"Obama had to do this 18-month surge just to demonstrate, in effect, that it couldn't be done . . . the president had treated the military as another political constituency that had to be accommodated."
The past three days the Washington Post has been serializing the new Bob Woodward book, "Obama's Wars," on the front page of that paper. Though I have been stunned by what I've read I haven't been surprised. That a feckless and un-serious man when elected president would pursue a war in a feckless and un-serious way should surprise no one. What has left me stunned is the fact that Obama never seriously considered whether winning the war in Afghanistan (or sealing the victory in Iraq) was in the national interests of the United States. His lodestar was rather an arbitrary and precipitous withdrawal date in July 2011.
Here you have it in black and white. The surge of troops into Afghanistan was below the number recommended by his military advisers. Obama did not support the surge, he was fixated on an early withdrawal, but he lacked the courage to make that decision. How a president can continue to waste the lives of young Americans in a war he neither believes in or cares about is beyond my comprehension.
Worse, no one is surprised that Obama would do this. Anti-Americanism is seems to have been programmed into his DNA, to the point where everyone just expects him to act this way. But that isn't what this story is about. It's about the people around him, including our most senior uniformed leaders - men who know better - who have allowed this to happen.
Through most of the Iraq War the left and media, to the extent that they are separate entities, had a fascination with the idea of "the revolt of the generals." In this particular cloud cuckooland the generals... who back then had all the answers... would rise up en masse and put Chimpy McBushitler in his place. TIME and the NY Times ran stories lionizing the handful of retired generals who decided, from personal pique or inflated sense of self-worth, to break faith with soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines serving in combat in order to settle some perceived slight received at the hands of the Bush Administration.
Retired generals like Paul Eaton
and John Batiste
made commercials for the lefty front group VoteVets criticizing President Bush for pursuing the War in Iraq to what looked to be a successful conclusion as of January 20, 2009. They criticized him for not listening to his generals.
I wrote at the time in response to a shockingly stupid David Ignatius column advocating "push back" by the military:
The military is not a branch of government. It has no special rights to set its own policy in contravention of the directives of the senior leadership. Any thinking human should recognize that military insubordination is not a healthy thing in a democracy. The idea of heavily armed men “pushing back” against their civilian leadership should scare the bejeezus out of us all, regardless of our politics.
Those sentiments apply as much today as they did five years ago.
Sometimes the military is called upon to do stupid things. It goes with the territory when you put on the uniform. But the military should never be called upon to dishonestly spend the lives of young men and women. And that is what sets the current situation apart from the situation under President Bush.
No one ever doubted President Bush intended to win the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Many differed on which war was more important but the resources dictated that one war could be fought and one had to be a holding action. Bush deployed the Army Reserve and National Guard into combat for the first time since the Korean War. He spent the political capital he'd accumulated like a sailor in Olongapo (or a soldier in Tongduchon). When all told him the war couldn't be won, he doubled down and left his successor a win in the most difficult of the two wars.
Compare and contrast this to the shameful actions of the current president and his administration.
Batiste and Eaton and VoteVets and their fellow travelers on the left have shown their true colors. As recently as last year Eaton was still playing Captain Ahab to Don Rumsfeld's Moby Dick. John Batiste has been mercifully absent from the public eye. VoteVets is nothing more that a low IQ verson of OFA with a website fails to even mention the Washington Post series or even acknowledge we are still at war. Not a peep is heard from pundits and editorial pages encouraging the military to "push back" against the Obama administration as any opposition founded in principle would require.
More disappointing, however, has been the behavior of GEN David Petraeus and ADM Mike Mullen. Both men, seemingly for the best of reasons -- the conviction that they can succeed with one-armed tied behind their back, and perhaps a justified fear that without them, things would go even worse for their men -- have elected to go along with Obama's decisions which inevitably have created a slow motion march to the helicopter landing pad on an embassy roof.
And that is the tragedy here. Ultimately staff colleges will examine the actions of Petraeus and Mullen since 2009 and equate them to those of the Joint Chiefs during the early stages of the escalation of the Vietnam War. Just as every young officer when I was commissioned heard the story of Army Chief of Staff Harold Johnson and his failure to resign over Johnson's hare-brained plan to fight Vietnam on the cheap, so too will be told the story of the hubris of Petraeus and Mullen who were convinced they could mitigate a military disaster that the civilian leadership of this nation has deliberately brought on.
Ironically, Batiste and Eaton and the other unprincipled tools who made the political fight over Iraq much harder than it need have been and who never thought twice about besmirching the reputations of others if it served their purposes will continue to ride the MoveOn generated meme that they were men of integrity despite their conspicuous silence on Afghanistan today.