The McCrystal Footnote

Monday, June 28, 2010 10:45 PM

Patrick Buchanan commented in Taki's Magazine last Friday (June 25th) about the cashiering of General Stanley McChrystal. Buchanan focused upon the dissimilarities between Obama's firing of McChrystal and President Harry Truman's firing of General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War in 1951. MacArthur was a five-star legend, and his problem with Truman was over strategy. McChrystal is a special forces General, a technician who was dispatched to Kabul to implement a counter-insurgency strategy which President Obama himself had ordered. They were on the same page. MacArthur and Truman were not.

McCrystal has been sacked in retaliation for a few, off-the-cuff remarks in an overly-long article in Rolling Stone Magazine. (Who the hell reads Rolling Stone?) McCrystal and his gung-ho staff disparaged certain members of Team Obama, including Obama himself. Ironically, McCrystal's motivation in allowing access for the reporter to do the article was probably to help sell the war and boost himself. The candid remarks about V-POTUS Joe Biden, Af-Pak Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, national security advisor General James Jones, and the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of Karzai, Karl Eikenberry, could have been overlooked in the interest of the presumed greater good of winning the Afghan war. Every top official in NATO and President Karzai were against booting McCrystal. But evidently Obama was afraid of looking like a sock puppet if he just took the Special Forces General to the woodshed, and then sent him back on the field.

Stanley McCrystal is a spooky, special operations guy, a cog in the killing machine known--during the co-presidency of Dick Cheney and G.W. Bush--as GWOT, the global war on terror. You could call McCrystal an attack dog, based upon the profile of him in Rolling Stone, and he might take it as a compliment. He was transferred from Iraq to Afghanistan to replace the more traditional four-star General, David McKiernan, whom Gates had abruptly dismissed in May 2009. The Taliban were in the ascendency and Gates needed to find a fix.  

McKiernan was in charge of the ground forces in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. At that time he was the superior officer of both future war heros, David Petraeus and Stan McCrystal. McKiernan did nothing wrong in Afghanistan with the resources allocated to him by Washington, but he made the mistake of observing that Afghanistan was far more complex than anything he had encountered in Iraq and that it might take fourteen years to pacify the country. Obama wanted to be successfully out of there before reelection time 2012. Who can blame him? 

So this makes the second combat General in a row, charged with the US/NATO mission in Afghanistan, to be relieved of command by Gates and Obama. This suggests to me that the miscalculations of Cheney/Rumsfeld and G.W. Bush have come back to haunt us, and that Robert Gates and Team Obama have only made matters worse. They have spread the fire to neighboring Pakistan and helped further traumatize the entire region. Concurrently, they are embarked on a nonstop campaign to destabilize Iran, using the dubious premise that Iran is working on an atomic bomb to blast Israel off the map. Shades of Saddam's WMD.   

Take a look at the big picture. It is easy to get lost in the weeds. Obama, Biden, Gates, McChrystal, Petraeus, and the Washington Neoconartists and their "Liberal" Democrat fellow travelers--Hillary Clinton being the most prominent--are all trapped inside the same box of interventionism and empire. They can't see beyond it; their careers depend upon accepting the circumstances at hand. Most Americans are unable to pick Afghanistan out on a map of the world. Why should they? Full disclosure: I do not regard Afghanistan as worth the life of a single U.S. Marine. It is on a par with Washington's ruinously expensive misadventure in Iraq.  

At this stage, everyone should take a deep breath and read John Mearsheimer's essay entitled "Hollow Victory" posted in November of last year on the Foreign Policy website, FP. The essay is refreshingly honest, although grim and a little scary. A sample: "The real tragedy of Vietnam is not that the United States lost, but that it became involved in the first place." Professor Mearsheimer graduated from West Point in 1970 and served in the U.S Air Force five years, before heading to Academia. Further on: "In Afghanistan, as in Vietnam, it simply does not matter whether the United States wins or loses. It makes no sense for the Obama administration to expend more blood and treasure to vanquish the Taliban. The United States should accept defeat and immediately begin to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan.... As was the case in Vietnam, more American soldiers and many more civilians are going to die in Afghanistan. And for no good reason."

Bear in mind that "the mission" in Afghanistan is not a declared war. This is yet another Presidential war, with a blank-check authorization by a feckless Congress in the aftermath of 9/11. Every official folly in the world has been justified by reference to 9/11. Why did the U.S. and NATO become engaged on the ground in Afghanistan in the first place? The answer is, the terrorist assaults on New York and Washington on September 11th, 2001. This is the card Obama played in his important speech on December 1st, 2009 at West Point in spelling out his new strategy: "Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and those who harbored them--an authorization what continues to this day.... The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan an Pakistan." One might ask, to where exactly? How does this crusade end? 

Which brings me back to Patrick Buchanan. If you don't venture out on Friday nights, you can usual see him on the McLaughlin Group on PBS. There was an interesting exchange on the night of June 18th between him and fellow conservative, Monica Crowley, about why the entrance to the Supreme Court has been permanently closed. John McLaughlin sets it up:

MR. McLAUGHLIN: (Narration.) For 75 years since the court was built, judges and the public have entered the court's great hall by walking up the marble steps, through its corinthian columns, under the pediment-inscribed "equal justice under law." But no more can Chief Justice John Roberts or anyone enter through the massive sculptured bronze doors, each weighing over 12,000 pounds. The reason? National security, a terrorist attack.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, they're turning this city of mine that I grew up in into a big fortress. Why? Because of the threat of terrorism. Why are we threatened by terrorism? Because we are not a republic, we have become an empire, we are all over the world, fighting with people, shooting people, and they're coming over here to kill us. Until you get rid of the empire, we're not going to be a republic again and have the country we had.

MS. CROWLEY: That's not why we're a target of terrorism. We're a target of terrorism because we're a democracy. It's the ideals for which we stand. And we have radical fundamental Islamic terrorists who have targeted us since 9/11, before we were in Iraq, before we were in Afghanistan...

I like Monica's looks, but her thinking on foreign policy is often irrational. It puts her into the Dick Cheney/Neocon camp of irreversible myopia. Do people actually think that 9/11 came from out of the blue, or happened because Arab terrorists hate American democracy?  

While it is true that we were not in Iraq or Afghanistan prior to 9/11, we were in Saudi Arabia and Palestine, where reside the three holiest sites of Islam: Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. Everything bad that Tel Aviv has done in the name of Zionism since 1948, and especially since 1967, is viewed by the Arab world to have been achieved thanks to Washington's complicity. With minor speed bumps, that policy continues under Obama, Hillary and Joe Biden. As for Saudi Arabia, we were there pre 9/11 because George Bush Sr. twisted the arm of King Fahd in 1990 to allow the stationing of American troops inside the Kingdom to counter the hyped threat from Saddam Hussein. King Fahd was very reluctant to do that. He understood the implications. Non-Muslim outsiders, especially soldiers, could be regarded as infidels. 

After defeating Saddam and wrecking Iraq in "Operation Desert Storm", American troops stayed put in Saudi Arabia. Fahd had opened the door but could not close it. In the aftermath of "Desert Storm", Iraq was placed under a murderous economic blockade, similar to what is being done today to Gaza. Subsequently, Bill Clinton presided over an interminable "peace process" charade with Yasser Arafat and Tel Aviv, which charade enabled Tel Aviv to expropriate more land from the powerless Palestinians on the West Bank and in Jerusalem, who were living under military occupation, and to move in more "settlers", financed directly and indirectly by the U.S. Treasury. These were the proximate causes of 9/11. It is called blowback, the unintended (yet predictable) consequences of unwise U.S. foreign policy. It has nothing to do with democracy in any way, shape or form. Hatred of "our democracy" is a cover story for the clueless.

It may have dawned on somebody in Washington by now that the U.S. economic crisis--which has been exported to Europe and the rest of the world--is largely the result of U.S. foreign policy decisions of long-standing, specifically Washington's Israel-centric policy in the Middle East, which policy brought about the Arab terrorist blowback of 9/11, which atrocity caused the Federal Reserve to promote artificially low interest rates for years, resulting in the financial meltdown at the tail-end of the Cheney/Bush co-Presidency. More self-evident, 9/11 precipitated the immediate Neocon hijacking of America, which hijacking begat GWOT, the global war on terror, and led us into these self-destructive quagmires in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The blowback continues. What the Mujaheddin did to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980's is being repeated today, roughly speaking, to the lone surviving Superpower. Thanks to the gratuitous sideshow known as "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (aka the three trillion dollar war) and thanks to the rag-tag Taliban's comeback in Afghanistan, and to all the ramifications flowing from the larger "war on terror", Washington is on the verge of going bust. Do we need this? It should have been avoided at all cost. The firing of Stan McCrystal is little more than a footnote to this national tragedy. 

--Copyright 2010 Patrick Foy--