Monday, October 5, 2009

Obama & McChrystal

The blogosphere is buzzing over the Telegraph report that General McChrystal "shocked and angered presidential advisers [and the president himself] with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week." For those out of the loop, the general basically gave a strong push for a counterinsurgency strategy requiring more troops, while rejecting any notions of switching to a "strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces operations against al-Qaeda." He also took a direct shot at Vice-president Biden's ideas.

My take on this is that if the president didn't want McChrystal to speak his mind, he should have told him so. Given that the Obama administration is reevaluating its strategic options for Afghanistan, it would have been wise to get everyone on the same page. Make it clear down the chain of command that no one was to give independent recommendations or pronouncements. General McChrystal should have been informed that he was to bring his ideas only to the administration, not the public. That this wasn't done is yet another example of Obama's inexperience in action. 

The military leadership has been widely criticized for not speaking out more loudly and forcefully regarding their misgivings about Iraq strategy, and instead waiting until after retirement to conveniently claim that they opposed things that turned out badly. McChrystal clearly has a strong opinion regarding the correct Afghanistan strategy, and isn't going to be a scapegoat for the possible failure of a strategic approach he doesn't believe in. That appears to be why he's speaking out. The administration should have recognized that the general might decide to speak publicly and ordered him not to, preventing the whole situation.

Obama now has only bad options. If he fires McChrystal it will look like he refuses to listen to one of his top commanders. He'll be criticized, especially from the right, for ignoring expert military advice. If he does nothing and ends up adopting McChrystal's strategy, he looks weak, unable to control a subordinate. He'll be attacked from the left for expanding the war based on the advice of generals who always want more troops.

1 comment:

  1. From Opfor's ( mention of a washington independent article.

    It sounds like a small portion of the speach was blown out of proportion