OBAMA FINDS TIME TO GET TO KNOW THE GENERAL: CLAUDIA ROSETT
Posted By Claudia Rosett
Rolling Stoneâ€™s piece on The Runaway General  hit the web, and presto! before the print edition was even on the newsstands, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was ordered back to Washington for a sitdown withÂ President Obama. If only Obama had been as eagerÂ toÂ clear time on his calendar for McChrystalÂ back in 2009. Thatâ€™s when really getting to know the general â€” the man entrusted with winning the war in Afghanistan â€” should have been one of the top priorities of the new president.
Iâ€™m not suggesting that with earlier close acquaintance Obama might have spotted the seeds ofÂ McChrystalâ€™s â€œenormous mistakeâ€ â€” as White House spokesman Robert Gibbs described it at press briefing Tuesday.Â Iâ€™m suggesting thatÂ better leadership from Obama himselfÂ would haveÂ averted this mess altogether. Whatever comes next for McChrystal, the biggest lesson hereÂ is one the commander-in-chief himself has yet to master.
Itâ€™s this simple: To win this war, America, and its generals, need to be led by someone who really wants to win the war. Someone who believes his country is great, andÂ extraordinary, and deserves to win its wars. Someone who takes a direct and genuine interest in those he sends to the frontlines. Someone who makes a point of really getting to know the general he puts in charge. Someone, in sum, who does whatâ€™s needed to inspire loyalty and respect.
Has Obama done that? He put McChrystal in command last summer, and over the following 70 daysÂ talked with him exactly once â€” by videoconference (something it was left to Fox News  to discover in late September).Â He left McChrystal dangling during an agonizingly drawn-outÂ strategy reviewÂ last fall. He showed strangely little regard for the internal conflicts he set in motion. As Eliot Cohen points out in the Wall StreetÂ Journal, Obama assembled a â€œdysfunctional team composed of Gen. McChrystal, Amb. KarlÂ Eikenberry and Amb. Richard Holbrooke â€” three able men who as anyone who knew them would predict could not work effectively together.â€
And though Obama dropped in on Afghanistan as part ofÂ his nine-day, eight-country world wonder tour during his 2008 election campaign, he did not visit there at all â€” not once â€“ during his first full year in office. He found time to fly to Copenhagen, twice â€” first toÂ lobby for a Chicago Olympics, then for the sham of a UN climate conference. He flew to Oslo to collect a Nobel Peace Prize.Â He found timeÂ to vacation on Marthaâ€™s Vineyard, time for a â€œbeer summit,â€ time for golf,Â time to spendÂ ThanksgivingÂ in Chicago, time to stick around Washington for the Christmas Eve push on a health care bill that the majority of Americans didnâ€™t want, and time after that for a ChristmasÂ holiday at a beachfront estate in Hawaii (where, following the underwear bomberâ€™sÂ flaming arrival over Detroit, Obama â€œmonitoredâ€ the situation, waiting three full days before saying anything in public about the man he then referred to as an â€œisolated extremistâ€).
It was not until March, 2010, that Obama finally found time to visit the troops in Afghanistan.
And what inspiring vision has Obama provided for the troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan? In the lingo of his administration, they are fighting to protect America against the further mass spawning of â€œman-caused disasters.â€ This is a president who has bowed to the despotsÂ of China and Saudi Arabia, and made it aÂ policy to apologize for America â€” doing so from Cairo to the D-Day commemoration last year on the Normandy coast. This is a president whose message from the United Nations stage last September was that America is nothing special, and whose speech at West Point in December was no rousing call to victory, but an argument that America willÂ fight on a timetable not to win the Afghanistan war, but to â€œendâ€ it, becauseÂ â€œthe status quo is unsustainable.â€
As my colleague, Cliff May, notes on NROâ€™s Corner , the real issue here is not an article in Rolling Stone, but that America is under attack.Â â€œA war is underway. Fight it. Win it.â€
William Shakespeare, who understood plenty about politics and war, gave us iconic scenes in Henry V of how a commander-in-chief treats his men. During the night, before the Battle of Agincourt, the king, disguised as a common soldier,Â goes about the camp to talk with his men, hear their fears and doubts,Â and discover their mood.Â Then, as they gird forÂ battle, he steps forth as their leader, to inspire loyaltyÂ with a call to honor and a great victory: â€œWe few, we happy few, we band of brothers.â€
To avoid more blowouts like the article in Rolling Stone, Obamaâ€™s real challenge is not to humiliate a war hero who made the mistake of letting a reporter listen in on deep discontent with the politicians back home. It is to throw out Rules for Radicals and become a fast study in the ways of Henry V.Â Â White House spokesman Gibbs was busy savagingÂ McChrystalâ€™s commandÂ when he said that parents of soldiers â€œneed to know that the structure where theyâ€™re sending their children is one that is capable and mature enough in prosecuting a war.â€ But Gibbsâ€™s words are a more fitting a reproach for the White House, and its commander-in-chief.Â When Obama gets done working overÂ Gen. McChrystal, this would be an excellent â€œteachable momentâ€ for the presidentÂ himself.
Article printed from The Rosett Report: http://pajamasmedia.com/claudiarosett
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