them to get to know each other a little bit better. I am sure they exchanged direct views."

An adviser to the administration said: "People aren't sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn't seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly."

In London, Gen McChrystal, who heads the 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan as well as the 100,000 Nato forces, flatly rejected proposals to switch to a strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces operations against al-Qaeda.

He told the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that the formula, which is favoured by Vice-President Joe Biden, would lead to "Chaos-istan".

When asked whether he would support it, he said: "The short answer is: No."

He went on to say: "Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support."

The remarks have been seen by some in the Obama administration as a barbed reference to the slow pace of debate within the White House.

Gen McChrystal delivered a report on Afghanistan requested by the president on Aug 31, but Mr Obama held only his second "principals meeting" on the issue last week.

He will hold at least one more this week, but a decision on how far to follow Gen McChrystal's recommendation to send 40,000 more US troops will not be made for several weeks.

A military expert said: "They still have working relationship but all in all it's not great for now."

Some commentators regarded the general's London comments as verging on insubordination.

Bruce Ackerman, an expert on constitutional law at Yale University, said in the Washington Post: "As commanding general, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements."

He added that it was highly unusual for a senior military officer to "pressure the president in public to adopt his strategy".

Relations between the general and the White House began to sour when his report, which painted a grim picture of the allied mission in Afghanistan, was leaked. White House aides have since briefed against the general's recommendations.

The general has responded with a series of candid interviews as well as the speech. He told Newsweek he was firmly against half measures in Afghanistan: "You can't hope to contain the fire by letting just half the building burn."

As a divide opened up between the military and the White House, senior military figures began criticising the White House for failing to tackle the issue more quickly.

They made no secret of their view that without the vast ground force recommended by Gen McChrystal, the Afghan mission could end in failure and a return to power of the Taliban.

"They want to make sure people know what they asked for if things go wrong," said Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defence.

Critics also pointed out that before their Copenhagen encounter Mr Obama had only met Gen McChrystal once since his appointment in June.


  1. Dave, the Dull. - Petraeous Muzzled

    If anything, General McChrystal’s public comments may prove that General Petraeus might be prudent to take a back seat during the debate.

    On Sunday, when CNN’s John King asked Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, if it was appropriate for a man in uniform to appear to campaign so openly for more troops, General Jones replied,

    Ideally, it’s better for military advice to come up through the chain of command.”

    Ideally, when a man in uniform asks for more troops, it's better to do your job as decider and shit or get off the pot.

    Not let the request sit, as you make your umpteenth TV appearance, while soldiers die ever more frequently.

  2. "The president was vacationing in Martha's Vineyard on Aug. 30 when Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal sent Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates a war assessment in which he said more U.S. troops - and a new U.S. strategy - are urgently needed to defeat a growing insurgency in Afghanistan."

    Hey, maybe Gates forgot to tell Our Messiah when he got back from the Vineyard?

  3. "Ideally, when a man in uniform asks for more troops, it's better to do your job as decider and shit or get off the pot.

    Not let the request sit, as you make your umpteenth TV appearance, while soldiers die ever more frequently."

    What more is there to say? It would be interesting to get Red's take on Stan's stand.

  4. Red says Stan's the man.
    That guy Yon recommended says the Army Brass is too educated to do COIN right.
    ...I'll go get him to explain.

  5. What To Do Part One

    Each historical moment is different,” Mr Obama said in an interview published yesterday.
    “You never step into the same river twice, and so Afghanistan is not Vietnam.”

    I grew up on the Severn River in Maryland and went to the exact same spot on the river almost daily because my buddy Chris McConnel had a dock and a ski boat there.
    Who knew you were not supposed to go into the same river twice back then?

    Better yet what the hell is the President talking about?

  6. Western Armies are not good at counterinsurgency warfare. They do not have the people or formations who can embed in the local community. Western Armies can no longer deploy formations overseas for years at a time.

    They are not willing to use the tactics required to win which involve not only high risk but lots of killing.

    Sri Lanka just won an unbelievably long and bitter counterinsurgency. Do you think if the Taliban leadership surrounded themselves with tens of thousands of non combatants we would kill all of of them to get that leadership?
    That is what Sri Lanka did . There are some who believe the military is under performing on purpose. Stephen Henthorne who is a Senior Adviser on the Joint Interagency – Multinational Stability Operations ISAF staff recently sent a memo to the National Security Advisor General Jones where he all but accused the Army of insubordination; check this out:

    Please trust me when I tell you that General McChrystal’s two man Civil-Military Campaign Planning team in the Pentagon, if they are in fact working for General McChrystal, will never be able to give the President an effective Civil-Military Campaign Plan for Afghanistan. There is a growing belief, that a Civil-Military Plan for Afghanistan is being designed to fail. This seems to be so much the case that the “War Fighter Insurgency,” that has been written about since 2004, might well be more accurately termed today a “War Fighter Mutiny.”

    See the link for more on the “War Fighter Mutiny” but I do not think it is a mutiny at all. The military has pulled its weight the best it can but that is clearly not good enough.

    The price for failing to mentor - secure zones in key cities like Kabul can only be secure if we make them secure. The Afghan Security Forces are clearly not up to the task. This is a Reuters photo from yesterdays attack on an Italian convoy which was traveling down the main road to the Kabul International Airport. How do you stop VBIED's getting through multiple checkpoints onto secure roads? You embed your troops with the Afghan police - there is no other way.

    The military is not conducting a “warfighters mutiny” it is performing as best it can but our military was designed in the past with the technology of the past to face problems from the past. It is good at fighting peer level threats. It is not good at fighting counterinsurgencies.

    While our senior military leaders were spending years in school on topics such a ethics in combat and the law of land warfare the Afghans who we are now mentoring were killing people, lots of them.

    Look at this report from last week:

    Large numbers of members of the Mangal and Moqdil tribes have clashed over timber rights. Reports of 25-60 fatalities have been received. The Governor of Khost has gone to the area to try to stop the fighting and disarm the tribes.

    This is how scores are settled here – toe to toe with automatic weapons.

    This is why when ISAF tried to apologize for whacking all the civilians who were demanding their cut of fuel from the Taliban up in Kunduz the local people asked them to start killing more so that the Taliban would head back south.

    We need a surge of Tony Soprano’s to work with the Afghans because mafia guys have more experience solving Afghan style problems.

  7. "Unless the present FOB bound kinetic ops orientation is completely eliminated we will leave here in worse shape than we are now and right now my friends we are getting our collective asses kicked and kicked good. We are spending blood and gaining not one damn thing to show for it. We are spending billions of dollars we do not have and gaining not one damn thing for that either.

    These are facts and for a guy like me who spent the happiest years of his life as an officer in the United States Marine Corps it is most upsetting to face up to these facts.
    When we started this fight President Bush said “we will not falter, we will not tire, we will not fail.” In Afghanistan the military is tired; worn out by back to back to back deployments. We are clearly failing by any unit of measurement and it now appears we are faltering too as the National Command Authority waffles about why we are here and what we are supposed to do."

  8. To validate my claim I have to rely on my personal experience. My colleagues and I are finishing up a six month cash for work program focused on Kandahar, Jalalabad, Gardez and Lahska Gar.
    Not easy places to work (except Jalalabad which is a great place to work) and Tim the Canadian had over 5,000 people working in Kandahar, Ranger Will over 2,000 in Lashka Gar – I had 4,002 working in Jalalabad and over 2,000 in Gardez. Compare those numbers to the performance of the massive PRT’s located in those towns – it is not even close.

    I think the Canadians in Kandahar reported a total of 136 cash for work recipients for 2009. We get results because we live and work in the community and operate in close coordination with the municipal authorities who we see almost daily.
    Plus we control the cash which allows us to use my favorite saying
    “No – you have time; I have a watch.”

    This is the Fab Fi internet system covering almost all of Jalalabad and installed mostly by local kids who fabricate their links at the Fab Lab. The August Fab Folk surge tuned the system up and added more large links at a frantic pace during their shot time here. Total cost to the American taxpayer? Zero. The Grad students who do this work pay their own way. Look at the diagram above and contemplate that there are several multi-million dollar projects being awarded to accomplish this same task.

    Look at the diagram above and contemplate the fact that there are several large multi-million dollar contracts out to bring internet connectivity to Afghanistan.

    But nobody can figure out how exactly to do it. You do it by doing it.
    (Cal Poly SLO: "Learn by Doing!")

    The Fab Folks surged in here last month from both Cambridge England and Cambridge Mass (and Iceland) moved the entire FabLab to a better location downtown and helped locals installs a bunch more links to schools and homes. They are able to come here and work because they are outside the artificial security bubble which has completely disrupted our efforts in this country. J.D. Johannes did an excellent job of describing the Afghan security bubble in this post. He has great pictures on his follow up post.

  9. Kinda like why Socialized Medicine can't hold a candle to what we got now!

  10. "Want to see Afghan men get emotional? Introduce them to your son who you have brought over becuase you think the country and its people are so impressive you wanted him to experience it too.

    My son Logan has been here for two months and loves it. One of his goals is to have the first Afghan ultimate frisbee game in Central Asia

    There are no easy answers but if we want to get the work done which is required to reach an acceptable end state our options are severely constrained.

    You just have to get off the FOB’s, off our collective fat asses and do it.

    But it will take a completely different approach to writing and awarding contracts to accomplish the mission.

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  12. General Silence
    In An Alternate Universe, Biden Is An Insurgency Expert and Petraeus & McChrystal Are Selling Snowcones.

    David Martin, CBS: "Do you expect to be talking to him more than that? It seemed the theater commander spoke with President Bush on a weekly basis."

    Gen. McChrystal: "Well I don't think I lack for guidance or an understanding of his intent, but it would certainly be up to him on the frequency."

    Gen. McChrystal is showing some professionalism here in service to his president. Because the fact of the mater is, it's not the theater commander who gets guidance in regular high-level conferences with the President of the United States.
    It is the reverse.

    The primary purpose of regular virtual face-to-face discussion and conference is for the theater commander to update the president and apprise him first hand of the developing situations and conditions in the distant theater.

    This is astounding on one hand, yet not surprising on the other. President Obama gives every indication of a wartime president who cannot be bothered with the day to day distractions of conducting warfare in hot theater of operations, let alone two. There are apparently bigger fish to fry and more important things to do than wrap one's head around the theater in which our men bleed and die.
    Yet, President Obama is still pondering the merits, unsure of which way to turn between the apparently newly-anointed counterterrorism and counterinsurgency expert, Vice President Joe Biden, and the plan laid out by General McChrystal with full endorsement of CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus.

    Among the three men, two of them have experience in successfully defeating an insurgency. I'll leave it to you to identify the odd man out. [Hint: I wouldn't ask Joe Biden's advice on stinkin' snowcones, let alone counterinsurgency or counterterrorism.]

    Somewhere, in an alternate universe, Joe Biden is an experienced counterterrorism and counterinsurgency expert with success under his belt, and Dave Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal are pushing a cart in DC selling snowcones on a lazy, hot summer's day.

    Stop abdicating your responsibilities as Commander in Chief, Mr. President, and do your damned job. The briefings are not for General McChrystal's benefit. They are for yours. Allow yourself to be bothered. Listening to Joe Biden and merely reading Gen. McChrystal's report does not cut it.

  13. Katrina vanden Huevel is highly concerned about McChrystal's gall in trying to influence policy.

    If there are any "card carrying" reds these days, she is surely one.

    As I understand it, the Administration is trying to find a way to maybe, possibly get around the President's former and very public commitments to defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The administration's new commitment is all about al-Qaeda and little or nothing about the Taliban. This supports the idea of moving to an anti-terrorism strategy. (Think rockets, drones and ships over the horizon.)

    Critics say that Afghani women will be the real losers.

  14. I am cautious about getting more embroiled in Afghanistan but I didn't base a Presidential campaign on relentlessly criticizing Geo W. Bush about "talking his eyes off the ball in Afghanistan." I would like to see the left stew for a while longer.

    A friend of mine gave me an update on his leftist clientele that were most opposed to Guantanamo and most in favor of trying Bush and Cheney for war crimes. When he asks them why Guantanamo is still open or why we are still in Iraq, these foaming leftists only answer, "it's complicated."


    Which reminds me, wasn't it good to see Dan Rather's law suit against CBS get dismissed?

  15. Seem like it was Michelle's big idea to storm Copenhagen, figuring everyone loved her.

  16. Saw this while looking through this web designer's site, forgot he didn't live in UK, figured I'd have a good socialized medicine story to beat Rufus over the head with, turns out old Jeffery lived in NY City, and was just linking to his day on 9-11.

    Blood and bone
    At the hospital, where we intended to donate blood, we are turned away.
    They’ve run out of blood bags.

    My Glamorous Life, September 11, 2001.

  17. Obumbler doesnt want a win in afghanistan..

    he wants a teaching moment to teach America to be humble...

    Can we legally impeach him?

  18. We closed our News Bureaus around the world and punditry substitutes for correspondents. The media and their partisanship is useless to those of us who want unfiltered news.

  19. It would be interesting to get Red's take on Stan's stand.

    Mon Oct 05, 01:14:00 AM EDT

    Would it.

    Red is on more or less terminal leave at this point, having had die nase voll. She blames this on a check-out-morning epiphany. Said epiphany is not a reflection on the United States military, the security establishment generally, or the government of the United States, but rather of her own bone weariness of debate, contention, controversy, and just plain noise.

    She's joined the (permanent) conga line in spirit, just as her boon companion joined it in fact.

    Or as one man (whom she wasn't quite sure she'd have reason to like) recently put it, "It's time to think about you." Never have six words been so welcome to two people who've thought about everything else.

    There's tired. And then there's Army Tired.

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  22. I hope McChrystal is smart enough to know that his career is over and does not back down and goes onto bigger and better things. Nice Pension and surely a jaunt in his own conga line in Congress.

  23. Desktops for your pleasure – Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report

    This is Harry, my father’s father. At 15, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, and in WWI he was bayoneted, bombed, and subjected to mustard gas. The war left him physically and emotionally disabled—violent, paranoid, condemned to a life in the shadows. He married eight times before disappearing in the 1970s.
    This is the desktop image on my home iMac. I find it concentrates my mind wonderfully.
    You can read more about Harry here

    Family ties – Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report

    While my great grandfather hid in a rain barrel, a Ukrainian villager raped my great grandmother. Some time later, my grandfather was born.

    He looked Ukrainian—so much so that he could slip away to the village, pass as a Christian child, and overhear the neighbors scheduling their next attack on the Jews. Then he would scamper back to the shtetl and let his parents know it was time to hide in the woods again.

    A noble history all around.

    My father and brother inherited the Ukrainian rapist’s good looks, and I inherited his thirst.

    I first learned about the Ukrainian rapist last year, in the context of one of my father’s breakfast table reminiscences. My father mentioned it as if it was one of the old family stories—like the stories about my father’s childhood, or my mother’s father’s death in an airplane crash, or my parents’ marriage. I’ve been hearing those stories since I tasted milk, but the rapist in the family tree was news.

    Perhaps because the boy’s face reminded him that he had failed to protect his wife, my great grandfather made a daily exercise of beating my grandfather.

    He beat him in Ukraine, he beat him in steerage on the passage to America, he beat him in the new land. He only stopped beating him when my grandfather, with my great grandfather’s written consent, enlisted in the US Army at age fifteen to go fight the Huns.

  24. No match for the sacrifice Michelle and Opra made to atone for our sins, of course.
    Doin it all for US.
    Feel the Love!

  25. If you'll recall, the President laid out the mission parameters, months ago. Force size and time line.

    Our den mother immediately corrected him, extending the mission by years.

    Obviously the General did, too. Given a "Warning Order" he came back with an "Operations Order" that did not comply to the parameters of the assignment.

    He should be relieved of Command.

  26. To think that the General is either politically naive or unschooled in the ways of DC, that is just insulting, both to him and the Army.

  27. Where's his cover?

  28. Yeah, he got to be General by being "unschooled" in Politics.

    Like becoming the world's greatest whore by being a "virgin."

  29. Would seem to me that if you two are correct, POTUS should pull out the Troops Pronto.

    Is 'Crystal sposed to just sit there while troops die cause he can't wring blood out of an onion?

  30. Far Leftist Robert Scheer commenting @ "The Nation"

    Obama's Toxic Advisers

    So "they"--Summers, Gensler, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and their ueber mentor, Rubin--were as wrong as anyone could be. Perhaps such error is human, but aren't there folks out there with a better prospect of getting it right that Obama can rely on?

    A great deal is at stake, and we are being asked to support the president's plans as a matter of trust in a hopeful new leader. But the latest administration plan, announced by Geithner on Monday, seems to be more of the same. We taxpayers are being asked to buy back from the banks the very toxic assets that the members of Obama's economic team once celebrated as an unmitigated blessing. Only this time, instead of trusting the banks, we will turn over control, but little risk, to hedge funds that are totally unregulated. Here we go again.

    ht - Larsen

  31. Let me make something clear. I'm not trying to sell myself as a Military "Expert." I did one tour, and never looked back.

    However, I did spend 13 months, boots on the ground, in a situation that was eerie in it's similarity to the one we're in today. The similarities are so striking that I won't even bother to enumerate them.

    However, the situation, here, is "Worse" in one respect. The Vietnamese were, in several respects, pretty much like ourselves. They were fairly well educated. They were wild, and crazy capitalists, and they were Not particularly religious. As a result, they did not have a deep and abiding "hatred" for us.

    They thought we were dumb. They thought we were uninformed, and naive, they thought we were too "nice;" but they didn't have a "Religious" hatred for us.

    They didn't particularly disapprove of their sisters marrying us (not if they could imagine a positive "financial" angle.)

    No Vietnamese man would have let his wife "die" rather than have a Medic see her bare leg. That concept would have been so bizarre as to be unimagnable.

    In short, this is far, far worse than Vietnam could have ever been.

  32. Rufus,
    Just imagine if your cousin "Ace" had been a religious Phreak:

    Hardly seems a long time
    Just a minute of the day
    But the man who stood beside me
    More than gave himself away
    The food stain on his spotted shirt
    A gray beard on his face
    A man composed of many names
    So i just called him ace

    But ace can't read and ace can't write
    And he sleeps on a bench at night
    A little man the world has left behind
    He ain't bitter, he ain't sweet
    Makes his living on the street
    Never knowing what he's gonna find

    Born in mississippi
    Picking cotton as a child
    Left soon for the city
    Where he heard that life was wild
    That was fifty years ago
    When nothing's really strange
    >from a poor dirt farm to dirty streets
    Is really not much change

    And ace can't read and ace can't write
    And he sleeps on a bench at night
    A little man the world has left behind
    He ain't bitter, he ain't sweet
    Makes his living on the street
    Never knowing what he's gonna find

    Go back to the country
    No he really can't do that
    Wasted years have left him
    Nothing but an old straw hat
    So he puts it on his head
    And waves a last good-bye
    No time left to turn around
    And no time to ask why

    Ace can't read and ace can't write
    And he sleeps on a bench at night
    A little man the world has left behind
    He ain't bitter, he ain't sweet
    Makes his living on the street
    Never knowing what he's gonna find
    And this old world has left poor ace behind

    jimmy buffett - 1971

  33. Doug, there is one advantage in Afghanistan, vs Vietnam. It IS Desert. 300,000 Troops (with a Huge amount of air assets) could probably "Control" the territory for "as long as they were there."

    However, a year after they leave you'll never know they were present.

    Is it worth it?

    Man, we need a "New" set of eyes on this deal. Everybody talks about "outside the box." We, really, really need some "outside the box."

  34. Ace, the Jihadi, huh?

    Yeah, he would have been a handful.

  35. Despite the fact that the "People" of Vietnam very much disliked their government, and more or less were OK with "Uncle HO," the government could have still won if they had had a manufacturing base, or some other "source of income."

    But, they didn't. They were dependent on us for the arms to fight the communists. Eventually, someone was going to pull the plug. Eventually, someone did. And, the rest, as they say, is History.

    Afghanistan is in the same boat. NO source of income. NO money for guns, tanks, and bullets (not to mention, SALARIES for Soldiers.) The Only reason Afghanistan is Afghanistan, and not part of Iran, or Pakistan, is that it's just too poor, remote, and worthless to be worth the trouble.

    That is what set Iraq apart from the other two. They have OIL. They can afford to support an Army. They have a chance (at least, until the oil runs out.)

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  37. What. The. Hell. I've no idea how that got posted yet again.

    "Red" is me, Gag. And feel free to join my figurative conga line. Or, if you're interested in a literal one, that can be arranged, too.

    It's quite liberating.

  38. Trish, a woman with many aliases. I was just getting used to "Den Mother."

  39. I'm not much for conga lines. But if you want to "free style", I'm all in.

  40. Gates Stresses Privacy in Chain of Command
    Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appeared to rebuke the U.S.’s top commander in Afghanistan for speaking out on troop levels and strategy.
    Biden for Counterterrorism Czar!


  42. rufus said...
    Let me make something clear. I'm not trying to sell myself as a Military "Expert." I did one tour, and never looked back...

    A very cogent post.



    Opec is evil

  44. With the dollar becoming more worthless by the day, you can't blame any nation for trying to protect themselves.

  45. Okay...Where's the cover? ...$20.00 fine...