Joe Biden, Another Big Fucking I Told You So

The Toobz are a-tizzy this morning with a Rolling Stone article revealing that Stanley McChrystal said mean things about Joe Biden–both publicly and behind his back.

Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile.

Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. “I never know what’s going to pop out until I’m up there, that’s the problem,” he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”

“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

But the article is far more subtle than the tizzy lets on. And the tizzy ignores the real moral of the story, revealed after five pages of eye-popping revelations. McChrystal’s counter-insurgency plan is failing. It’s failing not because some of his aides said mean things about Biden, and not because he’s got a long-running spat with Karl Eikenberry, our Ambassador to Afghanistan. It’s failing because the Special Ops guys, whom McChrystal led killing bunches of people in Iraq, are not hard-wired to win hearts and minds. It’s failing because both the tools at McChrystal’s disposal (a bunch of JSOC guys) and the conditions on the ground mean counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency, is the best approach: precisely what Biden argued during the Afghan policy review.

When Vice President Biden was briefed on the new plan in the Oval Office, insiders say he was shocked to see how much it mirrored the more gradual plan of counterterrorism that he advocated last fall. “This looks like CT-plus!” he said, according to U.S. officials familiar with the meeting.

One of the real revelations of this story–one which actually takes up about 1/5 of the article and which is based not on aides revealing embarrassing stories but on watching grunts interact with the General they are often depicted as idolizing–is that they no longer buy that McChrystal can bridge the seemingly (and in fact) irreconcilable forces of the Afghan war; his bravado and mystique is not enough to persuade the grunts implementing his plan to buy into using less lethal force with the hearts and minds they’re supposed to be winning.

“I ask you what’s going on in your world, and I think it’s important for you all to understand the big picture as well,” McChrystal begins. “How’s the company doing? You guys feeling sorry for yourselves? Anybody? Anybody feel like you’re losing?” McChrystal says.

“Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we’re losing, sir,” says Hicks.

McChrystal nods. “Strength is leading when you just don’t want to lead,” he tells the men. “You’re leading by example. That’s what we do. Particularly when it’s really, really hard, and it hurts inside.” Then he spends 20 minutes talking about counterinsurgency, diagramming his concepts and principles on a whiteboard.

[snip]

“This is the philosophical part that works with think tanks,” McChrystal tries to joke. “But it doesn’t get the same reception from infantry companies.”

During the question-and-answer period, the frustration boils over. The soldiers complain about not being allowed to use lethal force, about watching insurgents they detain be freed for lack of evidence. They want to be able to fight – like they did in Iraq, like they had in Afghanistan before McChrystal.

I think the aides who gave Michael Hastings the access they did suffer from believing McChrystal’s very carefully crafted mystique. As the story shows, McChrystal has always been a barely-contained insubordinate man, whether as a cadet or a general. His brilliance, and his cultivated mystique, has always succeeded in excusing gross errors like the Pat Tillman coverup and the Camp Nama torture. He has always succeeded in–as he himself points out in the article–ordering Special Ops guys to kill many targets but then publicly scolding them the next day so as to maintain the fiction that he’s really supporting a less lethal strategy.

This mystique relies on precisely the kind of bravado that would lead an aide to share really damning comments about Joe Biden. It’s the verbal ass-kicking that makes Stanley McChrystal who he is.

But, at least according to this story, it doesn’t necessarily work with the guys on the front lines, and it doesn’t do a damn bit of good with an old Washington guy like Biden with decades of expertise on the region.

This article appears to be a McChrystal-led effort to shore up his tough guy cred. But the actual content of the story shows that tough guy cred won’t win you a war in Afghanistan.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

76 replies
  1. emptywheel says:

    Btw, here’s the most telling passage of the entire story, one which reveals Michael Hastings’ real opinion and explains why the McChrystal Big Dick campaign didn’t work for him:

    But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock.

    • klynn says:

      Finally.

      Do you think this was an effort to try and “play” Rolling Stone and get some free shadow DoD publicity and pre Presidential run publicity? Only to have RS see the true picture?

      I am happy for Biden quite honestly.

      McChrystal’s counter-insurgency plan is failing. It’s failing not because some of his aides said mean things about Biden, and not because he’s got a long-running spat with Karl Eikenberry, our Ambassador to Afghanistan. It’s failing because the Special Ops guys, whom McChrystal led killing bunches of people in Iraq, are not hard-wired to win hearts and minds. It’s failing because both the tools at McChrystal’s disposal (a bunch of JSOC guys) and the conditions on the ground mean counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency, is the best approach: precisely what Biden argued during the Afghan policy review.

      (my bold)

      And we could learn a great deal from France about counterterrorism. Biden knows that too.

      • Leen says:

        that is the same paragraph that jumped out at me. Have talked with quite a few soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. That “sand nigger” training, kick down the doors, shoot at these folks for target practice attitude and training is tough to break. The MSM did not touch these hearings. Where Vets from Iraq and Afghanistan talked about some of the horrible things that they did and what they witnessed
        http://www.ivaw.org/wintersoldier

        Just keep wondering what happens to any Taliban who decide to surrender. After this disaster/tragedy that no one in the MSM even whispered about

        Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death
        http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3267.htm

  2. Jim White says:

    We’re on the same wavelength this morning. In my diary, I state that it doesn’t matter whether McChrystal is fired or not, because his replacement (I bet on Harward) is likely to continue the same failed COIN strategy:

    The true failure of US policy in Afghanistan is the failure to understand that it is not possible to beat a civilian population into compliance no matter how handily their military has been beaten. Carrying a violent COIN strategy forward to the point wher the UN ends its cooperation on reconstruction work because the US militarized its approach to aid is a losing strategy that will not be reviewed amid today’s escalated panic. Sadly, that tragic aspect of US COIN policy will be continued, whether McChrystal or someone else is in charge in Afghanistan.

    And yes, this is indeed another big fucking “I told you so” for Biden, but look for the corporate press to overlook that aspect of the story. An Obama-McChrystal showdown is all they want; any real discussion of the underlying policy is far too much work for them.

  3. harpie says:

    [EW:] It’s failing because both the tools at McChrystal’s disposal (a bunch of JSOC guys) and the conditions on the ground mean counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency, is the best approach: precisely what Biden argued during the Afghan policy review.

    Juan Cole agrees with you:

    What you need in Afghanistan is a way of keeping the government from falling while you train up the new security forces (which must be put in a position where they either stand and fight or risk destruction– without the ability to depend on US infantrymen). I think this minimalist goal can be achieved via counter-terrorism. The counter-insurgency campaign was a dead end.

    http://www.juancole.com/2010/06/obamas-macarthur-moment-mcchrystal-disses-biden.html

    • Leen says:

      * I have heard many folks in Afghanistan / Taliban are still rightfully and royally pissed off about that massacre of those surrendered Taliban in 2001. No acknowledgment, no apologies, no coverage, just swept under the rug.
      —————————————————-

      EW “One of the real revelations of this story–one which actually takes up about 1/5 of the article and which is based not on aides revealing embarrassing stories but on watching grunts interact with the General they are often depicted as idolizing–is that they no longer buy that McChrystal can bridge the seemingly (and in fact) irreconcilable forces of the Afghan war; his bravado and mystique is not enough to persuade the grunts implementing his plan to buy into using less lethal force with the hearts and minds they’re supposed to be winning.”

      Afghan Deaths Threaten Support For U.S. Offensive
      http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=126195738
      “NORTHAM: Two of the females killed in the raid were pregnant. The third was just a teenager. One of the sons who died was a policeman, the other a district prosecutor.

      First accounts of the incident by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, indicated that U.S. Special Forces arrived after the family members had been killed by insurgents. At the time, a press release by ISAF described it as a gruesome find.

      But over the past two months, after two investigations, a different story has unfolded about what happened that night, says ISAF Spokesman U.S. Army Colonel Wayne Shanks.

      Colonel WAYNE SHANKS (ISAF Spokesman): There were some unfortunate casualties, and we have determined that, yes, we did kill civilians there. However, we want to figure out why that happened. What were the actions that were taken? What were the precautions that should have been taken there?

      NORTHAM: Now there is yet another investigation to determine if U.S. Special Forces tampered with evidence at Sharabudin’s home, as some local officials claim. That includes digging bullets out of the victims’ bodies. Colonel Shanks:

      Col. SHANKS: Now, I can’t get really into specifics of it, but so far, what we have learned in our initial investigation did not show that. However, at this point in the game, everything is being relooked.

      NORTHAM: In the meantime, a top U.S. Special Forces commander visited Sharabudin, asking for forgiveness, offering him two sheep and roughly $30,000 in compensation.

      Last year, General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, laid down stringent new rules of engagement in a bid to minimize civilian casualties. He reduced the number of airstrikes, which accounted for more than 60 percent of civilian deaths.”
      ——————————————————–

      “$30,ooo, and two sheep” offered for the lives of your children. That is where the U.s. is at. Sickening..

    • skdadl says:

      While I mostly agree with alabama and with Jim, I must say I’d be glad to see Biden have a moment of Schadenfreude, and I’ll be very glad to see McChrystal gone.

  4. BayStateLibrul says:

    McChrystal might as well given an interview to the Onion.
    He wants to get canned…
    He boiled too many frogs.

  5. Mary says:

    I think McChrystal is pretty wiley and sees Obama and Afghanistan, both, as failing ventures. Better for his own psyche to be called home and kicked out as the “rebel General” than to go down later, on one knee, reciting Walt Whitman.

    I had my own, personal, “revelation” in the book salon with Junger. I don’t think the problems in Afghanistan stem from traditional combat v. counterinsurgency v. counterterrorism. When I kept pressing on the whys of being in Afghanistan, eventually the goal in Afghanistan was encapsulated by Junger (paraphrasing from the current admin and its missives) as being: restoration of infrastructure and rebuilding of the economy to pre-Soviet invastion levels.

    I’m slower than most, but that’s when all the disconnect I’ve been having about the “good war” in Afghaistan crystalized. It’s not counterinsurgency or counterterrorism.

    It’s Reconstruction.

    Ok – on the goals, tactics, strategies, etc. front, it might be that the ultimate goal is an ideological “counterterrorism by stabilization” goal, but the mission statements Junger was clarifiying – infrastructure rebuilding and building the economy – those are not mission statements that can be accomplished by combat, assassination squads, drone bombings, etc.

    So the mission and the means are irreconcilable.

    That’s not to say that the military hasn’t been successfully involved in reconstructionism, but they aren’t using any of those models and reconstructionism in Europe would have a different face than reconstructionism in Afghanistan.

    I also didn’t buy the “return to pre-Soviet invasion” levels for the infrastructure and economic goals standard raised by Junger, bc that implies a state of grace that didn’t exist then imo. Still – the cybersation made a light bulb go off for me. It’s not just the issues of law v. war – its recontstruction v. combat.

    • klynn says:

      its reconstruction v. combat.

      (snip)

      So the mission and the means are irreconcilable.

      The best summary ever.

      Thank you.

    • Leen says:

      “I had my own, personal, “revelation” in the book salon with Junger. I don’t think the problems in Afghanistan stem from traditional combat v. counterinsurgency v. counterterrorism. When I kept pressing on the whys of being in Afghanistan, eventually the goal in Afghanistan was encapsulated by Junger (paraphrasing from the current admin and its missives) as being: restoration of infrastructure and rebuilding of the economy to pre-Soviet invastion levels.”

      I have heard these “reconstruction” and “rebuilding of the economy to pre-soviet invasion levels” thoughts/views from Afghani Fulbright scholars here in the states and a few folks in Afghanistan.

      So much destroyed in Afghanistan during that war with Russia.

      Ot/
      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange breaks cover but will avoid America
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/jun/21/wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-breaks-cover

      • Mary says:

        I have heard these “reconstruction” and “rebuilding of the economy to pre-soviet invasion levels” from Afghani Fulbright scholars here in the states and a few folks in Afghanistan.

        Well, I might have to let go of some of my cynicism on that front, then.

        I’m not of a very philosophical bent, but you might almost look at the areas of the “World War” that didn’t get reconstruction efforts then – Africa and the ME didn’t get nearly the focus of Europe and Japan, except for the reconstructionism targeted at creating Israel – and watch the festering.

      • klynn says:

        I wonder if the Wiki leaks post will be today or tomorrow?

        The only thing that can be said is that BP must be loving the media distraction.

        • mcgowanjm says:

          “Three Australians and a NATO soldier were killed in the helicopter crash in the southern province of Kandahar on Monday, said the officials.

          Ten of the soldiers on board were Australians, and the crash was an accident, said Australia’s Defence Force in a statement.

          The surviving seven Australians were all injured. Two were “very seriously” hurt and one was in intensive care, it said.

          The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to which Australia contributes troops, said four soldiers were killed, without giving their nationalities or other details.

          The cause of the crash was not immediately known, it said…”and the crash was an accident”, said Australia’s Defence Force in a statement.”

          Remember when Afghanistan was about OBL and 9/11?

          Anyone?

          Remember that McChrystal and his Death Squads
          were Under Cheney’s Command(when cheney had Zero
          authorization to command)?

          And from Klynn above:

          I wonder if the Wiki leaks post will be today or tomorrow?

          The only thing that can be said is that BP must be loving the media distraction.”

          As I’ve been saying from Day 1. The oil gushing
          volcano is the Dragon King, the Non Linear Event
          that does not ‘distract’ but exposes the fatal
          weaknesses in the US Empire.

          We lose the Empire now. As the US Ruling Class
          focuses on saving the Imperial City itself.

    • BayStateLibrul says:

      The Special Forces Group are kind of nutso…
      Good fighters but crazy…
      The issue is Pakistan.
      This is just another chapter of Infinite Jest.
      I read Junger’s book and concluded that we are gonzo.

    • macaquerman says:

      If somebody in the administration is willing to offer up any honest talk about what we’re doing in Afghanistan it’ll be quite surprising.

      • Mary says:

        There’s a point where you and I are on the very same page & paragraph.

        Deep down, I think Obama believed (even if he was smart enought not to enunciate it) that if he kept enough plates in the air in Afghanistan to keep his intel and drones programs in Paksitan alive, the CIA that he was saving from torture consequences were going to come through for him with something big – Zawahiri perhaps – in a fairly short turnaround. Instead, he got the Jordanian double agent and dead CIA officers and added to that cost the whole further fouling of the Exec branch which was spinning to justify torture, assassination programs, renditions to torture, ignoring habeas orders of judges, etc. But he was thinking it would be so nice to show up as the “smart guy” and be the hero – the guy who really gets Zawahiri or Bin Laden.

        But that’s just my gut – I’m going with gut today.

        Now, what Obama and pretty much everyone else – be it the top guys like McChrystal, or the implementers taking a pause from digging bullets out of pregnant women – is doing is to take a look at all their opportunistic actions and reactions and try to cobble together a story that works. And that is pretty darn tough. We sent soldiers to Afghanistan originally to take vengenance on Al-Qaeda – and to do that under auspices of Afghanistan being a “failed state” where they could do anything to anyone with no consequences. That has now supposedly morphed into what Sebastian Junger was saying was a mission to *rebuild infrastructure and economy to pre-Soviet invasion levels* There is just no freakin way to get a coherent storyline out of that morphing.

        • macaquerman says:

          There’s a point where you and I are on the very same page & paragraph.

          that’s enjoyable reading for me, for sure.

        • Leen says:

          Mary I think your gut is right about Obama’s intentions.

          On the other hand if from what I have heard from numerous Fulbright students from Afghanistan studying here in the states. The rebuilding Afghanistan to pre Russian war standards is something many older Afghani people desire. The young man from Afghanistan (34) that I literally had hundreds of hours of conversations with while he was studying here (along with some of his friends from Afghanistan who are now studying at O.U.) kept wondering why the Bush administration took their eyes off of Afghanistan (Iraq) and gave the more radical elements of the Taliban time to take control of many areas in Afghanistan. His father is a retired Brigadier General in the Afghani army who had fought the Russians with the Mujahadeen. This man had walked/trucked his wife and 12 children to Peshawar when the Russians invaded. Then turned around to go back in to fight the Russians. My friend would ask his father my questions and his father would reply. The overwhelming views of his father, my friend, and other Afghani Fulbright students was to invite the less radical elements of the Taliban to the the negotiating table, temporarily subsidize poppy farmers while supplying them with other means to make a living. Replanting pomegrante, apricots, almond, orchards to pre Russian war levels (many orchards destroyed during that war) and create a way for the Afghani people to package, market these products to send to the European/U.S. markets.

          But of course how do you do any of this with the outlaw conditions that exist in Afghanistan without building a reliable police and military force?
          All of these students talked about the fears that many people in Afghanistan have about U.S. influence in their country. The dark side of the American culture. Women on the front of Playboy (know there are folks here at FDL who do not consider that a dark element) breakdown of family etc. They want to control and limit that influence may have in their country.

  6. b2020 says:

    CIA Superior: What did we learn, Palmer?
    CIA Officer: I don’t know, sir.
    CIA Superior: I don’t fuckin’ know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.
    CIA Officer: Yes, sir.
    CIA Superior: I’m fucked if I know what we did.
    CIA Officer: Yes, sir, it’s, uh, hard to say

    Bygones Habeas Obama needs some Cognitive Deficit Reduction.

    After suffering through this (the whole package)
    http://attackerman.firedoglake.com/2010/06/12/if-the-moral-value-of-the-force-starts-to-lower-than-we-shouldnt-be-given-the-power-weve-got/

    a while back, it is not hard to see how this idiocy mcchrystalized. Too many fanboys, in places high and low.

  7. Mary says:

    Here’s Obamaco’s problem.
    Do in effect nothing other than setting up the photo op of McChrystal getting smacked down, and be viewed as being a paper tiger with no substance.
    Get rid of McChrystal to look tough and … then what? Who wants Afghanistan? Who can “turn it around.” What politicking will go on with the Pops Petraeus if one of his boys gets kicked?

    Petraeus and McChrystal have maneuvered to where Obama owns their strategies. Obama’s drawn his line in the sand on being the spider at the center of a web of assassination, torture, disappearences, and domestic laws and policies in support of the foreging – all of which have been embraced in the false “win the (war)(counterinsurgency)(counterterrorism)(fill in your favoriet) effort.

    So he’s created the abyss. If he kicks out McChrystal, who’s he going to find to volunteer to jump into it?

  8. cregan says:

    Joe Biden is a genius. He’ll tell you if you ask. He likely still thinks partitioning Iraq is a great idea.

    I say we appoint Biden to be the commander. Then, when it goes down, he can take the credit.

    Lesson #1 for McChrystal and his staff–never think out loud in front of reporters. They are there to advance THEIR career, not yours.

    Which is not to say reporters are bad. They aren’t. But, you have to recognize the truth of their situation. They are not handing out free advertising–they are attracting paid advertising.

    • cwolf says:

      He likely still thinks partitioning Iraq is a great idea.

      There’s a blast from the past.
      Alas – the better Idea is for all foreighers to go home.

  9. klynn says:

    So he’s created the abyss. If he kicks out McChrystal, who’s he going to find to volunteer to jump into it?

    I disagree (I have never disagreed with you too).

    The military complex has created the abyss.

    If no one jumps in to fill McC’s position, it will confirm that the power brokering of the military complex is not about building democracies, but pure power grabbing. This is NOT the PR the US military complex needs globally.

    Someone will step up.

    The best act by Obama will be to replace him.

  10. TarheelDem says:

    It is nice of McChrystal to float a balloon to see whether Petraeus can become and American Caesar or if Obama really will act like a Commander in Chief. This is a Truman-McArthur moment for Obama to reassert civilian (and sorry, Gate is only quasi-civilian) control of the military. Last year, he gave Petraeus and McChrystal their rope and their chance to prove they could succeed — no rush to judgment with Obama there. They haven’t, and they are unwilling to accept that they haven’t (and most likely couldn’t to begin with). So they start to pull the President is soft on national security gambit to get the Congress to rally for them.

    It’s time to cashier McChrystal and reassign Petraeus to a small office commanding a wastebasket. And find someone who understands what has to be done between now and December to back up Pakistan’s ouster of foreign troops in the Northwest Territories. It is also time to recognize that the field intelligence that has been targeting drone strikes has been incompetent, uninformed, or compromised by the Taliban.

    The US military has never had and does not have the ability to fight a counter-insurgency so as to “win the hearts and minds” of the local people. That was the Vietnam pipedream. It remains a pipedream. And for the same reason that there are some police departments incapable of neighborhood policing. They wanna look macho; they wanna feel macho; they wanna kill “the enemy”. And they’ve not been recruited or trained in basic training to be otherwise.

    • timr says:

      Check this out. The “American way of war” has always been to use a sledge hammer to kill a fly. While it might work in “big wars” like WWII and perhaps in “small/medium” wars like GW I and II, it does not work in CT or COIN type wars. Simply put our soldiers are not trained to fight that way. We are trained to go fwd until we receive fire, take cover and call for fire support. We rely over much on high tech and not enough on interpersonal relationships. Sure in small cases it might just work, but we do not have the training or the worldview to be able to accomplish such a mission. We can not do “hearts and minds” while we are in the process of shooting the shit out of a house because someone panicked and thought they were being fired on. If memory serves, in Vietnam I was not really scared, but only because I really had no concept of death, being 18 one usually does not. I did wonder why those older than me were always so frightened, but towards the end of my tour I think that I was finally able to understand their POV. Almost getting killed a few years later while in Korea brought the point home. So what do we have out at the sharp end in A’stan? These people are trained from basic training on to respond in a certain way. Then the rules change and the troops on the ground do not understand.-aside, in a military blog that I read every day many who comment firmly believe that it was Obama who came up with the ROE that many believe are getting our people killed. They can not bring themselves to understand that it was gen McC, not Obama, who changed the rules.

      Here it is, The American Way of War;
      http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa577.pdf

      • TarheelDem says:

        I don’t know about “always” but you are certainly right about the situation after 1940. In fact the best thing about the Powell doctrine was that it recognized this and provided rules to evaluate when you could get away with using a sledgehammer. And recommended that in other cases not to even try. Too bad he didn’t apply it to Afghanistan or Iraq.

    • AppleCanyon2 says:

      Good observations.
      Way late to the discussion (as usual)
      My personal opinion is that if O does not sack McChrystal, put the fork in him, he is done and I am talking about O.
      McArthur tried to be insubordinate and he got sacked by Truman who knew full well the General’s popularity, but did it anyway to insure civilian control of the military.
      I have heard it expressed today that this will be just what the Republicans want. So what, they would exploit it either way.
      Obama HAS to be a Truman here.

    • Synoia says:

      “The US military has never had and does not have the ability to fight a counter-insurgency so as to “win the hearts and minds” of the local people”

      In my recollection, no military of any country has “won the hearts & minds” of the local people in a counter-insurgency. Ask the French, British & Indonesians, amongst the many.

      • TarheelDem says:

        Yes for those examples. But there have been successful counter-insurgencies, which generally required scorched earth strategies. And authoritarian states.

  11. joanneleon says:

    Is the article available yet? Haven’t found a link yet.

    The big f’ing I told you so doesn’t mean a whole lot to me because instead of standing up to the guy last year when they should have, the admin spilled blood and treasure and then allowed a pissant Rolling Stone article with a bunch of quotes from McChrystal’s staff to be used as their reason for firing him.

    If they were so f’ing sure his strategy wouldn’t work, why didn’t they stand up to him when he played his leak and manipulation games to force their hand last year? That was a hell of a lot more insubordinate and damaging, IMHO. The time to act was when McChrystal undermined the president on strategy, before we lost a whole lot more nineteen-year old Americans and God knows how many innocent Afghan citizens.

    This big f’ing I told you so is cold comfort at this point.

    Oh, and it opens up the door for all kinds of sniping about firing a General engrossed in a war over a “far left” magazine article. It makes it look like they sent in a member of the “liberal media” to undermine McChrystal and plays right into the hands of right-wing nut jobs. Another political disaster, if you ask me.

    This will not end well. What a crappy way to get the guy out. Now we’ve got Karzai backing McChrystal too. This just went from Clusterfuck to Biggerclusterfuck.

    • klynn says:

      The one point which negates the “liberal media” spin is that McC (or his PR staff) saw the article before it went to print. His ego is such, I bet he personally saw the article.

      He ok’d the story. You cannot spin that.

      And when you look at the “ok’d” issue, it just looks worse for McC from all angles.

      • joanneleon says:

        Yeah,that part is pretty unbelievable. Do we know for sure if McC himself ok’d it? He’s probably pretty busy. Or was it this PR person who was just fired?

        • klynn says:

          Marcy posted an update. He appears to have ok’d the facts.

          But I read an interview on the tubes this AM had RS stating ok’d the article.

  12. mcgowanjm says:

    “Having voted for Bush will have become the parachute pants of this decade.

    It will become the “Oh my GOD. What the fuck was I thinking?” shameful secret people will occasionally and elliptically allude to by piping up with, “well, he did good after 9/11” as schoolchildren are taught what a disaster on every front and by every measure he was, and as adults who now have to pay and pay dearly for the myriad lies and crimes and follies of George W. Bush recount his Top 100 Fuckups and bitterly laugh and laugh and laugh…”
    -driftglass

    “In October 2001, as the assault on and invasion of Afghanistan began, ostensibly in the search for one man, Osama bin Laden, I found (p. 400) : “Major resources: natural gas, coal, iron ore, beryllium, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, sulfur, chrome, copper …”

    Although deposits have also been seen, clearly, from satellite for years, incredibly, the might of United States’ experts have only made this (estimated at least a trillion dollar discovery) little over a year before they are pondering “draw down” (sort of, maybe, whatever ..)

    As Peter Eyre has written: ” … I was informed of this incredible wealth over 20 years ago, whilst working in the oil, gas and mining industry. The Russians have a wealth of information in their archives in Moscow and the US have been monitoring this wealth over many years, with an in depth study taking place soon after they invaded Afghanistan.”

    Plundering the Planet
    Felicity Arbuthnot

    • onitgoes says:

      My brother-in-law is a geologist for one of the BigOil companies (not BP, but really? what difference does it make?). The US has known about the minerals in Afghanistan since forever.

      The Bush family had NO intention of “getting” their BFF’s son, Osama. The Bush family sent in the troops in order to take command and control of the minerals. Period. The end.

      It was a completely idiotic gesture, however, bc anyone with any kind of knowledge about Afghanistan – it’s history, culture, society, etc – had to know that it’s an impossible dream to think we could “take over” the mineral wealth of Afghanistan. So while the Bush & Cheney families (and their cronies) got even more obscenely wealthy off of this unmitigated disaster resulting in 100’s of thousands of people’s lives, the US “small” taxpayer’s got nothing to show for it except for dead military personnel and/or military personnel sent back to the states with loads of medical problems that the military will do it’s best not to pay the money to treat.

    • onitgoes says:

      The biggest mistake we made was after “Charlie Wilson’s War” ended the conflict between Afghanistan and the Soviets. We pulled up stakes and exited stage left. That CIA guy (played by actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the movie) kept saying that the USA really needed to STAY after the Soviets left. Not to wage war, but to work in rebuilding the govt, etc.

      Instead we barged out and left the field wide open for the Taliban – who we had been arming against the Soviets – to rush in and take over the govt. And we know the end of that saga.

      The USA is soooooo incredibly STUPID!!!! it’s almost beyond belief. All we know how to do is run around like some dumb movie cowboy throwing out weight around and acting all tough and stuff… and Republicans clap and cheer as if this is the sole way to “diplomacy” and “running things” and “international relations.”

      And yet, time & again, it’s been a giant sucking failure. But memories are short and history is revised and we all sit around congratulating ourselves on how mighty and powerful we are.

      So frackin DUMB it’s beyond belief. And yes: the giant sweep of history in both Iraq and Afghanistan only proves that no one can go in there and “take over.” So frackin STUPID.

      And yeah: what have we accomplished (other than making fat cats even wealthier)??? EFF all except making those who would join Al Qaeda even more determined to join and wage jihad against us. Really IGNORANT.

      But we’ve been saying this since forever and the corporations have shut us up, shut us down and/or ridiculed us … because they’re just in it for the money. So what if 100s of thousands are dead? So what if the environment is ruined? So what if our enemies only hate us all the more?

      So what??? Or as Cheney would say: SO????!!!???

  13. Twain says:

    Someone above mentioned Truman-McArthur which was very different in one way. The people very much approved of McArthur and were not happy with Truman for firing him. Everyone had been through the shock of FDR dying and were not yet fully onboard with Truman who was blunt and unafraid of anything. It didn’t help much when McArthur spoke before Congress and said his now famous “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” I doubt that 1 person out of 1000 could tell you who McChrystal is.

  14. boyblue says:

    FIRE THIS ASSHAT FAILURE OF A “GENERAL” NOW. And listen to Congressman Kucinich and GET OUT of this “war” now! Next summer, Obama? Pfft. We are bleeding in both soldiers AND money when we can afford neither in this economy.

    With all the looming changes in European governments, they will finally see the light and get the fuck out. Show some balls, Obama, and stand up to the Right and get the fuck out.

  15. stryx says:

    This is my favorite sentence:

    So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war.

  16. boyblue says:

    Btw, I REALLY need to leave the “Orange Monster” DailyKentrismKos. Too many on there are defending the “general” and the US’s silly and WASTEFUL ludicrous presence in Afghanistan. And too many there constantly insult Jane Hamsher, whom I deem a hero of our cause.

    • tanbark says:

      Boy’: how do they defend McChrystal and the shitmire at the same time?

      Doesn’t make them into Condoleeza Rice/Dick Cheyney?

    • bmaz says:

      Welcome to EW and feel free to hang with us. We simply call bullshit on whoever deserves it, irrespective of their party or ideology. There are no sacred cows and even the folks on the other side get praised when they actually earn it.

  17. tanbark says:

    The earlier Obama “smackdown” must not have been too stern, since McChrystal is back farting in his face, again.

    Let us review: This is Obama’s handpicked honcho in Afghanistan, dissing the preznint and Biden, because he’s nervous about all of the negative press coming out of the quagmire. With Biden (as point man) talking openly about the July 2011 withdrawal schedule being solid, and Rahm chiming in with the same message, the warbots have to do something to stop an exit bandwagon from getting started. This was part of the effort…as is SecDef Gates’ direct contradiction of Biden and Rahm, and by inference, Obama:

    http://news.antiwar.com/2010/06/20/us-officials-dispute-downplay-july-2011-afghan-pullout-date/

    Is Obama going to fire McChrystal. Unlikely. He has shown nothing but a willingness to bend over and spread cheek for the people who are so optimistic about “winning”, in both shitmires, and whom are so determined to sustain them. That’s why he sent those 30,000 troops in, and while they haven’t exactly suppressed the insurgency and the Taliban, they haven’t satisfied McChristal, either. And since he was Obama’s choice, it’s going to be hard to fire him.

    I’m just glad this is coming up. It may force Obama out of the role of Oval Office bubble boy and into the role of having to make the tough decisions about getting us out of the miseries.

    But I aint holding my breath.

  18. Hugh says:

    Boy, I walk away from the web for a few hours and all this happens.

    There are no white hats here. McChrystal and his aides are doing what all good bureaucrats do when they are fucking up. They are blaming others. But Biden is a bumptious idiot. Look it doesn’t matter whether Obama follows McChrystal’s plan or Biden’s. Indeed if Biden is saying that McChrystal is following his plan and that plan is failing, how does this advance anything or make Biden look good? The point is, as I have said ad infinitum, we have no policy reason for having a large army in Afghanistan. We don’t have large armies in either Somalia or Yemen, yet we carry out military operations in both. You may agree or disagree with that but the point is we don’t need a large occupying force to do that. I have never seen any evidence as to why Afghanistan is different or should be treated differently from these.

    But the key point here is that in the absence of a substantive policy to explain why we are in Afghanistan with an army no strategy can work. You can have the biggest, baddest muscle car in the world but if you have no road and no destination, all you have is a very expensive shiny piece of junk.

    • Leen says:

      “But Biden is a bumptious idiot”

      I just do not buy this image that the MSM fuels. O.K. the dude puts his foot in his mouth far too often. I have watched Biden on the Senate floor he is not a “bumptious idiot”

      Will never forget when he went after John Boltons jugular during the Bolton nomination hearings. Biden along with Kennedy, Kerry, Boxer, Lincoln Chaffee,(almost Voinovich) were demanding the NSA intercepts that allegedly had to do with spying on Colin Powell and others. I really though Biden and team were going to jump over some tables and take Bolton down. Biden and the rest were raging. Bolton was his smug asshole self, although he did look as if they had gotten under his skin during this hearing. I so wanted to see a truth seeking brawl.

      http://dir.salon.com/story/opinion/blumenthal/2005/04/28/powells_revenge/index.html
      “When British Foreign Minister Jack Straw complained to Powell that Bolton was obstructing negotiations with Iran on its development of nuclear weapons, Powell ordered that Bolton be cut out of the process, telling an aide: “Get a different view.” The British also objected to Bolton’s interference in talks with Libya, and again Powell removed Bolton. But much as he may have wanted to, Powell could not dismiss Bolton because of a powerful patron: Vice President Dick Cheney.

      The Bolton confirmation hearings have revealed his constant efforts to undermine Powell on Iran and Iraq, Syria, and North Korea. They have also exposed a most curious incident that has triggered the administration’s stonewall reflex. The Foreign Relations Committee discovered that Bolton made a highly unusual request and gained access to 10 intercepts by the National Security Agency, which monitors worldwide communications, of conversations involving past and present government officials. Whose conversations did Bolton secretly secure and why?

      Staff members on the committee believe that Bolton was likely spying on Powell, his senior advisors, and other officials reporting to the secretary of state on diplomatic initiatives that Bolton opposed. If so, it is also possible that Bolton was sharing this top-secret information with his neoconservative allies in the Pentagon and the vice president’s office, with whom he was in daily contact and well known to be working in league against Powell. If the intercepts are ever released, they may disclose whether Bolton was a key figure in a counterintelligence operation run inside the Bush administration against the secretary of state, resembling the hunted character played by Will Smith in “Enemy of the State.” Both Republican and Democratic senators have demanded that the State Department, which holds the NSA intercepts, turn them over to the committee. But Rice so far has refused. What is she hiding by her coverup?”

      I DON’T KNOW WHETHER THEY EVER HAD ACCESS TO THOSE INTERCEPTS

  19. Praedor says:

    Most (MOST) counterinsurgency operations fail. That is a fact of history. The ONLY ones (the few) that have worked are those in which the insurgents are generally unpopular to the people of the country in question. Now I cannot say that the Taliban are popular with the Afghanis (probably depends on who you ask – in the cities, “No”, but elsewhere it is whatever answer wont get that person killed). The problem here is Iraq.

    Because the Taliban were not popular (and remain largely unpopular) when we took them out, we MAY have been able to square away Afghanistan and never even seen the insurgency come back with any strength as it has. Instead, Bush and Cheney immediately had to go after the REAL shiny object of their “affections”, Iraq. Poof! ANY chance we had in Afghanistan was lost at that point. Then comes along Obama who spoke the truth, such as it is, that the real fight was Afghanistan and Iraq diverted our focus from the real issue.

    That is true. The bigger problem is NOW it is too late.

    It is true that a counterinsurgency requires a long time and cannot properly be confined to a timeline. It takes an amorphous amount of time to succeed WHEN a counterinsurgency is going to succeed. We are out of time and we are out of money. Iraq destroyed our finances and has consumed all the time we had to make Afghanistan right. You cannot now unbreak the plate.

    It may be that a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan CAN still work BUT…it would require more time and money – more time and money that we the people are willing to bear. You cannot be talking about cutting social services, education, safety nets, and underfunding infrastructure back home while being willing to be extravagant with war monies. No f*cking way.

    We BLEW it with Afghanistan years ago and now McCrystal wants all the time and money necessary make it all right. Too little, too late.

    Iraq is THE problem and we cannot undo that either. Over and done.

  20. Praedor says:

    Another problem with the reconstruction design of Bush/Cheney that absolutely wrecked everything was the fact that it was dependent on magic ponies. They literally did NOT plan for reconstruction and rebuilding. They literally fantasized that democracy would magically break out, the peoples of each nation would take the reigns and, with HUGE no-bid contracts and corruption going to US corporations, reconstruction would just happen. They poo-pooed what we HAD to do in Germany and Japan post WWII to square those places away.

    Now both places are hopelessly corrupt, hopelessly disorganized. That is what happens when you blow the shit out of a place and then expect magic ponies to fix things “naturally”.

    We should hand Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and the rest of the advisors and cabinet of the Bush Admin over to the tender mercies of the Afghanis and Iraqis. Let them decide on what is appropriate treatment.

    • onitgoes says:

      I agree with both of your posts. Absolutely correct. Team USA had a smidgeon of a chance in Afghanistan IF the situation had been handled correctly, but there’s the rub. The Bush/Cheney syndicate only ever operated on somehow making a fast buck out of both Afghanistan and Iraq. There was never anything “long term” in their thinking/planning about either nation. They barfed out talking points for credulous citizens that had nothing to do with their venal intentions.

      The big question is: what did Cheney really expect? It would be nice to know just for the heck of it. I’m not military strategist but it clear as day that they way they fumbled into those 2 wars spelled long-term disaster. I know that Bush and Cheney got rich off of both exercises in stupidity, but maybe that was all they cared about????

      Too late now for sure. Both places are major eff-ups, and no amount of soldiering is going to fix it now. It’s just up for grabs who can make a quick buck out of chaos and mess that’s in both places. Think of something like the “Three Kings” movie about the first Gulf War, and it’s probably mostly like that over there now… stupid idiocy. The sleazes out there making quick bucks where they can, and misery for the “small people” who survive.

      The Republicans always HATED the Marshall Plan. I can remember my parents beefing about it in the 1950s and the 1960s, yet is was one of the finest and smartest things that this country did. But for whatever reason, Republicans HATE like hell to do ANYTHING that remotely smells of making peace. Helping nations to rebuild and creating better allies is considered BAD FORM. Go figure. All they ever wanna do is kill, destroy, mess up, maim and then go blame someone else for cock-up.

  21. Mesa Mick says:

    McCrystal is not an American hero – He’s an American fuck-up who can’t follow orders simply because his boss is a black guy and a Dem then thru “passive aggressiveness” gets American troops killed to prove he’s right for undermining national policy.

    After getting fired this man should be put on trial for treason, subversion, sedition and insubordnation…

  22. Synoia says:

    “Better for Stanley to get fired.”

    Then he can claim “Everything was OK on my watch, but they fired me and the resulting debacle it was their fault,” endlessly on Faux News.

  23. Oval12345678akaJamesKSayre says:

    Duck Season? No, wabbit season. No, Afghani season, Iraqi season, Pakistani season, marijuana smoker season, Gulf of Mexico flora and fauna season. Time to cancel America’s endless wars of aggression against the human race and Mother Nature.

  24. wigwam says:

    Over a month ago, the Pentagon finally realized that Afghanistan is “not worth the candle”:

    Posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Pentagon rethinking value of major counterinsurgencies

    By Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers

    WASHINGTON — Nearly a decade after the United States began to focus its military training and equipment purchases almost exclusively on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military strategists are quietly shifting gears, saying that large-scale counterinsurgency efforts cost too much and last too long.

    The domestic economic crisis and the Obama administration’s commitment to withdraw from Iraq and begin drawing down in Afghanistan next year are factors in the change. The biggest spur, however, is a growing recognition that large-scale counterinsurgency battles have high casualty rates for troops and civilians, eat up equipment that must be replaced and rarely end in clear victory or defeat.

    In addition, military thinkers say such wars have put the U.S.’s technologically advanced ground forces on the defensive while less sophisticated insurgent forces are able to remain on the offensive.

    […]

    And the most likely scapegoat will be but the loss was strategic, not tactical:

    “When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, […] you will exhaust your strength, and if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the state will not be equal to the strain. […] In all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. Only one who knows the distasterous effects of a long war can realize the supreme importance of rapidity in bringing it to a close.” [Sun Tzu, The Art of War, 6th Century BC]

    Afghanistan was lost the moment Bush failed to follow through on his initial success there, and chose to pursue a two-front war.

  25. iremember54 says:

    The Republicans have been saying we must listen to the Generals on the ground, and give them total control.

    Been there done that, and we are still in the same two wars with the end game and results far in the future.

    This is what happens when pompous asses get promoted to General, and then are revired like they were great hero’s, and left to do as they see fit.

    If they have no respect for their Comander in Chief they are not fit to wear the uniform, let alone be trusted to run wars.

    Th Pentagon has basiclly ran the last few Presidents anyhow, just like they do the Congress. A Military that can’t acomplish what it sets out to do, can’t win wars, and can’t defend the Country it is sworn to Protect, isn’t worth much.

    Our Military is like having a cannonball hung around all our necks, to give it what it wants. Then we get nothing in return for all of it. If the oil in the Gulf was a invading enemy, it proved all our Military including the Coast Guard would be a day late and a dollar short.

  26. matutinal says:

    The Masters of War will keep money flowing for their wares, with or without McCrystal flailing away. And with or without “success,” whatever that is supposed to mean.

  27. MarkH says:

    ew quoting RS:

    During the question-and-answer period, the frustration boils over. The soldiers complain about not being allowed to use lethal force, about watching insurgents they detain be freed for lack of evidence. They want to be able to fight – like they did in Iraq, like they had in Afghanistan before McChrystal.

    It sounds like the strategy has been tough on the troops. Nobody said war would be easy or fun.

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