Obama zones out

By Mark Steyn

What do Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and BP have in common? Aside from the fact that they’re both Democratic Party supporters.

Or they were. Gen. McChrystal is a liberal who voted for President Obama and banned Fox News from his headquarters TV. That may at least partly explain how he became the first U.S. general to be lost in combat while giving an interview to Rolling Stone. They’ll be studying that one in war colleges around the world for decades. The managers of BP were unable to vote for Mr. Obama, being, as we now know, the most sinister, duplicitous bunch of shifty Brits to pitch up offshore since the War of 1812. But, in their “Beyond Petroleum” marketing and beyond, they signed on to every modish nostrum of the eco-left. Their recently retired chairman, Lord John Browne, was one of the most prominent promoters of “cap-and-trade.” BP was the Democrats’ favorite oil company. It was to Mr. Obama what TotalFinaElf was to Saddam Hussein.

But what do Gen. McChrystal’s and BP’s defenestrations tell us about the president of the United States? Mr. Obama is a thin-skinned man and, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, White House aides indicated that what angered the president most about the Rolling Stone piece was “a McChrystal aide saying that McChrystal had thought that Obama was not engaged when they first met last year.” If finding Mr. Obama “not engaged” is now a firing offense, who among us is safe?

Only the other day, Sen. George LeMieux of Florida attempted to rouse the president to jump-start America’s overpaid, overmanned and oversleeping federal bureaucracy and get it to do something about the oil debacle. There are 2,000 oil skimmers in the United States; weeks after the spill, only 20 of them are off the coast of Florida. Seventeen friendly nations with great expertise in the field have offered their own skimmers; the Dutch volunteered their “superskimmers.” Mr. Obama turned them all down. Raising the problem, Mr. LeMieux found the president unengaged and uninformed. “He doesn’t seem to know the situation about foreign skimmers and domestic skimmers,” the senator reported.

He doesn’t seem to know, and he doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t care. “It can seem that at the heart of Barack Obama’s foreign policy is no heart at all,” Richard Cohen wrote in The Washington Post last week. “For instance, it’s not clear that Obama is appalled by China’s appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. … The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much.

“This, of course, is the Obama enigma: Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs?”

Gee, if only your newspaper had thought to ask those fascinating questions oh, say, a month before the Iowa caucuses.

And even today, Mr. Cohen is still giving President Whoisthisguy a pass. After all, whatever he feels about “China’s appalling human rights record” or “continued repression in Russia,” Mr. Obama is not directly responsible for it. Whereas U.S. and allied deaths in Afghanistan are happening on his watch – and the border villagers killed by unmanned drones are being killed at his behest. Mr. Cohen calls the president “above all, a pragmatist,” but with the best will in the world, you can’t stretch the definition of “pragmatism” to mean “lack of interest.”

“The ugly truth,” wrote Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, “is that no one in the Obama White House wanted this Afghan surge. The only reason they proceeded was because no one knew how to get out of it.”

Well, that’s certainly ugly, but is it the truth? Afghanistan, you’ll recall, was supposed to be the Democrats’ war, the one they supposedly supported, the one from which the neocons’ Iraq adventure was an unnecessary distraction. Granted the Dems’ usual shell game – to avoid looking soft on national security, it helps to be in favor of some war other than the one you’re opposing – candidate Obama was an especially ripe promoter. In one of the livelier moments of his campaign, he chugged down half a bottle of Geopolitical Viagra and claimed he was hot for invading Pakistan.

Then he found himself in the Oval Office, and the dime-store opportunism was no longer helpful. But, as Mr. Friedman puts it, “no one knew how to get out of it.” The “pragmatist” settled for “nuance.” He announced a semisurge plus a date for withdrawal of troops to begin. It’s not “victory,” it’s not “defeat,” but rather a more sophisticated melange of these two outmoded absolutes: If you need a word, “quagmire” would seem to cover it.

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, the Taliban and the Pakistanis on the one hand and Britain and the other American allies heading for the checkout on the other all seem to have grasped the essentials of the message, even if Mr. Friedman and the other media Obammyboppers never quite did. Mr. Karzai is now talking to Islamabad about an accommodation that would see the most viscerally anti-American elements of the Taliban back in Kabul as part of a power-sharing regime. At the height of the shrillest shrieking about the Iraqi “quagmire,” was there ever any talk of hard-core Saddamite Baathists returning to government in Baghdad?

To return to Mr. Cohen’s question: “Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs?” Well, he’s a guy who was wafted ever upward from the Harvard Law Review to the state legislature to the U.S. Senate without ever lingering long enough to accomplish anything. “Who is this guy?” Well, when a guy becomes a credible presidential candidate by his mid-40s with no accomplishments other than a couple of memoirs, he evidently has an extraordinary talent for self-promotion, if nothing else. “What are his core beliefs?” It would seem likely that his core belief is in himself. It’s the “nothing else” that the likes of Mr. Cohen are belatedly noticing.

Wasn’t he kind of unengaged by the health care debate? That’s why, for all his speeches, he could never quite articulate a rationale for it. In the end, he was happy to leave it to the Democratic Congress and, when his powers of persuasion failed, let them ram it down the throats of the American people through sheer parliamentary muscle.

Likewise, on Afghanistan, his attitude seems to be “I don’t want to hear about it.” Unmanned drones take care of a lot of that, for a while. So do his courtiers in the media. Did all those hopey-changers realize that Mr. Obama’s war would be run by George W. Bush’s defense secretary and general? Hey, never mind: Moveon.org has quietly disappeared its celebrated “General Betray-us” ad from its website. Cindy Sheehan, the supposed conscience of the nation when she was railing against Mr. Bush from the front pages, is an irrelevant kook unworthy of coverage when she protests Mr. Obama. Why, a cynic might almost think the “antiwar” movement was really an anti-Bush movement and the protesters really don’t care about dead foreigners, after all. The more things “change you can believe in,” the more they stay the same.

Except in one respect. There is a big hole where our strategy should be. It’s hard to fight a war without war aims, and in the end, they can only come from the top. It took the oil spill to alert Americans to the unengaged president. From Moscow to Tehran to the caves of Waziristan, our enemies got the message a lot earlier – and long ago figured out the rules of unengagement.

McChrystal Prepared to Resign Ahead of Meeting With President, Officials Say

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander and strategist for the Afghan war, is prepared to offer his resignation over an article in which he and his aides mocked and disparaged President Obama and his national security team, two military officials said Tuesday.

Obama will meet with McChrystal on Wednesday at the White House where the general is expected to be armed with a letter of resignation. He will first meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon in the morning before heading to the White House where he faces an uncertain fate.

“I think it’s clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed a poor — showed poor judgment,” the president said in his first comments on the matter, surrounded by members of his Cabinet at the close of their meeting on Tuesday. “But I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decisions.”

If not insubordination, the remarks in the Rolling Stone magazine article were at least an indirect challenge to civilian management of the war in Washington by its top military commander.

Military leaders rarely challenge their commander in chief publicly, and when they do, consequences tend to be more severe than a scolding.

A senior U.S. military official in Afghanistan told The Associated Press the general has been given no indication that he would be fired but no assurance he would not be. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions between Washington and the general’s office in Kabul.

“I want everybody to keep in mind what our central focus is — and that is success in making sure that Al Qaeda and its affiliates cannot attack the United States and its allies,” Obama said. “And we’ve got young men and women there who are making enormous sacrifices, families back home who are making enormous sacrifices.”

Gates, who issued a stern scolding to McChrystal on Tuesday that contained no endorsement for him to remain in his job, hand-picked McChrystal to take over the war last year, calling him a driven visionary with the fortitude and intelligence to turn the war around. Obama fired the previous commander at Gates’ recommendation.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that “all options are on the table” for Obama as he decides how to punish McChrystal, including firing him.

At a White House daily briefing, Gibbs repeatedly declined to say McChrystal’s job was safe.

“The magnitude and greatness of the mistake here are profound,” he said.

In the Rolling Stone article, McChrystal and his staff described the president as unprepared for their first one-on-one encounter.

McChrystal also said he felt betrayed and blind-sided by his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.

It characterized the general as unable to convince some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the nation’s longest-running war, and dejected that the president didn’t know about his commendable military record.

In Kabul on Tuesday, McChrystal issued a statement saying: “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.”

The general was making a flurry of calls and decisions in the wake of the article’s publication. Fox News has learned that he fired the press aide, Duncan Boothby, who booked the interview. McChrystal also called Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen late Monday to apologize. Mullen told the general he was deeply disappointed, according to a senior military official at the Pentagon.

Several names circulated among Pentagon and Capitol Hill aides as potential successors. Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the White House meeting, said the administration has not talked to possible successors but might do so on Wednesday.

“We all serve at the pleasure of the president,” said Gen. James Mattis, one of those mentioned. “I have a pretty full plate here” in his current job as Joint Forces Command chief, Mattis told AP.

Other names include Lt. Gen. John Allen, the No. 2 at U.S. Central Command; Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, McChrystal’s No. 2 in Afghanistan; Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the Army Training and Doctrine Command; and Adm. James Stavridis, the top NATO commander in Europe.

McChrystal has since spoken with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., both of whom were described as attention-seekers by an aide in the article. Kerry said afterward that he has “enormous respect” for the general, while a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly said Karzai “strongly supports” McChrystal and his strategy.

Click for a blow-by-blow on which officials were criticized by McChrystal and his staff.

The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.

“I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. “I was selling an unsellable position.”

It quoted an adviser to McChrystal dismissing the early meeting with Obama as a “10-minute photo-op.”

“Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. The boss was pretty disappointed,” the adviser told the magazine.

Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. The White House’s troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing troops home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.

McChrystal said Tuesday, “I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.”

The profile, titled “The Runaway General,” emerged from several weeks of interviews and travel with McChrystal’s tight circle of aides this spring.

It includes a list of administration figures said to back McChrystal, including Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and puts Vice President Joe Biden at the top of a list of those who don’t.

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

Asked by the Rolling Stone reporter about what he now feels of the war strategy advocated by Biden last fall – fewer troops, more drone attacks – McChrystal and his aides reportedly attempted to come up with a good one-liner to dismiss the question. “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal reportedly joked. “Who’s that?”

Biden initially opposed McChrystal’s proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.

“Biden?” one aide was quoted as saying. “Did you say: Bite me?”

Another aide reportedly called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four-star general, a “clown” who was “stuck in 1985.”

Some of the strongest criticism, however, was reserved for Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” one of the general’s aides was quoted as saying. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”

If Eikenberry had doubts about the troop buildup, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal said he felt “betrayed” and accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” McChrystal told the magazine. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so.”‘

Eikenberry remains in his post in Kabul, and although both men publicly say they are friends, their rift is on full display.

McChrystal and Eikenberry, himself a retired Army general, stood as far apart as the speakers’ platform would allow during a White House news conference last month.

McChrystal’s real offense

By: Byron York

There is a lot of uproar about Gen. Stanley’s McChrystal’s disrespectful comments about his civilian bosses in the Obama administration, and President Obama would be entirely justified in firing McChrystal for statements McChrystal and his subordinates made to Rolling Stone. Obama is a deeply flawed commander-in-chief who doesn’t want to be fighting a war on terror, but he is the commander-in-chief. He should have a general who will carry out his policies without public complaint until the voters can decide to change those policies.

But the bigger problem with McChrystal’s leadership has always been the general’s devotion to unreasonably restrictive rules of engagement that are resulting in the unnecessary deaths of American and coalition forces. We have had many, many accounts of the rules endangering Americans, and the Rolling Stone article provides more evidence. In the story, a soldier at Combat Outpost JFM who had earlier met with McChrystal was killed in a house that American officers had asked permission to destroy. From the article:

The night before the general is scheduled to visit Sgt. Arroyo’s platoon for the memorial, I arrive at Combat Outpost JFM to speak with the soldiers he had gone on patrol with. JFM is a small encampment, ringed by high blast walls and guard towers. Almost all of the soldiers here have been on repeated combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and have seen some of the worst fighting of both wars. But they are especially angered by Ingram’s death. His commanders had repeatedly requested permission to tear down the house where Ingram was killed, noting that it was often used as a combat position by the Taliban. But due to McChrystal’s new restrictions to avoid upsetting civilians, the request had been denied. “These were abandoned houses,” fumes Staff Sgt. Kennith Hicks. “Nobody was coming back to live in them.”

One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the platoon was given. “Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force,” the laminated card reads. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fight, that’s like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won’t have to make arrests. “Does that make any f–king sense?” Pfc. Jared Pautsch. “We should just drop a f–king bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?”

McChrystal Apologizes for Remarks in Profile, Summoned to White House

May 10: General Stanley McChrystal speaks during a press briefing with White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, left, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry at the White House

The top U.S. war commander in Afghanistan is being called to the White House for a face-to-face meeting with President Obama after issuing an apology Tuesday for an interview in which he described the president as unprepared for their first meeting.

In the article in this week’s issue of Rolling Stone, Gen. Stanley McChrystal also said he felt betrayed and blind-sided by his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.

McChrystal’s comments are reverberating through Washington and the Pentagon after the magazine depicted him as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration.

It characterized him as unable to convince some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the nation’s longest-running war and dejected that the president didn’t know about his commendable military record.

In Kabul on Tuesday, McChrystal issued a statement saying: “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.”

McChrystal has been called to the White House Situation Room on Wednesday to explain his comments to the magazine directly to the president, a senior administration official told Fox News. Normally, he would appear on a conference call for a regular strategy session.

McChrystal also called Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen late Monday to apologize. Mullen told the general he was deeply disappointed, according to a senior military official at the Pentagon.

The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.

“I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. “I was selling an unsellable position.”

It quoted an adviser to McChrystal dismissing the early meeting with Obama as a “10-minute photo op.”

“Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. The boss was pretty disappointed,” the adviser told the magazine.

Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. The White House’s troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.

McChrystal said Tuesday, “I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.”

The profile, titled “The Runaway General,” emerged from several weeks of interviews and travel with McChrystal’s tight circle of aides this spring.

It includes a list of administration figures said to back McChrystal, including Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and puts Vice President Joe Biden at the top of a list of those who don’t.

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

Asked by the Rolling Stone reporter about what he now feels of the war strategy advocated by Biden last fall – fewer troops, more drone attacks – McChrystal and his aides reportedly attempted to come up with a good one-liner to dismiss the question. “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal reportedly joked. “Who’s that?”

Biden initially opposed McChrystal’s proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.

“Biden?” one aide was quoted as saying. “Did you say: Bite me?”

Another aide reportedly called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four star general, a “clown” who was “stuck in 1985.”

Some of the strongest criticism, however, was reserved for Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” one of the general’s aides was quoted as saying. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”

If Eikenberry had doubts about the troop buildup, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal said he felt “betrayed” and accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” McChrystal told the magazine. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so.”‘

There was no immediate response from Eikenberry. The Associated Press requested comment through an aide after business hours Monday in Kabul.

Eikenberry remains in his post in Kabul, and although both men publicly say they are friends, their rift is on full display.

McChrystal and Eikenberry, himself a retired Army general, stood as far apart as the speakers’ platform would allow during a White House news conference last month.

Fox News’ Justin Fishel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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