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The Clock Is Ticking, Mr. President

November 14, 2009

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As the sane portion of the country looks on in disbelief at the Obama Administration’s decision to give 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed a civilian trial in New York City,  the conduct of the War on Terror aborad is equally jarring—three months after General Stanley McChrystal has asked for an additioanl 40,000 troops to properly continue operations in Afghanistan, the President still has yet to make up his mind.  Last night, Sean Hannity aired an eye-opening report on one of the influences behind Obama’s foreign policy:  Lessons in Disaster by Gordon Goldstein.

Goldstein’s thesis is that President John F. Kennedy would have kept America out of the Vietnam War, which the nation entered because his successor, Lyndon Johnson, wanted to bolster his anti-Communist credentials.  Waging the war was a mistake further compounded by the fact that LBJ gave his military commanders too much free reign to impose bad strategy.  The modern implications?  Drawdown from an unwinnable war.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

For opponents of a major troop increase, led by Mr. Biden and Mr. Emanuel, “Lessons in Disaster” — which traces the hawkish war stance and eventual disavowal of it by Vietnam-era national-security adviser McGeorge Bundy — encapsulates their concerns about accepting military advice unchallenged.

“Bundy said we debated a number and not a use,” said Gordon M. Goldstein, the book’s author, referring to troop deployments. “That’s a really critical observation which goes to the heart of what’s going on right now in the White House.”

Administration officials in the Biden camp fear they too could close off the path to a more peaceful resolution of the conflict if 40,000 more troops are sent. They believe most of the Taliban fighters, and some of their leaders, are neither hard-core, violent Islamists nor sympathetic to al Qaeda.

Both reports contrast this view with that of Lewis Sorley’s A Better War, which contends that we lost Vietnam thanks not to military strategy but Capitol Hill’s lack of resolve:

“I believe that the loss of stability in Afghanistan brings huge risks that transnational terrorists such as al Qaeda will operate from within Afghanistan again,” Gen. McChrystal said.

That view is shared by the bulk of the senior military leadership, which has signed on to Gen. McChrystal’s 66-page war assessment that calls for a large increase in force levels.

It is a view echoed by Lewis Sorley, author of “A Better War,” which argues that once Gen. William Westmoreland was replaced in 1968 by Gen. Creighton Abrams, the war began to turn.

In Mr. Sorley’s account, Gen. Abrams abandoned the “search and destroy” tactics of his predecessor for a policy of protecting villages, and began to push for Vietnamese institutions to take over tasks once run by Americans — just the policies Gen. McChrystal has advocated in Afghanistan.

Obama assigned McChrystal to Afghanistan in June, presumably because he had at least some faith in his judgment.  Has the President suddenly decided he can’t trust McChrystal after all?  Furthermore, while presidents obviously must carefully consider every piece of advice they receive, one would think the most enlightened statesman of our age could come to a conclusion within three months—especially a president convinced that widespread overhauls of the private sector are too urgent to take the time to read the legislation in detail.

The Founding Fathers believed that careful deliberation, not impatient emotion, should dominate domestic policy making, but understood that the defense of the nation in times of war would require prompt action and “energy in the executive.” For the sake of America’s men & women in uniform, former constituitonal law professor Obama ought to re-read his Federalist Papers—the sooner, the better.

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Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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23 Comments
  1. November 14, 2009 3:19 pm

    No, the crazy thing to do would be to escalate the war in Afghanistan without a strategy to get the hell out. We’ve been there for over eight years already. Waiting a few more months to weigh all options is the sane thing to do.

    • Cas Balicki permalink
      November 14, 2009 6:17 pm

      Waiting a few more months to weigh all options is the sane thing to do.

      No, what waiting is the same thing as is voting present, which is what this ignorant president has been doing all his life. I said on the night Obama was elected that America would now see how a truly stupid president would perform. Nothing this weathervane has done since then has proven me wrong. In fact, circumstances and time have only reinforced the acuity of my original opinion.

    • November 15, 2009 6:19 am

      The only legitimate exit strategy once we’ve determined to go to war is VICTORY. To plan any other exit strategy is to disregard the lives of our soldiers, threaten our national security, destroy our credibility and betray our allies, who surely will be slaughtered if we leave Afghanistan with anything less than total victory. To determine what that victory will consist of is another matter altogether. Even in this, Obama has dithered for much longer than 3 months.

      As a Senator, Obama was privy to intelligence data and had strong opinions about what needed to be done, as a candidate he claimed to know the right path, as President-elect he was given unprecedented cooperation and access to information by the Bush Administration. Now that it is his decision to make, he needs to study the problem further and consult with endless committees of experts. Obama’s reasoning: Karzai’s government is corrupt. So is ours you ninny! It isn’t as if we’ve never experienced rigged elections or charges of such. Any government wherein the people either abdicate their responsibility to watch over their government, as in our case, or are unable to do so without risking their lives, as in Afghanistan, corruption will flourish. The lack of security in Afghanistan in itself ensures corruption as people struggle for their very survival.

      In the meantime on the ground, our soldiers and their Afghan counterparts are being ambushed and slaughtered because our rules of engagement severely limit air support and we don’t have the troops to secure and hold villages and towns. Mr. President, the call has come from our sons and daughters fighting in Afghanistan, “Officer Down!!!!” What in God’s name are you waiting for?

      • November 15, 2009 6:52 am

        Well said. Ben, do you think battlefield conditions will simply stand still while the commander in chief makes up his mind?

      • Jerry Del permalink
        November 15, 2009 7:08 am

        When lives are being lost and the response of our government is to enforce insane rules of engagement so we don’t mistakenly killed non-combatants, then the time to get out of there is NOW! Who in the heat of a battle can tell the combatants from the non-combatants? Let them solve their own problems. If the Afghanistanis could rout the Russians, they certainly can rout the Taliban…if they wanted to. Let them stew in their religion of “peace?”

    • November 15, 2009 12:36 pm

      By all means, Ben. Cut and run. Surrender. Give up. That’s what democrats do, just ask Cambodia how your strategy worked for them under Pol Pot. Liberals are spineless p**ssies and aren’t suitable for leadership. Let the grown ups run things for a change and knock off all the PC nonsense…then we would already be out of both Iraq and Afghanistan…with a victory. Let the military do its job…killing people and breaking stuff. You liberals can then sit around singing Kumbaya to each other.

    • David Forsmark permalink
      November 15, 2009 1:44 pm

      Ben is hilarious. Why would you ever HURRY REINFORCEMENTS?

      • November 15, 2009 2:10 pm

        Why aren’t you over there fighting, David? We’re extremely shorthanded and you appear to be of eligible age.

        • November 17, 2009 8:27 pm

          I noticed this comment didn’t get a response. I guess Forsmark is just another right-wing chicken hawk. BAWK BAWK BAWK BAWK

          • In the Know permalink
            November 18, 2009 11:50 am

            Using that same logic, I hope you are providing free healthcare services to people who don’t have insurance, riding a bike made of recycled free trade organic coffee grounds, and using solar energy to power your home (and computer).

    • November 15, 2009 3:41 pm

      Waging war is not a game, and one does not prepare “exit strategies” or “surrender” when waging it. It is not a football game with time limits.

  2. John Davidson permalink
    November 14, 2009 4:23 pm

    Do something right for a change.

    After eliminating the terrorist camps, we also discovered that the Taliban regime was terrorizing women. It seems all this is forgotten in this war.

    As in this country, war zones in many of our large cities remain isolated from the forces of justice. If we continue to ignore violence where ever it festers, it grows.

    Read the history of complacency that allowed dictators to gain so much power that not a few died, but millions.

  3. Axiomatic1 permalink
    November 14, 2009 8:49 pm

    The ultimate desires of Obama and the hard left Democrats are:
    1. Make the war on terror go away without further disgusting Americans and ultimately losing more future votes.
    2. Turn the rudder of America hard left and full steam head – at all $$$ cost.

    The hope may be that the trail of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and crew will turn into a defenseless trial of President Bush and the war on terror. This will produces a wave of emotion from the Democratic half of the nation. Cut and run would then be so much easier to swallow.

    Freed from the financial burden of protecting America, new funds will fire the hard left bank turn of USS America.

    So we should expect the “indecision” to last at least another 6 weeks unless the Attorney General can expidite the schedule.

  4. Steve permalink
    November 15, 2009 4:37 am

    I wonder what would happen if the US pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan completely? I know, I know…many folks think that we (I speak as an American but am a Canadian) are fighting a War on Terror over there, and we are, but what are the results in the end? Would we be better served to let that area go to the Muslims of whatever stripe and let them fight it amongst themselves? Bring home the troops home, I say. Save precious American blood. Use those same returning troops to secure the borders. Make the borders airtight. Another thought: Is American aid to places like Pakistan really doing its job? We’re dealing with a Muslim nation, folks! Do you really think they are on our side? A good deal of that aid is going to fund the Taliban anyway, so what are we fighting for? Besides, the USA needs to clean up its own “Islamic problem.” We have enough terrorists within our borders whereby we need to deal with that situation and not worry about them “over there.” Islam, I believe, has the seeds of self-destruction, if given the right opportunity. Another point: Does America have to be the “policeman of the world”? Just some thoughts on the mess this world is in.

  5. The Inquisitor permalink
    November 15, 2009 7:40 am

    Max Boot makes the same point in his book, The Savage Wars of Peace. Abrams won the war using the American time honored strategy found in Marine manuals.

    His book is gem for anyone interested in the history of all the small wars America has fought.

  6. November 15, 2009 8:05 am

    Bing Wests comments are the ones that stick in my mind. Obama has continued to question his generals while he continues to delay any action of adding the additional troops that McChrystal has asked for. Bing West commented, “Obama appears to be the president who does not want to be victorious in Afghanistan.” Obama himself said not long ago, he doesn’t like the word victory. Well if very clear by his actions, Obama doesn’t want a victory. After all any victory wouldn’t sit well with his Socialist Leftwing friends.

  7. shane comeback permalink
    November 15, 2009 12:08 pm

    When The people of the US elected Obama they took a great country and made it rather silly.. It seems to me we are being run by a bunch of know-it-all frat boyz. I don’t pretend to know what the answers are in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I do know I respect the opinions of the men who serve over there above those of anyone else. Let’s do what they want,what they know from being there, needs getting done. If that means more men, or coming home,we should stand by them.

  8. Ken permalink
    November 15, 2009 1:22 pm

    In the eighties we supplied the stinger missiles that drove the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. When the USSR bugged out it left chaos and a political vacuum. Who moved in to fill that vacuum? Do the names Taliban and Al Qaeda ring any bells? After supplying the Mujahideen making it possible for them to drive out the Soviets, we entirely abandoned Afghanistan and left it alone. The Taliban filled the vacuum and allowed Al Qaeda to set up terrorist camps and we were attacked all over the world culminating with the attack on 9/11. Until 9/11 we felt relatively safe, Afghanistan was half a world away, we weren’t bothering anyone there, we’d helped them, so why would they bother us? Didn’t work out that way though did it. But now, now we have thrown a rock into the hornets nest…What do we think will happen now if we just bug out and leave? Any guesses as to who will move in to fill the vacuum? Does it seem at all logical that we’ll be left alone now? Like it or not once the rock has been thrown we WILL be battling hornets. The only question is where we’ll be battling them.

    Ken

    • November 15, 2009 1:57 pm

      [Like it or not once the rock has been thrown we WILL be battling hornets. The only question is where we’ll be battling them.]

      True, but there are other ways to battle them besides bombing them. They have support in Afghanistan because they provide jobs to a lot of people. As with most people, the biggest concern of the Afghan people is earning a living.

      Our main goal after our invasion in 2001 should have been nation building. Actually, our first goal should have been capturing bin-Laden, but after we blew that opportunity, nation building should have the main goal. We should have gotten the people involved in building schools and trained them methods in agriculture. We missed that opportunity twice now. Once under Reagan and once under Bush. Time will tell if Obama takes advantage of the opportunity now.

  9. November 15, 2009 2:53 pm

    Ben said this: We missed that opportunity twice now. Once under Reagan and once under Bush. Time will tell if Obama takes advantage of the opportunity now.

    Hey Ben, when was Reagan in office? You just said Reagan missed the opportunity? Geez Ben Reagan was out of office a long time by 2001. We had 8 years of bush and 8 years of Clinton and Bush senior. I don’t think Reagan was available to change things in Afghanistan in the past 8 years. But then its always easy to blame Reagan even when he wasn’t involved with Afghanistan. I bet you opposed Reagan when he was telling Gorby to tear do this wall? Best get your facts straight Ben before you go spouting out so much BS.

    As for Bin Laden, Slick Willy Clinton had a change to have Bin Laden, but he refused to act. He was too busy getting his BJ from Monica to waste time with Bin Laden.

  10. Ken permalink
    November 17, 2009 7:58 pm

    I’m not interested in assigning blame, there’s enough to go around. The point is to learn from the mistakes of the past and NOT repeat them. We blew it after Charlie Wilson’s war with at least two different administrations. We need to recognize that it would be extraordinarily dangerous to just bug out and leave as some would have us do. That has ALREADY BEEN DONE by the former USSR… What happened? The Taliban and Al Qaeda happened. We set the stage for 9/11 ourselves by abandoning Afghanistan after helping drive the Soviets out. If we just leave is there any reason to believe that this scenario wouldn’t repeat itself? I don’t think so particularly considering the fact that we’ve thrown the rock. At this point, after the rock has been thrown, we must finish that job AND help build a stable government that is beneficial to all of its citizens. It is in our own selfish national interest to do so. Failure to do so will in my opinion only lead to another 9/11 or worse.

    Ken

    • November 17, 2009 8:29 pm

      Excellent analysis, Ken.

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