The Generals` War

The Pentagon`s pre-emptive strike
came with the leak of Gen. Stanley McChrystal`s
confidential review of the Afghan war

to Bob Woodward of
The Washington Post.

McChrystal`s painting of the
military picture was grim.

"Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the
near-term (next 12 months)—while Afghan security
capacity matures—risks an outcome where defeating the
insurgency is no longer possible."

If I don`t get the troops to
reverse the Taliban gains, said McChrystal, we face

ending to the Afghan war. Word was quickly
out that McChrystal wanted 40,000 troops, to bring U.S.
force levels to 110,000 and coalition forces to 140,000.

Last week, a three-hour review was
held at the White House. McChrystal participated by
teleconference. His strategy—fight a counterinsurgency
against the Taliban by taking and holding population
centers, protecting the Afghan people and building up
Kabul`s army, economy and government—was challenged.

Among those urging a smaller U.S.
footprint and a strategic shift from fighting the
Taliban to killing al-Qaida in Pakistan with drone and
Special Forces strikes was Joe Biden.

McChrystal answered Biden in

a speech and Q-and-A session in London,
all but
saying Joe ought to stick to the rubber-chicken circuit
and leave war to the warriors. A

"counter-terrorist focus"
like the Biden strategy,
said McChrystal, would lead straight to


Would he support it?

"The short answer
is no,"
said McChrystal.
"Waiting does not
prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain
winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support"
shot at what critics are calling Obama`s dithering in
deciding on McChrystal`s troop request.

Obama, said to be

McChrystal to Copenhagen
for a 25-minute
face-to-face on Air Force One.

Yet McChrystal is now quoted in
Newsweek about any half measures to reverse a deteriorating

"You can`t hope
to contain the fire by letting just half the building

Sunday, National Security Adviser
Gen. James Jones said of the McChrystal-Obama meeting, "I
am sure they exchanged direct views."

Jones went on to suggest
McChrystal`s recommendations were merely the general`s
"own opinion"
of "what he
thinks his role within that strategy is."
factors must go into the final decisions on strategy and
force levels. Among them, said Jones, is the election
debacle in Kabul that made Tehran`s vote look like Iowa.

Jones tossed ice water on
McChrystal`s urgency. Afghanistan is
"in no imminent
danger of falling to the Taliban,"
and al-Qaida has
"less than 100" fighters in the country,
"no bases, no buildings to launch attacks either on us
or our allies."

As for McChrystal`s public
campaign, said Jones,
"It`s better for
military advice to come up through the chain of

Concentrating the minds of all on
Sunday was news that 10 U.S. soldiers were killed, two
by an Afghan solider, eight when their remote outpost
near Pakistan was attacked by hundreds of Taliban.

As Obama approaches the pivotal
decision of his presidency, here is where the major
players seem to be lining up.

McChrystal believes so strongly in
the need for 40,000 troops he could resign his command
if denied them. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm.
Michael Mullen seems to be in the McChrystal camp.

Gen. David Petraeus, regional
commander for Afghanistan and Iraq, has yet to commit
himself. But as architect of the surge in Iraq, he would
seem to support McChrystal. What Petraeus will do, if
the McChrystal request is denied, is the big question in
Washington. For Petraeus reportedly sees himself as a
presidential candidate.

From her own words, Hillary is with
McChrystal: "Some people say, well, al-Qaida`s no longer
in Afghanistan. If Afghanistan were taken over by the
Taliban, I can`t tell you how fast al-Qaida would be
back in Afghanistan."

This challenges what Gen. Jones
said Sunday when he minimized the al-Qaida threat in
Afghanistan and the Taliban threat to Kabul.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will
be a key player. It was he who relieved Gen. David
McKiernan of his command in May, saying we need
"fresh thinking,"
and turned Afghanistan over to McChrystal, whom he
described as a soldier who shared the perspective of
Petraeus. Can Gates come down against the general he
appointed only months ago?

Yet Biden is not alone. Jones is
receptive to his views, as are a majority of Obama`s
party on the Hill, as are White House aides who see
Afghanistan as Obama`s Vietnam, as is most of the

Obama is thus being told by the
McChyrstal camp: If you do not send the 40,000, you lose
the war and the presidency. He is being told by the
Biden camp: If you send the 40,000, Afghanistan will be
your Vietnam; you will not win it by 2012; and you will
lose the presidency.

Look for Obama, not a natural
Decider, to split the difference and send a few thousand
U.S. troops to train the Afghan army.



Patrick J. Buchanan


no introduction
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Paul Craig Roberts.