The Clock Is Ticking, Mr. President
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.
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.