A Bright Shining Showdown
Give the picture above a close look; it's the first time the President of the US and the commander of his ground forces in Afghanistan met 1-1. Today is the Year Eight of the war they're conferring over, and their body language is telling. Obama's posture is patient, explanatory, verging on remonstrative; Stanley McChrystal's is taut, defensive, and tilting to one side. The general looks like he might be struggling to maintain his composure while thinking, "I could spatter his head like a bug."
Obama's intellectual training was primarily by Socratic method, which emphasizes dialectical questions designed to get one party in a debate to tellingly contradict themselves, strengthening the inquirer's point. I have been very critical of the President for asking for a report he knew would, in a word, suck. In his defense, maybe he didn't know it would suck this badly, and didn't expect it to collapse so easily upon an amateur's inquiries. For example, BHO may have asked self-contradicting questions like these:
"Are you telling me that 40,000 more troops are enough to decisively defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, once and for all?"Stanley A. McChrystal is a Crusader, a third-gen Military Industrial Complex product deeply in the pocket of the NeoCons, and Fred Kagan, who authored the bribe-the-Sunni-insurgents-and-leave plan known as The Surge in Iraq, is his strategy advisor. He has gone on 60 minutes to tout his plan. He has given a speech to an international crowd in London. His allies, one would hope not his own office, leaked his classified troop request report to the press. His disdain for Obama, his commander-in-chief, is visible, quotable, and wholly insubordinate. Obama is likely too smart to fire him, and McChrystal is probably too dumb to resign. I suspect McC's superior, Gen. David Petraeus, has masterfully set up a good soldier to take a fall for him.
"How will these new troops limit al-Qaeda's continuing growth in Pakistan, where we know it's becoming a deadlier domestic and international threat?"
When it comes to making war or anything else, Fred Kagan and the NeoCons are turds in a picnic cooler. One must assume the questions, simple questions above were put to their report, and no good answers were blurted. Obama today announced, as expected, that there will be no withdrawal. That sounds bland and depressing enough, but he also set no timeline on a decision for escalation, no numbers on additional troops at all. In other words, it is the omission which speaks loudest, and he's breaking the news to the NeoCons softly. Refer again to the body language in the picture above.
In D.C. Newspeak, Obama's announcement today signifies No Buildup. There may be a token compromise (a.k.a. Operation Kevlar Chandelier), but bottom line, this is an infuriating hog-tying for the NeoCons and their Generals, and they're off in basements and bars this evening uttering vile oaths, making pacts and desperately sharpening knives. Having been brilliantly stalemated, the best they can do is cry, "leisurely," and "too deliberate!" For once since his election, I stand in admiration and applaud: Barack Hussein Obama didn't give them the satisfaction of a clear "No."