Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

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24 June 2010

General McChrystal and the War in Afghanistan

I have just finished reading the Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings called The Runaway General on Gen. Stanley McChrystal, prior to yesterday, the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.  My sense is that Gen. McChrystal was the right man for his previous job as head of U.S. special forces operations, but was not diplomatic enough for the Afghanistan command role.  He is bright, but he too much likes kicking butt and proving he is top dog to manage the necessary cooperation of actors in Afghanistan, NATO, the Pentagon, the State Dept., the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate.  The number of interests he had to address was something like the number that Eisenhower had to address as Supreme Commander in Europe, except that Eisenhower had Gen. George Marshall to provide the interface with the Pentagon, the State Dept., the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate.  Sure, Eisenhower did have more troops to manage, but a top general should be good at that. The political management of the war in Afghanistan is a very confused and ill-manged mess.

Gen. McChrystal is more an analog to Gen. George Patton than to Gen. Eisenhower.  Gen. Patton was a great general and played a critical role in Europe in WWII, but he would have been the wrong man for Eisenhower's job.  Eisenhower had to find ways to get the most he could from Patton and from many another prickly general, many of whom were British or French.  The Rolling Stone article suggests that McChrystal simply could not get the most out of the many actors in Afghanistan, such as the U.S. Embassador Carl Eikenberry, the Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones, and VP Joe Biden.  Apparently, he did enjoy the support of Sec. of State Hilary Clinton.  Now, I have no doubt that he was bombarded with many a mickey mouse request, which must have been irksome for a fighting general.

This Obama administration is particularly ill-managed.  Pie-in-the-sky socialists simply wish things to be as they want them.  They wish that everyone had health insurance, so it must be made to be so, somehow, they do not care or know how.  They wish the poor had more money and better homes, so it must be made so, somehow, they do not know how or care how.  Socialism is divorced from reality.

Socialists pass two thousand page bills that legislators have not read and do not understand.  The bulk of the bill is a paper weight which is a pretense at addressing an issue the socialists want to change.  The bulk is to hide the basic fact that they have no clue on how to actually bring about any given stated desire to improve conditions for some broad interest group or other, except if the interest group is a narrow one.  The socialists disdain for management is also evident in the generally poor management of the many executive branch departments under Democratic administrations.  The terrible management under FDR and Truman, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and now Obama are symptoms of a lack of socialist concern for good management.

One indicator of this has been the reports I have from old friends I worked with in the 1980s in the Navy Department over the years.  The downward drift of the Navy Dept. management has generally been steady, but it accelerates under the more socialist administrations.  Under Obama, the mickey mouse regulations and requirements, that keep people who want to do their jobs well from doing so, has skyrocketed.  The choices for management positions are particularly poor.  The computer systems and the incredible cost of the contracts paid for the outside management of these inadequate and inefficient systems that government employees must use boggle the mind.  Showing his unsuitableness for the position he held in Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal told the Rolling Stone reporter he had voted for Obama.  That was a sure indicator of a lack of judgment!  How he voted was also something he should not have talked about.

Such an otherworldly mentality as that of the socialists is not well-understood by most military men.  They must have some contact with reality and have a real ability to manage men and warfare, or the results are soon apparent in American deaths and a bogged down war.  Many of America's military men come from the same stock of Americans that Tea Party Americans come from.  They commonly do believe that the U.S. is exceptional and they believe that they are fighting to preserve our freedoms and our Constitution.  Military officers may, in most cases, not have a very sophisticated viewpoint on American history and of political theory, but their knowledge of both is usually greater than that of most Americans.  At least they have studied something about America's wars in many cases.  They are also people who have lived in several different states and have often been abroad and learned that most of the world suffers without the kinds of freedom we have in America.  As mentioned above, they are forced more than politicians and bureaucrats generally are to deal honestly and rationally with reality.

A theater commander for a major war effort is a man who must have very special insight and wisdom, as well as intelligence.  Apparently, Gen. McChrystal has the intelligence, but he was lacking in wisdom at the level required for the job he had.

Afghanistan is a country primitive beyond the comprehension of most Americans.  The social organization of Afghanistan is essentially pre-Medieval.  It is of the Dark Ages.  It is a land of clans, tribes, and warlords.  It is saddled with a primitive religion and particularly primitive versions of that primitive religion.  It would take decades to transform the country to anything resembling a modern country, and that supposes that the people there were interested in such a transformation.  They generally are not.  They are simply suspicious of anyone who is not of their own clan, even within their own tribe.  Then each tribe is very suspicious of every other tribe.  Force and treachery has always ruled their lives.  They have no concept of free market cooperation.  They have no concept of the rights of the individual.  These are Enlightenment ideas which it took Europe at least 800 years to develop from the time when Europe was something like Afghanistan.  Of course, with more readily available technology, communications, and travel, Afghans could make that transformation much more quickly, but it still must take a couple of generations or more.

It is not in America's interest for us to maintain a counterinsurgency or any other operation in Afghanistan for two or more generations.  Our purpose in going there was to oust Al-Qaeda and their hosts, the Taliban.  A plausible response to that need may well have been the lower level effort in Afghanistan of the Bush administration.  Though I suspect that effort had too much nation-building in it.  Strangely, the Obama administration has adopted the policy advocated by Gen. McChrystal for an even greater effort in nation-building.  Afghanistan is so much more primitive than Iraq, that I do not believe this effort is in our national interest and I do not believe there will be any chance of getting out of it in reasonable time with positive results.  Most likely our policy should be little more than to go in locally and disrupt any Al-Qaeda or other terrorist bases of operation.  The McChrystal - Obama policy is not in our national interest and it will not work, so a change of commanders may facilitate a change of policy.

While I have read and thought about war and its history since I became fascinated with history in the fourth grade, I have not carefully studied the Afghan war.  My Dad was a career naval aviator and studied and taught at the Naval War College and I enjoyed many discussions with him when growing up.  I was drafted and served in the Army in Vietnam.  I have read about the wars of the Greeks, the Persians, the Hittites, the Egyptians, the Romans, the Franks and Visigoths, the Scythians, the Israelis, the Carthaginians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Bohemians, the Dutch wars, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Mongols, the Vikings, the Celts, the Angles and the Jutes, the Swedes, the Russ and the Russians, the wars of independence from Spain in Latin America, the Hundred Year's War, the Thirty Year's War, the Burgundian wars, the Polish wars, the Cossacks, the Napoleonic wars, the Prussian wars, native American wars, and all of the American wars.  I have plenty of context for war generally, but still I have not the detailed knowledge of present-day Afghanistan to be formulating the best strategy for the U.S. to follow there.  But, I am quite sure the McChrystal - Obama strategy is not in America's best interest and that we should be formulating a strategy with a much more modest goal.

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