Gen. McChrys­tal goes rogue, gets heard

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

You might have a tough time get­ting Pres­i­dent Obama’s at­ten­tion un­less you are a mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (IOC), a golf ball or Jen­nifer Lopez.

Over the past few weeks, he has de­posited a huge car­bon foot­print by jet­ting to Copen­hagen, only to have the IOC un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dis him. He has spent five hours each Sun­day on the golf course. He also has en­ter­tained celebri­ties in­clud­ing J.Lo and Arnold Palmer at the White House, not to men­tion schmooz­ing Oprah Win­frey on their ill-fated Olympic trip.

Given th­ese self-in­dul­gent pres­i­den­tial dis­trac­tions, the com­mand­ing gen­eral in Afghanistan, Stan­ley A. McChrys­tal, can be for­given for pub­licly air­ing his strate­gic and troop-level pref­er­ences. Ap­pear­ing on “60 Min­utes” and ad­dress­ing a pres­ti­gious Lon­don think tank ap­par­ently are the only ways Gen. McChrys­tal can get Mr. Obama’s at­ten­tion. It was the gen­eral as mata­dor, wav­ing the red silk, hop­ing the bull would turn and no­tice him.

The bull cer­tainly no­ticed. Since the gen­eral’s dis­clo­sure two weeks ago that he had spo­ken to the com­man­der in chief only once in the nearly 100 days he has had the Afghanistan com­mand, Mr. Obama has spo­ken to him twice: once by se­cure tele-link with oth­ers from the na­tional-se­cu­rity team and again aboard an idle Air Force One in Den­mark for a one-onone dis­cus­sion. The flight to Copen­hagen was seven hours. Mr. Obama’s meet­ing with Gen. McChrys­tal lasted 25 min­utes.

Re­ports are that the con­ver­sa­tion aboard the plane in­volved a can­did ex­change of views, which prob­a­bly means Gen. McChrys­tal re­it­er­ated his re­quest for up to 40,000 ad­di­tional troops in or­der to ac­com­plish the stated goal of de­stroy­ing al Qaeda, turn­ing back the Tal­iban and sta­bi­liz­ing Afghanistan, while Mr. Obama re­quested more time to think. Their chat also prob­a­bly in­volved the pres­i­dent telling his com­man­der to zip it.

Dur­ing his Lon­don speech, Gen. McChrys­tal was bru­tally hon­est about the con­se­quences of fail­ing to adopt the surge strat­egy. The coun­try, he said, will quickly be­come “Chao­sis­tan.” He sum­mar­ily re­jected the strat­egy ad­vo­cated by Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. of re­duc­ing troop lev­els and re­ly­ing pri­mar­ily on drone mis­sile strikes, say­ing, “The short an­swer is no,” when asked if he’d ever sup­port it.

He also said, “Wait­ing does not pro­long a fa­vor­able out­come. This ef­fort will not re­main winnable in­def­i­nitely, and nor will pub­lic sup­port.”

The White House is said to be “fu­ri­ous” with the gen­eral for pub­licly pos­tur­ing on mil­i­tary strat­egy, and some com­men­ta­tors have sug­gested his com­ments bor­dered on “in­sub­or­di­na­tion.” Mr. Obama’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Gen. James L. Jones, was more care­ful, say­ing, “Ideally, it’s best for mil­i­tary ad­vice to come up through the chain of com­mand.” De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said the gen­er­als should ex­press their views “can­didly but pri­vately” to the pres­i­dent.

Mr. Gates and Gen. Jones are right about the for­mal process for the mil­i­tary to give ad­vice and coun­sel to the civil­ian com­man­der in chief. But when the pres­i­dent has pri­or­i­tized other things while the shoot­ing war is claim­ing more and more Amer­i­can lives, the gen­eral may have found it nec­es­sary to go through un­con­ven­tional chan­nels to get him­self heard.

Gen. McChrys­tal also can be for­given his im­pa­tience. Mr. Obama has had 10 months as pres­i­dent to get off the fence. He said re­peat­edly, in­clud­ing in Jan­uary, March and June (when he in­stalled Gen. McChrys­tal) that he had a “new strat­egy.” When the gen­eral re­al­ized there wasn’t a plan, he pre­pared one, which has been pub­lic for sev­eral weeks.

Gen. McChrys­tal can­not af­ford to waste time. He has nearly 68,000 Amer­i­cans and a to­tal of 100,000 NATO sol­diers re­ly­ing on him to give them a strat­egy that will win the war and en­able them to come out of it alive.

He also knows that Amer­ica’s en­e­mies are watch­ing this in­de­ci­sion and cal­cu­lat­ing that the pres­i­dent doesn’t have the stom­ach for a pro­tracted fight. This week­end’s Tal­iban am­bush that killed eight U.S. troops was no co­in­ci­dence: The en­emy sees our lack of re­solve, and it’s fill­ing the void with re­solve of its own.

Iran is also wit­ness­ing the wa­ver­ing Amer­i­can will and knows it only has to dis­tract us with pre­tend “con­ces­sions” long enough to con­tinue its clan­des­tine nu­clear pro­gram un­til it has a bomb. North Korea knows it can test one of its nu­clear weapons or grab a cou­ple of Amer­i­cans on its bor­der, and we’ll bend over back­ward of­fer­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions. Rus­sia knows all it has to do is huff and puff, and we’ll blow the East­ern Euro­pean mis­sile de­fense shield down.

Stalling on a troop re­quest for Afghanistan while Amer­i­cans are dy­ing is a sure way to sig­nal to our en­e­mies that they can win, if only they hang in long enough. Amer­i­can strength is the best de­ter­rent to vi­o­lence and chaos. Amer­i­can weak­ness is a guar­an­tor of those things.

The pres­i­dent has been busy chas­ing na­tion­al­ized health care, an Olympic dream and his Titleist golf balls. Gen. McChrys­tal had no choice but to go pub­lic to get him fo­cused on the re­al­i­ties of the bat­tle­field and the danger­ous world in which he, his sol­diers and the rest of us live. The gen­eral’s re­spon­si­bil­ity is to keep us safe from at­tack. It‘s a shame he had to re­mind Mr. Obama that it’s the pres­i­dent’s re­spon­si­bil­ity as well.

Mon­ica Crow­ley is a na­tion­ally syndicated ra­dio host, a pan­elist on “The McLaugh­lin Group” and a Fox News con­trib­u­tor.

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