[UPDATE By choosing David Petraeus to replace Stan McChrystal, the president hasn’t improved the chance that he will get Afghanistan policy right. Petraeus, of course, is the Hero of the Iraq Surge, and he literally wrote the handbook on counterinsurgency (COIN). ]
Members of the counterinsurgency (COIN) cult, various neoconservatives and editorial writers for the Washington Post ought to stop hyperventilating about how they’d be shocked, shocked if President Obama fires General McChrystal today. After all, they cheered lustily when Obama fired General McKiernan a year ago. With solemn hypocrisy, those same COIN cheerleaders now argue that it would be horrible to fire the commander of the war before the job’s done. Well, why wasn’t it horrible the last time?
A story line that developing in the media—fed, no doubt by the same COIN cultists – is that the devastating Rolling Stone profile was about personalities and insults, not politics and policy differences. I beg to differ. The underlying theme of the Rolling Stone piece, if you haven’t read it in its entirety, makes clear that McChrystal and Co. are deeply unhappy with the civvies back home, and not because they don’t enjoy dancing in a drunken circle in a Paris bistro late at night singing, “Afghanistan! Afghanistan!” like McChrystal’s gang of frat boys, jocks and other assorted types. The reason McChrystal and Co. are so angry and resentful is that President Obama has set a deadline of July, 2011, for the start of a withdrawal from Afghanistan. That’s it. Nothing else.
McChrystal wants a president who’s gung ho committed to the fight, like, well President W. was committed to the one in Iraq. In Obama, they ain’t got one.
Consider, for instance, the “statement” from the Heritage Foundation issued Tuesday:
The artificial Afghanistan withdrawal deadline has obviously caused some of our military leaders to question our strategy in Afghanistan.
That deadline, which President Barack Obama announced to the American people, the military, our allies and our enemies on December 1, 2009, has provoked many—including the government in Kabul, the Afghan people, the military in Pakistan, and our enemies the terrorists—to question America’s resolve to win the War in Afghanistan.
More disconcerting for the American people is that the timeline appears to be putting tremendous unnecessary pressure on our armed forces to accomplish their task: victory on the ground.