In a year that brought little inspiration from Democrats, there was no more important moment for the President and he executed it flawlessly.
When Pres. Obama sacked Gen. Stanley McChrystal and then appointed Gen. David Petraeus he was forced to do something he’s not done before. Stand on a line and make a critical decision that would have lasting consequences for thousands of U.S. soldiers and Afghans. It was brilliant, as I wrote at the time.
But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president. And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security.
The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.
The day before Obama made his decision, everyone was debating what he might do, with friends and I going at it, including individuals I talked to at the State Dept. Quite a few were not convinced Obama could actually sack McChrystal. I knew he had no choice if he wanted to keep his presidency intact, but that doesn’t mean I thought he’d do it. Not only did Pres. Obama make the move, but choosing Petraeus turned his decision into perfectly crafted leadership.
For me, the entire event revealed something complex and catastrophic, which forced me to reevaluate reality. McChrystal’s implosion in Rolling Stone signaled that things were much, much worse in Afghanistan than the Administration was letting on or dare I say even knew or would admit. This was the moment my unwavering support for Obama’s Afghanistan policy ended, because McChrystal’s raw candor and his admissions were so brutal, it blew out all previous reporting. For a warrior of his stature to unmask the chaos so totally through his own naked stressful confession meant that the unraveling was now uncontrollable for outside forces. COIN had crapped out and not only would our strategy have to be altered, no matter what was being said in public, but even at that we had lost whatever control to influence events enough to connect a country that had never known this type of life.
Recent reports have confirmed just this fact. From the Wall Street Journal:
Internal United Nations maps show a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan during this year’s fighting season, countering the Obama administration’s optimistic assessments of military progress since the surge of additional American forces began a year ago.
[…] Many nongovernment organizations, or NGOs, operating in Afghanistan dispute that any progress has been made by the coalition this year. According to preliminary statistics compiled by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, which provides security advice and coordination to NGOs working in the country, the number of insurgent-initiated attacks surged by some 66% in 2010 from the previous year.
“The country as a whole is dramatically worse off than a year ago, both in terms of the insurgency’s geographical spread and its rate of attacks,” said Nic Lee, director of the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office. “Vast amounts of the country remain insecure for the unarmed civilians, and more and more areas are becoming inaccessible.”
So, even as brilliant as the replacement of McChrystal with Petraeus was, the unfortunate reality is that Pres. Obama didn’t get the message from McChrystal’s career ending confession.
And as we end 2010 there isn’t any politician of either party who has the prowess to lead the U.S. do what’s required and make the tough decision that’s needed, which is to disengage from Afghanistan starting immediately, which would still mean we wouldn’t be out of there for another 16 months or so.
The U.S. is carrying out military operations we cannot afford, that are not helping our nation or making us safer, while keeping us in a hamster wheel of never ending futility on battlefields we are not welcomed and no longer belong.
That we have no one to lead us out of this mess is the most depressingly alarming reality our country faces as the New Year dawns.