More Right-Wing Distortion on Afghanistan

One of the right-wing's two biggest anti-Obama arguments on Afghanistan, alongside claiming that exit strategies embolden the enemy, is that he didn't listen to Stanley McChrystal and that he didn't give the Pentagon what it wanted. Marco Rubio - who, as a Senate candidate and member of the Florida state house, is clearly well-versed in both diplomatic affairs and military strategy - said, "While I support the President's call for additional troops, I am concerned it falls short of General McChrystal's specific request." And Red State's Dan Spencer complained that the President "will give Gen. McChrystal only three-quarters of the 40,000 additional troops the general told Obama he needed to achieve victory."

Rubio, Spencer, and many of their comrades on the right are putting words in McChrystal's mouth. Charles posted last night McChrystal's statement on the Afghanistan review, all of it glowing. Secretary of Defense (and Republican) Robert Gates is no doubt equally happy, having asked for 30,000 troops - not 40,000 - in October. McChrystal:

"The Afghanistan-Pakistan review led by the President has provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task. The clarity, commitment and resolve outlined in the President's address are critical steps toward bringing security to Afghanistan and eliminating terrorist safe havens that threaten regional and global security.

And  Politico's Mike Allen on Gates:

It didn't leak, but 30,000 was the final number that Secretary Gates took to President Obama, in mid-October -- a reminder that the Pentagon chief is the most influential member of the Cabinet, bar none. His argument with the president in this regard was dispositive. This gives POTUS an airtight alibi against claims that 30,000 is a triangulated, political number, not based on any specific brigade configuration...  Plus if you'd gone the whole 40,000, you have no leverage over NATO to send more forces. If we said, 'We'll do 40,' then there's not a great incentive for anybody else to do anything.

Say what you will about the actual policy in Afghanistan, but nothing is worth lying over. I would kindly ask the right-wing to stop saying McChrystal is unhappy when he himself tells us he is delighted, and when another top Afghanistan official, the Secretary of Defense, is equally pleased. But I won't hold my breath. This is the same crowd that finds a way to make everything about partisanship and taking down Obama, even when they get what they what. I bet if Obama HAD given McChrystal 40,000 or even 80,000 new troops, the Repubs would have made Ambassador Eikenberry their Af-Pak standard-bearer.

Update [2009-12-2 19:13 EST by Nathan Empsall]: The other big leader in Afghanistan, CENTCOM Commander and hero to the right-wing General David Petraeus, also sounds content, no matter what Repubs like Jon Kyl might say about his wishes. He was on MSNBC's Morning Joe today, as well as CNN's American Morning and Fox News's Fox & Friends:

The top U.S. general in the Mideast region said the president's case for the strategic value of Afghanistan would help hold together the mission there, going forward.

"I think there was a very powerful case made last night for the importance of the mission in Afghanistan," he said. "Our overriding objective, of course, has to do with Al Qaeda."

Asked to respond to the criticism, from officials including former Vice President Dick Cheney, that the Obama administration had been "dithering" over its strategy for the war in Afghanistan, Petraeus praised the White House's deliberative approach.

"This process was actually quite good," Petraeus said. "it was a very substantive discussion. Everybody's assumptions and views were tested. I think out of this have come sharpened objectives, a very good understanding of the challenges and the difficulties and what must be done."

Tags: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, red state, robert gates, Stanley McChrystal (all tags)



Re: Military leaders on Afghanistan

I don't think one can assume "contentment" from the fact that military commanders like McChrystal and Petraeus back the final policy choice; after all, they kind of have to - this is their boss (also known as Commander in Chief) and they take orders. It's kind of their job to tow the party line, however they may feel personally. It would seem odd for them to say they didn't like them, or questioned the policy in public. And just as pointedly, whether they were willing to accept a compromise position that resulted from a healthy debate or not... the test of the Obama plan will be in its execution, and if it doesn't work, there will be plenty of room for military leaders to say they argued for other ideas, but were shot down, or ignored.

by nycweboy1 2009-12-02 02:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Military leaders on Afghanistan

True, but they don't have to be so unequivocal about it. His statement didn't leave McChrystal any wiggle room, should everything go balls up and gets brought before a congressional hearing or press interview.

If he was skeptical you would probably have seen a more nuanced or non-committal press release.

by vecky 2009-12-02 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Military leaders on Afghanistan

I'm with vecky. You're absolutely right, McChrystal wouldn't issue a negative statement, but no one is forcing him to be this positive. And quite frankly, if Petraeus stayed out of the limelight on this one, I don't know if anyone would have noticed. It was his choice to do the morning TV rounds; he could have kept silent. And the Gates info is from BEFORE the decision, not after.

by Nathan Empsall 2009-12-02 04:35PM | 0 recs
Re: More Right-Wing Distortion on Afghanistan

Missing ofcoure from the GOP "analysis" is the fact that there are only about 30,000 troops available for deployment, until more troops from Iraq start deploying. It's quite simple to count the number of spare brigades so have a year or close to year since their last deployment.

Also the 30K troops are being provided much faster. The leaked elements of the report called for an additional 40K troops over 1 year, the 30K are being provided within 6 months. So there does seem to have been a shift in strategy. The troop numbers are only part of the big picture, but the GOP, having lost every single war they have been in charge of since WW2 are trying to continue there track record.

by vecky 2009-12-02 03:00PM | 0 recs
Re: More Right-Wing Distortion on Afghanistan

Nicely said, Nathan, nicely said.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-02 03:08PM | 0 recs

     Marco Rubio is running for the senate, not governor.

by Ron Thompson 2009-12-03 08:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Rubio

I knew that. Whoops. Thanks for catching it - I'm surprised no one else did!

by Nathan Empsall 2009-12-03 09:32PM | 0 recs


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