What Fresh Hell Is This?

June 27, 2010

Jack Kelly Sunday

It's not surprising that Jack Kelly would use this week's column to, uh, "explain" the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

That his "explanation" is muddled and confusing is hardly surprising either, though perhaps his inclusion of The Peter Principle (creatively quoted, of course) straightens things out enough for us to see the forest for the trees.

Let's start there. Bottom line on Jack's use of the Peter Principle: He calls Stanley McChrystal an incompetent commander in Afghanistan.

Jack writes (just ignore the empty snark about the golf course):
Barack Obama has not been a wartime leader in the mold of Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt. Perhaps the only way Gen. McChrystal could have gotten Mr. Obama interested in Afghanistan is if he'd built a world-class golf course there.

But Gen. McChrystal hasn't been a Grant or MacArthur, either. Laurence J. Peter famously said that people in the corporate world tend to be promoted to a level beyond their competence. The Peter Principle applies in the military, too. A superb special operator, Gen. McChrystal seemed out of his depth on the larger stage.
The "Peter Principle" states that "in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence; the cream rises until it sours." People who show competence are promoted whether or not they are qualified to perform competently at the next level. Eventually they go beyond their limits, become incompetent, and stop getting promoted.
Just look beyond the weasel-words of "seemed out of his depth." By invoking the Peter Principle, Jack's calling a four-star general incompetent. Surprising, huh?

From there things get muddled. The column itself is called "The Problem is Obama" and in it we find this sentence:
Gen. McChrystal's soldiers also are frustrated by bizarrely restrictive rules of engagement which make it harder for them to kill the enemy and easier for the enemy to kill them.
So you'd think that those rules of engagement are Obama's, right?

Wrong - and it's something that Jack acknowledges (though only somewhat) a few paragraphs later:
Gen. McChrystal is more responsible than is the president for the restrictive rules of engagement, and he turned a blind eye to the massive corruption of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. [emphasis added]
So Jack here is diverting some of the responsibility for the "bizarrely restrictive rules of engagement" to the President. But if you look at the Rolling Stone article that triggered McChrystal's resignation that triggered Jack's column, you'll see:
Despite the tragedies and miscues, McChrystal has issued some of the strictest directives to avoid civilian casualties that the U.S. military has ever encountered in a war zone. It's "insurgent math," as he calls it – for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies. He has ordered convoys to curtail their reckless driving, put restrictions on the use of air power and severely limited night raids. He regularly apologizes to Hamid Karzai when civilians are killed, and berates commanders responsible for civilian deaths. "For a while," says one U.S. official, "the most dangerous place to be in Afghanistan was in front of McChrystal after a 'civ cas' incident." The ISAF command has even discussed ways to make not killing into something you can win an award for: There's talk of creating a new medal for "courageous restraint," a buzzword that's unlikely to gain much traction in the gung-ho culture of the U.S. military.

But however strategic they may be, McChrystal's new marching orders have caused an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. "Bottom line?" says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers' lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing." [emphasis added]
Oh, so they're McChrystal's. So Jack's just a tad wrong when he tries to pin some of it on Obama, isn't he?

ust like he's just a tad wrong when he writes this about McChrystal's lack of judgment:
The judgment was so appallingly poor some suspect it was deliberate. Among them is the author of the Rolling Stone article.

"I think they were frustrated with how the policy was going, and I think there was an intent on their part to get a message out about that frustration," Mr. Hastings told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
This is a simple rookie error and so it's one that's disappointing to see in the pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (C'mon guys! You were checking Jack so well there for a while). The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is called ABC. And so is the American Broadcasting Company.

It was the latter that quoted Hastings. See it here at ABCNews.com:
"I think they were frustrated with how the policy was going, and I think it was an attempt on their part to get the message out on that frustration," Hastings told ABC News' Diane Sawyer today.
So unless there's another news person named Diane Sawyer out there somewhere (one who works in Australia), Jack got this simple, easy to check news fact wrong.

Will we be seeing a(nother) Jack Kelly Correction anytime soon?

But let's get back to the Rolling Stone profile. Jack talks about the frustration McChrystal's staff feels about the war:
Losing a war causes frustration.
Ok, so Jack doesn't think things are going well over there. Hastings puts it this way:
From the start, McChrystal was determined to place his personal stamp on Afghanistan, to use it as a laboratory for a controversial military strategy known as counterinsurgency. COIN, as the theory is known, is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military's preference for high-tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states. COIN calls for sending huge numbers of ground troops to not only destroy the enemy, but to live among the civilian population and slowly rebuild, or build from scratch, another nation's government – a process that even its staunchest advocates admit requires years, if not decades, to achieve. The theory essentially rebrands the military, expanding its authority (and its funding) to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare: Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps. In 2006, after Gen. David Petraeus beta-tested the theory during his "surge" in Iraq, it quickly gained a hardcore following of think-tankers, journalists, military officers and civilian officials. Nicknamed "COINdinistas" for their cultish zeal, this influential cadre believed the doctrine would be the perfect solution for Afghanistan. All they needed was a general with enough charisma and political savvy to implement it.

As McChrystal leaned on Obama to ramp up the war, he did it with the same fearlessness he used to track down terrorists in Iraq: Figure out how your enemy operates, be faster and more ruthless than everybody else, then take the fuckers out. After arriving in Afghanistan last June, the general conducted his own policy review, ordered up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The now-infamous report was leaked to the press, and its conclusion was dire: If we didn't send another 40,000 troops – swelling the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan by nearly half – we were in danger of "mission failure." The White House was furious. McChrystal, they felt, was trying to bully Obama, opening him up to charges of being weak on national security unless he did what the general wanted. It was Obama versus the Pentagon, and the Pentagon was determined to kick the president's ass.

Last fall, with his top general calling for more troops, Obama launched a three-month review to re-evaluate the strategy in Afghanistan. "I found that time painful," McChrystal tells me in one of several lengthy interviews. "I was selling an unsellable position." For the general, it was a crash course in Beltway politics – a battle that pitted him against experienced Washington insiders like Vice President Biden, who argued that a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan would plunge America into a military quagmire without weakening international terrorist networks. "The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people," says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. "The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.

In the end, however, McChrystal got almost exactly what he wanted.
Any comments, Jack?

So should Obama have fired McChrystal? Jack says yes (it was poor judgment, though not insubordination) and is McChrystal's plan to fight the war in Afghanistan going well? No. His team is frustrated because, he says, they're losing. This part:
Gen. McChrystal and his aides are frustrated because the deadline for beginning to withdraw troops that Mr. Obama set for next July deprives them of realistic hope of victory.
Is all Jack. It doesn't show up in the Rolling Stone profile at all.

And yet the title of the column is "The Problem is Obama."



EdHeath said...

Simplistically speaking, there are the two different types of wars: the conventional (nation-state against nation-state) and the ones that involve one nation-state and non-governmental opponents (unconventional). The latter type generally end up involving civilians as more or less direct participants (as opposed being unwilling participants in the first type). Unconventional warfare (often) involves enemies who hide among civilians. Obviously it would be safest for American foot soldiers to simple kill anyone they suspect of being an enemy, regardless of the risk to civilians. But as Dayvoe quotes McChrystal, every civilian killed could easily produce ten new enemies.

My thought is that Kelly maybe understands the need for rules of engagement, but I suspect he really thinks (in his gut) that the Marines and special forces could wipe out Al Qaeda and the Taliban if they were simply let off the leash. And all "real" men would understand, if a few civilians got killed along the way, that the price had to be paid to destroy evil ("evil" defined here as those who have our way of life and want to kill all of us).

I think Kelly resents the rules of engagement, because he thinks American soldiers feel the rules are dangerous to American soldiers. So, Kelly believes McChrystal is incompetent, because (as Kelly understands it) McChrystal is willing to allow American soldiers to be exposed to possible harm rather than risk Afghan civilian lives. Might make sense to an old line marine, but I don't think Kelly's fantasy alternative (which is admittedly only my speculation) has any chance of success either.

So Kelly takes shots at Obama and shots at McChrystal, doesn't mention the prior eight years Bush failed to accomplish anything (which makes it that much more difficult for Obama & Co. to "win"). Now, I don't think Kelly is obliged to provide an alternative, but if he doesn't, the he is no better than a nihilist.

Conservative Mountaineer said...

Bush failed to accomplish anything..

Zero credibility with that singular comment. You liberals continue to bash Bush loooong after Barack Hussein Obama took office. I had issues with Bush, domestic issues, principally the 1st $160B stimulus and TARP, but I have NO issues re: Irag.. In addition, we should have hit Afghanistan early and hard.

BTW, Put me down for turning parts of Afghanistan into a parking lot. The Taliban has and continues to shelter Al Queda. War is messy. Deal with it.

EdHeath said...

CM, please tell me what Bush accomplished in Afghanistan. C'mon, did he have eight years or not? Did Bush get Osama bin Laden? The Afghan's were happy to see in 2001, but by 2009 they were pretty tired of us killing civilians. In fact, what do *you* mean: "In addition, we should have hit Afghanistan early and hard." As far as suggesting turning large parts of Afghanistan into a parking lot, you are suggesting this now, during the Obama administration, not during the Bush administration. because you want to see Obama hated by the rest the world, the way Bush was/is. You just can't stand that, despite his flaws, Obama is a much better man and President than Bush was/is.

And you have no issues re: Iraq? No WMD, Al Qaeda not being there until we went there, and they have not turned into a beacon of democracy for anyone. Talk about zero credibility.

Conservatives really want to destroy the country/world, just to drag the Democrats down too. Really, zero patriotism.