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June 24, 2010

Looking on the Bright Side of the M4/P4 Swap
Posted by Michael Cohen

So I think it's pretty safe to say that I have a rather pessimistic attitude toward the current US mission in Afghanistan - and theoretically the replacement of one COIN devotee with an even bigger COIN devotee should little do cheer up my mood, but as it turns out that's not the case.  I'm actually feeling surprising upbeat today.

It starts with the words of President Obama in the Rose Garden yesterday, General McChrystal's actions - according to Obama, "undermine the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system." Exactly right. Obama fired his commanding general in Afghanistan because McChrystal's insubordinate behavior threatens the very foundation of civilian-military relations. And by Obama sacking McChrystal he is sending an unmistakable signal to the armed forces - I'm in charge. 

All of this matters because the words captured by Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings were not some isolated incident. They reflect a level of disrespect for the commander-in-chief that goes back to last year's Afghanistan review. Whether it was the constant leaks that boxed Obama in on escalating in Afghanistan or the off-the-record criticisms of Obama by "senior military officials" or even McChrystal's appearance in London last October that dismissed the Vice President's call for a counter-terrorism policy it's been a pretty steady drumbeat of rather brazen military pushback. And it wasn't just words; from a strategic standpoint McChrystal's approach in Afghanistan has seemingly flouted the President's timeline for commencing withdrawals of June 2011 and his order not to send American troops anywhere that can't be turned over to the ANSF by that date. The disconnect between our military strategy and the president's guidance had become palpable. 

And let's face it, the level of disrespect in the military for the president (particularly those with a D next to their name) goes back even further. As Bob Killebrew, a Senior Fellow at CNAS said to me in an e-mail conversation, "When I came into the Army in the late '60s, political discussions just didn't happen -- at least where I was.  The atmosphere changed noticeably when Clinton was elected -- at least, that was the first time I saw junior officers at a social gathering joking about the commander-in-chief in front of their seniors and not being corrected." For practically the last 20 years, in ways both trivial and deeply consequential, the civilian military balance has slowly eroded.

Today, Barack Obama put an end to all that. Thanks to Stan McChrystal's astonishing lack of judgment the President was given the opportunity to publicly reassert civilian control of the armed forces - and he did it in the most forceful way imaginable. That, in of itself, would make today's event a very good thing.

But I think the implications run deeper. First of all, something tells me that there won't be too many officers wiling to speak ill of the commander-in-chief to a reporter any time soon. The back-biting and the increasingly tense relationship between the civilian leadership and the armed forces is also unlikely to continue; and again, not a moment too soon. If there are military officers worried about the president's decision-making or the current strategy in Afghanistan I can't imagine you're going to be hearing much about it in the pages of the New York Times or Washington Post.

Second, remember that Jonathan Alter article a few weeks ago where President Obama is quoted as asking General Petraeus if he could get the mission in Afghanistan completed in 18 months - and if not no one is going to suggest the US should stay longer in Afghanistan - and Petraeus responded, "Yes sir."

Well it's pretty hard to see how Petraeus gets to walk away from that. So this talk I keep reading about how picking Petraeus means we're likely going to stay in Afghanistan even longer doesn't ring true at all.  If anything, the exact opposite and it seems as though Petraeus will now be under enormous pressure to stick by his promise to Obama and begin troop withdrawals by 2011. Maybe at one point Obama might have bended the rules or even been flexible if McChrystal or Petraeus were able to show "progress" in Afghanistan; not anymore.

And while this is unlikely to lead to a wholesale - and much-needed - change in strategy one would imagine that it might lead to other important tactical changes around the margins. For example, it will be very interesting to see if the long-planned offensive in Kandahar, which would almost certainly lengthen US involvement in the Afghan fight, still happens. Or perhaps there will be new efforts to open political negotiations with the Taliban. And I'll even be even more curious to see if the current, restrictive rules of engagement for US troops are relaxed by a general who hardly practiced the same sort of population centric COIN so favored by McChrystal. Quite simply, there is going to be enormous pressure on Petraeus to show results, particularly by December when the first major review of the Afghanistan policy is supposed to occur.

In the end, what matters perhaps more than anything else is that Obama is now quite firmly in charge of Afghan policy - and the longer, even open-ended, commitment favored by the generals is on the outs.

Yglesias argues that "the political power of the doves in the administration is relatively low vis-a-vis the political power of hawks in uniform." But I think this is backwards; this whole episode has strengthened Obama immeasurably (Josh Marshall makes a similar point) It's allowed him to assert his control over the war effort and it's made it much, much harder for the military to put up any sort of fight - even against a policy they oppose.

To be sure, there is still major reason for concern about our current Afghanistan policy; and a new strategy would really help. But this whole episode has shifted the civilian/military balance in a potentially positive direction. The funny thing about this is that when Obama saw that Rolling Stone piece on Monday you have to think his reaction was "what's next." Who would have guessed that three days later he'd be smelling like roses

(BTW, if there is one other bright side from this whole situation it's that I may never have to spell the word McChrystal again - not that Petraeus is much of a walk in the park either, but still).


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Interesting piece but I must beg to differ with your analysis when you make the case that because Petraeus said 'Yes sir' when asked whether US troops could do the mission in 18 months, that he will actually stick to that. I am normally the first person to argue in favor of the idea of rhetorical traps but I am not necessarily sure I agree that this constitutes one, and for a very simple reason. The fact is that since the 2009 strategy review, but especially in the last few weeks, the discourse has changed. The idea of massive troop withdrawals after the 18 months is no longer in the cards. It is one thing to say 'no more troops' but that does not equate to 'less troops'. For instance, as long as Obama kept the troop levels steady, he could do so indefinitely. The 18 month timeline was not a timeline for winning the war and getting AMericans out. AMerican forces are going to be there for a very long time indeed beyond the 18 months. The only question is how many. And curiously, the troop numbers seem to be increasing with little commentary. Have you noticed that back in December 2009, the US was saying the 'surge' would mean a total US strength of 98,000. The number talked about these days is 105,000. So in this sense, I find it interesting that there has been a post-surge surge of an additional 7,000 troops. And as no doubt you noted in the Rolling Stone article, there was a paragraph that dealt with the prospect of adding in even more troops. Now, as for Petraeus and the 18-month timeline, as noted above, this was always an artificial construct. Again, this construct dealt with troop numbers, not the Afghan mission writ large. So the idea that the Afghan mission would be completed in 18 months was always absurd and you shouldn't read too much into this. Speaking of timelines, do you remember Obama's original timeline on Iraq? These things tend to slip, so I wouldn't place too much emphasis on them. Having just sacked one general and now going cap in hand to Petraeus asking him to accept an effective demotion and save the situation, I can only suspect that Petraeus, who you'll no doubt admire his brilliant political skills, will have an enormous amount of maneuver room. I would not be at all surprised if the COINdinistas, having had a bit of R and R since last year's strategy review, now feel so emboldened that we'll start seeing new requests for troops start popping up in op-eds by Max Boot, O'Hanlon, et al., and perhaps have some new strategy review group be put together by Petraeus, consisting of all the usual suspects. The justification for doing so will probably be that as the 'incoming' commander he will want to assess the situation, especially in light of recent events, such as the decision to slow down the Kandahar 'process', and so forth. Obama has boxed himself into a corner with this move. Time will tell whether Petraeus was actually serious about the 18-month commitment, but I am highly skeptical.

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The justification for doing so will probably be that as the 'incoming' commander he will want to assess the situation, especially in light of recent events, such as the decision to slow down the Kandahar 'process', and so forth. Obama has boxed himself into a corner with this move. Time will tell whether Petraeus was actually serious about the 18-month commitment, but I am highly skeptical.
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While he had sketched, Anselmo had been watching the road, the bridge and the sentry boxes. He thought they had come too close to the bridge for safety and when the sketching was finished, he was relieved.
As Robert Jordan buttoned the flap of his pocket and then lay flat behind the pine trunk, looking out from behind it, Anselmo put his hand on his elbow and pointed with one finger.
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Robert Jordan handed the glasses to Anselmo who lay flat beside him. The old man grinned and shook his head. He tapped his skull beside his eye with one finger.
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"And the other post?" Robert Jordan asked Anselmo.
"Five hundred meters below that turn. In the roadmender's hut that is built into the side of the rock."
"How many men?" Robert Jordan asked.
He was watching the sentry again with his glasses. The sentry rubbed his cigarette out on the plank wall of the box, then took a leather tobacco pouch from his pocket, opened the paper of the dead cigarette and emptied the remnant of used tobacco into the pouch. The sentry stood up, leaned his rifle against the wall of the box and stretched, then picked up his rifle, slung it over his shoulder and walked out onto the bridge. Anselmo flattened on the ground and Robert Jordan slipped his glasses into his shirt pocket and put his head well behind the pine tree.
"There are seven men and a corporal," Anselmo said close to his ear. "I informed myself from the gypsy."
"We will go now as soon as he is quiet," Robert Jordan said. "We are too close."
"Hast thou seen what thou needest?"
"Yes. All that I need."

The grass grows rank
among the broad flagstones, and inUgg boots clearance the morning twilight thousands of
tame pigeons flutter around the solitary lofty tower. On three sides
you find yourself surrounded by cloistered walks. In these the
silent Turk sits smoking his long pipe, the handsome Greek leansUgg boots clearance
against the pillar and gazes at the upraised trophies and lofty masts,
memorials of power that is gone. The flags hang down like mourning
scarves. A girl rests there: she has put down her heavy pails filled
with water, the yoke with which
Ugg boots clearanceshe has carried them rests on one of
her shoulders, and she leans against the mast of victory. That is
not a fairy palace you see before you yonder, but a church: the gildedUgg boots clearance
domes and shining orbs flash back my beams; the glorious bronze horses up yonder have made journeys, like the bronze horse in the fairy tale: they have come hither, and gone hence, and have returned again. Do you notice the variegated splendour of the walls and windows? It looks as if Genius had followed the caprices of a child, in the adornment of these Ugg boots outletsingular temples. Do you see the winged lion on the pillar?

The gold glitters still, but his wings are tied- the lion is dead, for
the king of the sea is dead; the great halls stand desolate, and where
gorgeous paintings hung of yore, the naked wall now peers through. UGG Boots Clearance
The lazzarone sleeps under the arcade, whose pavement in old times was to be trodden only by the feet of high nobility. From the deep
wells, and perhaps from the prisons by the Bridge of Sighs, rise the
accents of woe, as at the time when the tambourine was heard in theUgg boots clearance
gay gondolas, and the golden ring was cast from the Bucentaur to
Adria, the queen of the seas. Adria! shroud thyself in mists; let
the veil of thy widowhood shroud thy form, and clothe in the weeds
of woe the mausoleum of thy bridegroom- the marble, spectral Venice."

"I looked down upon a great theatre," said the Moon. "The house
was crowded, for a new actor was to make his first appearance that
night. My rays glided over a little window in the wall, and I saw a
painted face with the forehead pressed against the panes.

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Quite a beautiful website. I recently built mine and i was looking for some ideas and your website gave me some. Did you develop the website alone.....

récapitulation des Grands, je ne peux même pas croire que vous avez pu écrire that.I eu tant d'inquiétude en train de regarder cela et je pensais que j'étais le seul qui avait la rage contre nature / haine pour Kelly, heureux je ne suis pas le seul, comme je me concerne. Ces femmes montrent que vous pouvez l'age sans m?rir.

Buddha kept in the dark group sex robbing the poor billion things, but not of the guide missed (the Buddha can not miss the degree of people)

Buddha to the degree immeasurable love, and can not do beings sector (although still vows degree endless beings); is that the three can not have.

A Buddhist monk is the result of only three major amendments robbery Fu Hui, Bai Jie kind of lover light. The situation right Cibei Xi homes.

A Buddhist monk is the result of only three major amendments robbery Fu Hui, Bai Jie kind of lover light.

The situation right Cibei Xi homes. Conscious, feel him, feel successful from the line.

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