Patterico's Pontifications


Obama Angry at McChrystal?

Filed under: Obama,War — DRJ @ 3:44 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

President Obama’s 25-minute meeting in Copenhagen with General McChrystal may have been more about Obama dressing down McChrystal than a discussion of military strategy:

“According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.

The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago’s unsuccessful Olympic bid.

In an apparent rebuke to the commander, Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, said: “It is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations, civilians and military alike, provide our best advice to the president, candidly but privately.”

When asked on CNN about the commander’s public lobbying for more troops, Gen Jim Jones, national security adviser, said:

“Ideally, it’s better for military advice to come up through the chain of command.”

McChrystal’s sin? He advocated for more troops and described Vice President Biden’s Afghanistan strategy to use more drones and less troops as “Chaos-istan.” An Obama adviser explained why McChrystal was wrong to say this:

“People aren’t sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn’t seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.”

Candidate Obama wanted generals to speak freely before the election and he promised to listen to them if he was elected:

“Obama said that while President Bush has said that he follows the advice of his generals regarding Iraq, when they give the president advice he doesn’t like — cautioning against the War in Iraq, for example — Bush doesn’t listen to them.

“There were generals at the beginning of the conflict that said this is going to require many more troops, will cost us much more … those generals were pushed aside,” Obama said.”

I support President Obama’s right to make this decision and I hope he keeps his campaign promise to try to win the war in Afghanistan. I also understand a concern that military strategy decisions should be made in the Pentagon and the White House, and not in the court of public opinion.

But McChrystal’s report and request for troops was dated August 30 and troops are dying in record numbers in Afghanistan. This is as much about Obama’s procrastination in making a decision as it is about McChrystal, and my hope is Obama will make a decision soon.


31 Responses to “Obama Angry at McChrystal?”

  1. I thought it was patriotic for Generals to call out Bush Obama?

    HeavenSent (01a566)

  2. Strike out not working on Bush.

    HeavenSent (01a566)

  3. Chairman Maobama has a wittle hissy fit because one of his Generals actually does his job. Maobama won’t be able to vote “present” on this one, so he’s delaying and delaying and delaying….

    J. Raymond Wright (e8d0ca)

  4. I fixed it, HeavenSent. Even though the code is labeled a Strike code, it won’t work unless you print out the word “strike” in lieu of “s” or “/s.”

    DRJ (b008f8)

  5. and i’m sure the decorated Ranger was shaking in his boots when Ear Leader was “dressing him down”…. not.

    hey Juggy! here’s a suggestion: Why don’t you spend a bit more time getting the First Klingon to dress appropriately for her public appearances, and a little less time trying to tell people how to do their j*bs when you don’t have the vaguest idea yourself what those j*bs are?

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  6. They’re just laying the groundwork for McChrystal’s eventual dismissal. They have to slime McChrystal first, they just can’t fire him out of the blue.

    John Henry Eden (80fca9)

  7. So Obama talks with his General once between May and late September. So Gen. McChrystal prepares his military plan to implement the strategic plan Obama gave him back in May and he hears nothing from the boss for over 1 month. Whats a fighting general to do?
    He takes action to get some action and it sure looks like it worked. Obama was embarrassed into action and now I think Gen McChrystal has President Obama’s full attention.
    Incidentally Gen. McChrystal wasn’t the only one to embarrass the Prez last week. He had competition from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the entire IOC meeting in Copenhagen. I wonder who Obama is most upset with?

    richardb (15329b)

  8. I am very worried about this as anybody who has looked at my blog knows. You might be interested in this from

    First, previous assumptions on time frames on Iran are no longer valid, and worst-case assumptions must now be assumed. The Iranians are in fact moving rapidly toward a weapon; have been extremely effective at deceiving U.S. intelligence (read, they deceived the Bush administration, but the Obama administration has figured it out); and therefore, we are moving toward a decisive moment with Iran. Second, this situation is the direct responsibility of Russian nuclear expertise. Whether this expertise came from former employees of the Russian nuclear establishment now looking for work, Russian officials assigned to Iran or unemployed scientists sent to Iran by the Russians is immaterial. The Israelis — and the Obama administration — must hold the Russians responsible for the current state of Iran’s weapons program, and by extension, Moscow bears responsibility for any actions that Israel or the United States might take to solve the problem.

    We would suspect that the leaks were coordinated. From the Israeli point of view, having said publicly that they are prepared to follow the American lead and allow this phase of diplomacy to play out, there clearly had to be more going on than just last week’s Geneva talks. From the American point of view, while the Russians have indicated that participating in sanctions on gasoline imports by Iran is not out of the question, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev did not clearly state that Russia would cooperate, nor has anything been heard from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the subject. The Russian leadership appears to be playing “good cop, bad cop” on the matter, and the credibility of anything they say on Iran has little weight in Washington.

    It would seem to us that the United States and Israel decided to up the ante fairly dramatically in the wake of the Oct. 1 meeting with Iran in Geneva. As IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei visits Iran, massive new urgency has now been added to the issue. But we must remember that Iran knows whether it has had help from Russian scientists; that is something that can’t be bluffed. Given that this specific charge has been made — and as of Monday not challenged by Iran or Russia — indicates to us more is going on than an attempt to bluff the Iranians into concessions. Unless the two leaks together are completely bogus, and we doubt that, the United States and Israel are leaking information already well known to the Iranians. They are telling Tehran that its deception campaign has been penetrated, and by extension are telling it that it faces military action — particularly if massive sanctions are impractical because of more Russian obstruction.

    If Netanyahu went to Moscow to deliver this intelligence to the Russians, the only surprise would have been the degree to which the Israelis had penetrated the program, not that the Russians were there. The Russian intelligence services are superbly competent, and keep track of stray nuclear scientists carefully. They would not be surprised by the charge, only by Israel’s knowledge of it.

    This, of course leaves open an enormous question. Certainly, the Russians appear to have worked with the Iranians on some security issues and have played with the idea of providing the Iranians more substantial military equipment. But deliberately aiding Iran in building a nuclear device seems beyond Russia’s interests in two ways. First, while Russia wants to goad the United States, it does not itself really want a nuclear Iran. Second, in goading the United States, the Russians know not to go too far; helping Iran build a nuclear weapon would clearly cross a redline, triggering reactions.

    A number of possible explanations present themselves. The leak to The Times might be wrong. But The Times is not a careless newspaper: It accepts leaks only from certified sources. The Russian scientists might be private citizens accepting Iranian employment. But while this is possible, Moscow is very careful about what Russian nuclear engineers do with their time. Or the Russians might be providing enough help to goad the United States but not enough to ever complete the job. Whatever the explanation, the leaks paint the Russians as more reckless than they have appeared, assuming the leaks are true.

    And whatever their veracity, the leaks — the content of which clearly was discussed in detail among the P-5+1 prior to and during the Geneva meetings, regardless of how long they have been known by Western intelligence — were made for two reasons. The first was to tell the Iranians that the nuclear situation is now about to get out of hand, and that attempting to manage the negotiations through endless delays will fail because the United Nations is aware of just how far Tehran has come with its weapons program. The second was to tell Moscow that the issue is no longer whether the Russians will cooperate on sanctions, but the consequence to Russia’s relations with the United States and at least the United Kingdom, France and, most important, possibly Germany. If these leaks are true, they are game changers.

    We have focused on the Iranian situation not because it is significant in itself, but because it touches on a great number of other crucial international issues. It is now entangled in the Iraqi, Afghan, Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese issues, all of them high-stakes matters. It is entangled in Russian relations with Europe and the United States. It is entangled in U.S.-European relationships and with relationships within Europe. It touches on the U.S.-Chinese relationship. It even touches on U.S. relations with Venezuela and some other Latin American countries. It is becoming the Gordian knot of international relations.

    STRATFOR first focused on the Russian connection with Iran in the wake of the Iranian elections and resulting unrest, when a crowd of Rafsanjani supporters began chanting “Death to Russia,” not one of the top-10 chants in Iran. That caused us to focus on the cooperation between Russia and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on security matters. We were aware of some degree of technical cooperation on military hardware, and of course on Russian involvement in Iran’s civilian nuclear program. We were also of the view that the Iranians were unlikely to progress quickly with their nuclear program. We were not aware that Russian scientists were directly involved in Iran’s military nuclear project, which is not surprising, given that such involvement would be Iran’s single-most important state secret — and Russia’s, too.

    This is heading toward war with Iran unless the Iranians back away. Both Iran and Russia believe Obama is weak.

    Two conclusions can be drawn. First, the Israelis no longer need to add to their knowledge of Russian involvement; they know what they need to know. And second, the Israelis do not expect Iranian development to continue much longer; otherwise, maintaining the intelligence capability would take precedence over anything else.

    It follows from this that the use of this intelligence in diplomatic confrontations with Russians and in a British newspaper serves a greater purpose than the integrity of the source system. And that means that the Israelis expect a resolution in the very near future — the only reason they would have blown their penetration of the Russian-Iranian system.

    This is coming to a head very soon and Obama is facing a situation where his general in Afghanistan may resign. Stalin purged the Red Army commanders in 1937 and paid a terrible price. Are we seeing something like this on the eve of war ?

    Sorry to hijack the thread but I think this is of overwhelming importance.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  9. Here’s the Times article Mike K alludes to. I agree it is sobering information.

    DRJ (b008f8)

  10. To my mind he [McChrystal] doesn’t seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.”

    So what is this Obama adviser suggesting – that to be ready for primetime Washington, one has to obfuscate, dress-up, suck-up, brown-nose and/or whitewash the truth? That if one is blunt, plain spoken, lacks embellishment, eloquence, or necessary flattery to the President, that he is not ready to play with the big boys?

    This beautifully illustrates one of the major problems in Washington – the layers and layers of games, quid pro quos, linguistic dancing is precisely what the public is sick and tired of. And when it concerns something as urgent and enormous as the war with Afghanistan – let alone the thousands of young American soldiers hanging in the balance – this politics as usual appears even more reprehensible than usual.

    Gen. McChrystal upset the apple cart because he doesn’t care what the pols think, he is not influenced by their rhetoric and poll numbers. He cares about the mission and the lives lost and saved. If plain talking and truth embarrass our president, then perhaps our President needs to man up a bit. I’m sure Gen. McChrystal can give him a few tips.

    Dana (863a65)

  11. When all of the truth is out, I expect we will find that one reason Saddam held his ground was the reassurance from Russia that the US would never take military action alone and was never going to get a UN approved military action. So the idea that Russia is behind Iran is not surprising. My question is to what degree will Russia will act to protect it’s interests in Iran.

    As has been said many a time before. Obama’s main principle is to consolidate power, whether that means to make or break promises doesn’t seem to matter. Perhaps they want to try to “dress down” McChrystal, but we have already heard that his response might well be, “You can’t fire me, because I quit!!”

    MD in Philly (d4f9fa)

  12. Eh, war with Afghanistan should be war in Afghanistan

    Dana (863a65)

  13. McChrystal committed the most heinous of offenses:
    He made Teh One look less than devine!

    It is only a matter of time before he submits his resignation in a letter on the pages of The Washington Post.

    AD - RtR/OS! (03146a)

  14. My question is to what degree will Russia will act to protect it’s interests in Iran.

    Most wars result from misapprehensions. Hitler said if he’d known how many tanks Stalin had (The T 34, the best tank in the world), he wouldn’t have invaded. He assumed the British and French would fold and let him have Poland.

    The Japanese did not believe we would fight. Midway and Guadalcanal won that war and both were very, very close things.

    I think Russia and Iran believe Obama will fold. Israel faces an existential threat. The uncertain factor is whether they will go after the Iranian sites before the Russian SAMs are set up. Michael Rubin today, on Hugh Hewit, said they don’t have to get the whole site, just seal the tunnels and entomb the technicians.

    Then, what does Iran do ? They might attack Iraq and dare us to fight. They probably can’t reach Israel yet.

    For sure, this will spike oil prices. Maybe the Israelis will wait but it is going to be very close, either way. And Obama hasn’t a clue.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  15. Iran’s most likely escalation, in response to serious sanctions, will be to threaten the straits of Hormuz. They don’t need IRBM’s to do so, nor nuclear weapons. The purpose of the nuclear weapons is to deter any substantive response to their escalation.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  16. I have to say I am torn on this one. If we are to maintain our tradition of civilian leadership then General McChrystal would be better to work within the chain of command. Of course, when it is clear you are being ignored you don’t have many choices. If the person you are having problems with is not THE boss you go above their head. In this case that is not really an option. Obama needs to take action. Voting present does not get us closer to a solution one way or the other.

    FOP Vermillion (939d28)

  17. #16 FOP Vermillion:

    I have to say I am torn on this one.

    I am not. The role of civilian leadership is to determine policy, not prosecution. That’s the general’s job.

    I must admit, this just cracks me up:

    To my mind he doesn’t seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.

    We’re discussing a general in the middle of a WAR, and he don’t understand hardball?

    Sorry, it’s little wonder the public trusts our generals more than our politicians.

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  18. I have a funny feeling that our carrier groups that are operating near the Gulf may have something to say about any actions that the Iranians may take – and that recent AWAC crash doesn’t exactly put the fear into anyone’s boots regarding their air force. After watching that doc on the carrier group during the Iraq war, they’re also developing responses to the small speed boats that the Iranians like to use to try to take out large military vessels.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  19. Stand by for more press reports quoting WH staffers referring to McChystal as “Stan” repeatedly.

    I’m sure Stan and his staff somehow won’t be quoted as referring to “Barry.”

    Mitch (69e416)

  20. During the Vietnam buildup, there was a discussion among the Joint Chiefs as to whether they should resign in protest. Earl Wheeler, Army CoS, decided they shouldn’t and they all backed down. I’ll bet they went to their graves wishing they had. McChrystal knows that. The story.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  21. Threatening to block the Straits of Hormuz would really P-O the Arabs who need the Straits open to get their oil to market.
    This would engender the same “community action” that Saddam ginned-up with his foray into Kuwait.
    The Iranians really should take advantage of that on-line offer to buy “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

    AD - RtR/OS! (03146a)

  22. “Not ready for Washington hardball…”

    What the ever-loving, Jesus-F**king Christ does that mean? That if someone missteps then “unnamed” advisors will go all medieval on them and make a bunch of snarky back=stabbing comments (unattributed, of course) to their lapdogs in the press? Gee, that’s valid – because the spin to CYA is so so much more important than who’s gonna die today in the ‘stan.

    Obama’s administration really consistently comes across as a bunch of C*NTS. And that’s just the male members of the administration. May Obama be praised, and may his administration shout their thoughts and philosophy from the rooftops!

    Californio (55068d)

  23. “If the person you are having problems with is not THE boss you go above their head. In this case that is not really an option….” by FOP Vermillion

    Agreed that the military is not to dictate policy to the President, but in one way the President isn’t ultimately “The boss”, but the American people are. Never been in the military myself, but my understanding is that it is a soldier’s responsibility to disobey a wrongful order. Military men who put their own career second to their men and mission are the real heroes, not those who talk cheap to make political points when it is convenient.

    “Most wars result from misapprehensions…
    I think Russia and Iran believe Obama will fold. Israel faces an existential threat. The uncertain factor is whether they will go after the Iranian sites before the Russian SAMs are set up. Michael Rubin today, on Hugh Hewit, said they don’t have to get the whole site, just seal the tunnels and entomb the technicians.

    Then, what does Iran do?…And Obama hasn’t a clue.”
    Comment by Mike K

    That’s why I think Hussein maintained his stand, never thought he would have to fight the US.

    Once crisis hits Iran, etc., and the West is unsure of what to do, I would not want to be in Georgia and the Ukraine.

    MD in Philly (d4f9fa)

  24. It’s sad when people in the White House (of either Party) think politics is more important than protecting the troops and winning a war.

    DRJ (b008f8)

  25. The Obama insiders, when they aren’t claiming this was outright insubordination (it wasn’t), are claiming McChrystal is too naive for Washington.

    First: so what?

    Second: McChrystal has made it clear that Obama is the one that is screwing up Afghanistan. He’s completely out manuevered Obama on this issue. Obama being in copenhagen enriching Rezko and Daley while a war is on is only underlined by this dressing down. Sure, McChrystal might lose his job, and sure, he won’t be promoted and his name is being trashed, but that doesn’t matter to him. He wants to win in Afghanistan and to protect our troops. He’s completely outthought the White House in getting this case to the people and pressuring Obama to do the right thing. He’s made Joe Biden’s plan look completely ridiculous.

    And all in a very subtle and perhaps even inadvertent way. Because it’s really Obama’s admin that is too naive for Washington, and they are simply projecting their insecurity onto the General. They thought they could pass responsibility for a war, and also pass on doing their job, and they got played like a fiddle.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  26. Well, who would YOU prefer to be the C in C?

    The man who puts his career on the line to insure that lives are not wasted because of “political maneuvering” in DC or the man who jets off to Europe rather than even MEET with the responsible field command?

    The actions of Stan the Man make the One look like a petulant child. The reactions of the “unnamed sources” in DC make them look like a*holes.

    No lives lost, NONE because of politicians dicking around.

    The American people will not stand for a “measured response” like Johnson did in Vietnam. Not gonna happen, and the One better figure it out soon…


    tomw (65ad20)

  27. #19 Mitch:

    I’m sure Stan and his staff somehow won’t be quoted as referring to “Barry.”

    I think if I were “Stan,” I might play a little “hardball” and do exactly that.

    Not a course of action that I would approve of in an ordinary soldier of the line, mind you, but it may be what’s necessary at this point to drive it home that “Barry” is an incompetent piece of.

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  28. McChrystal now has his fourth star, it looks to me. His choice is to support the troops, one way or the other. If they go to General Biden’s plan, McChrystal retires. It would be obvious what happened and that will makes his point if he doesn’t say a word. If he gets his extra troops and they do the COIN option, he stays. If they decide to withdraw in a way that keeps casualties down, he can decide what to do. His resignation is the pressure not to leave them hanging like LBJ did in Vietnam.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  29. These former senators are not used to executive responsibility.

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  30. DRJ, #24, that’s what we’ve gotten from Democrats for eight years. And obviously they have no intention of changing.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  31. Instead of adding troops, maybe Rahn Emmanuel can send the Taliban and Al Queda a dead fish–you know, scare them to death.

    Rochf (ae9c58)

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