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Old 06-26-2010, 06:51 PM   #61
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In a word because I don't want the US to end up like Turkey.

The military in Turkey, like the US, is highly respected institution. The difference is that in Turkey when the civilian leadership starts doing autocratic/unconstitutional things, the military steps in an institutes a, generally bloodless, coup. Now in Turkey's case these coups are generally a good thing, but for most of the rest of the world it isn't example Burma.

It all starts when the military thinks that it is nominal civilian bosses are a bunch of corrupt, incompetent idiots and decides it can do a better job. Now we probably can't stop stupid, corrupt, incompetent folks from being in government, and we certainly can't stop military leaders from recognizing the obvious.

What we can do is continue make military leaders fearful of expressing their thoughts about civilian leadership because they know they'll lose their job. It sort of a like a lion tamer in a circus, the lions really have all the power, but it is the lion tamers job to use the whip to keep them in line and prevent them from every figuring that out. You are right, what McChrystal staff said wasn't worse than what people routinely say about their bosses and others, but we aren't lions.
That is one slippery slope - from the comments below to a military junta.

Another slippery slope could be that the military personnel become so intimidated by by the threat of firing that they do not talk with the media and the people do not find out critical information.

Second hand reporting (spying)


The Runaway General | Rolling Stone Politics
According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn't go much better. "It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his ****ing war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."

If the USA civilian leadership starts doing autocratic/unconstitutional things the military has the obligation not to follow those orders and the right to speak out about them. I am not saying they have the right to take over the government. But, the military not following autocratic/unconstitutional things would be a challenge to civilian leadership and would most likely bring down those in power.
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Old 06-26-2010, 08:38 PM   #62
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In a word because I don't want the US to end up like Turkey.
The military in Turkey, like the US, is highly respected institution. The difference is that in Turkey when the civilian leadership starts doing autocratic/unconstitutional things, the military steps in an institutes a, generally bloodless, coup. Now in Turkey's case these coups are generally a good thing, but for most of the rest of the world it isn't example Burma.
Or Russia, PRC, DPRK, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, California, and Texas...


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It all starts when the military thinks that it is nominal civilian bosses are a bunch of corrupt, incompetent idiots and decides it can do a better job. Now we probably can't stop stupid, corrupt, incompetent folks from being in government, and we certainly can't stop military leaders from recognizing the obvious.
Yes, but we've sworn to support & defend the same Constitution that these idiots have also taken an oath to support & defend. And we'll defend to our deaths their rights to be corrupt, incompetent, idiotic, and stupid!

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What we can do is continue make military leaders fearful of expressing their thoughts about civilian leadership because they know they'll lose their job. It sort of a like a lion tamer in a circus, the lions really have all the power, but it is the lion tamers job to use the whip to keep them in line and prevent them from every figuring that out. You are right, what McChrystal staff said wasn't worse than what people routinely say about their bosses and others, but we aren't lions.
Articles 88 & 134 of the UCMJ still apply.

I read this morning that UCMJ Article 2 may also apply to us military retirees who are receiving pensions and still serving at the pleasure of the President...
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Old 06-26-2010, 10:12 PM   #63
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In a word because I don't want the US to end up like Turkey.....

You are right, what McChrystal staff said wasn't worse than what people routinely say about their bosses and others, but we aren't lions.
Thanks, clifp. Your lion & tamer story did help me gain some perspective on this, I see that point - to a degree. But gee, it sure seems a long, long way from having aides report that he mentioned that Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. and even approaching the appearance of even thinking about taking a baby step towards gaining a foothold that might lead to a military threat of power against the Executive Office (intentionally winding verbiage on my part).

We've had Presidents whose first military experience was to be CIC. It's awkward, no? I would *expect* them to look "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. I don't even see that as a criticism of Obama, just a reflection of what the reality probably was, or at least perceived by the brass (maybe he was fully confident, who knows?). I think it would be tough to hide it.

And I see the point dex made - you could get to the point that they are afraid to say anything to anybody, that's not good either. It has to be a balance of power.

Thanks to both of you for that feedback. I probably have no more to say on the issue, but that did help clue me in a bit.

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Old 06-27-2010, 09:34 AM   #64
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I don't want to second guess Obama's decision, but I am curious about something. For the forum members here who do feel it was the right thing to do, why do you feel so strongly about it?

-ERD50
I don't know that I would have fired the guy but I am sympathetic with Obama. He was in a no win situation. He probably thought McCrystal's comments and those of his staff were a yawn except for the fact that the general and his staff recklessly let them become public. All of us have said much worse in our own work environments but our comments were not published in the company newsletter.

The Rolling Stone article was a major news event. The pundit class was speculating that the Administration would be viewed as powerless by the Pentagon if they let this go by. Especially with previous judgement issues surrounding questionable comments about the administration from McCrystal and McCrystal's alleged Tillman cover-up involvement. The administration is already weakened by the economy, health care fall out, and BP. Obama needed to do something dramatic to kill this story. So far it seems his response has worked on that level.
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Old 06-27-2010, 09:54 AM   #65
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There's no doubt that the military needs to be loyal to the civilian leadership. And, more generally, they need to support everyone above them (military and civilian). From the article, it appears that McChrystal's staff held a very low opinion of the competence of their leadership and others involved in the war in Afghanistan (Holbrooke, etc). As Nords points out, it's not proper to tolerate open mockery of the other entities involved in the fight, and the fact that McChrystal didn't put a stop to it is the most damning thing I see in the article.

The more out-of-touch or inexperienced the higher-level leadership is, the more difficult it is for a guy in McChrystal's position to smile, back up those decisions, fulfill the objectives as though they were his own, and motivate those below him to do the same. That's why you need a very competent leader to pull it off. And, if the "big strategy" from on high is plainly not a good one, then the best tool a guy in McChrystal's position has is building a highly cohesive team. When done right, the guys on the staff take immense pride in the competence of their team. They trust McChrystal implicitly, and will work 20 hours/day so as not to disappoint him and to not let the team down. Ironically, the "harder" they are, the smarter they are, and the better they are, the more clearly they recognize shortcomings in the higher-level policies they are given to execute.

Examples: Publicly stating that the US will begin withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2012 probably briefs well in DC, and I'm sure it will take the pressure off a lot of politicians at a very convenient time. Guys on McChrystal's staff see plainly the devastating effects that setting a date has had on the the war--it has emboldened the Taliban and weakened the civilian government. Similarly, publicly criticizing Karzai might make sense to someone wanting to show he's "tough" and wanting to score some domestic political points, but it's incredibly damaging to the war effort, and will not produce a cleaner Afghan government or help them win the war--again, particularly if you've already told them that you'll soon be abandoning them. We have plenty of ways to influence the Karzai government, but a public tonguelashing from the US administration is the least likely to yield positive results given the factors at play here. BTW, the tactic is also unlikely to be effective in influencing British or Israeli governments. Some techniques one might learn on the campaign trail or which you might pick up in big-city politics do not translate well to the international arena--and if a President has surrounded himself with political experts rather than foreign policy experts, he might get some bad advice on foreign policy.

So, if you are working huge hours, deployed away from your family for an extended period, and seeing your buddies get killed to win the war despite higher-level steps that appear (to you) designed to do just the opposite--you might grow frustrated. You might tell a reporter that your boss and your staff are great, and the troops are great and doing their best, but you see some problems higher up. You might even mock the folks responsible for those policies. McChrystal should have stopped that--which is easier said than done.

The President should have called McChrytal in, discussed the corrosive effects of the grousing and the leaks, asked for McChrystal's honest assessment of places where the higher-level guidance was amiss,and asked McChrystal if he could support the present policies. After that, a decision to fire him or let him stay would be easy. Maybe they had exactly this conversation, and maybe McChrystal's answers are precisely the reason he's leaving.

I'd think the easiest job in the world right now is Public Affairs officer in Afghanistan. Just learn how to say "no" in every NATO language, Pashtu, and Urdu.

Comparisons to MacArthur are inappropriate. MacArthur openly defied Truman and intended to attack China against the orders of the President. That's so different from the allegations here (that McChrystal may have said things, or tolerated the saying of things, that hurt people's feelings) that no comparison is possible.

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Old 06-27-2010, 12:03 PM   #66
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If the USA civilian leadership starts doing autocratic/unconstitutional things the military has the obligation not to follow those orders and the right to speak out about them. I am not saying they have the right to take over the government. But, the military not following autocratic/unconstitutional things would be a challenge to civilian leadership and would most likely bring down those in power.
The only orders and instructions the military are authorized (and required) to disobey are ones that are illegal/unconstitutional. This is made very clear to those in the military, it is well understood, and I don't think you'd find any debate about the issue.

The more troublesome (and interesting) situation is one in which you are asked to obey instructions that you believe to be against the national interest. That's a tough call, and one that has been the subject of seminar discussions in every US war college, especially since the Vietnam War. Did the military leadership do the right thing by staying in their jobs and trying to minimize the damage caused by civilian decisions? If you really believe the next guy is likely to be less competent than you (and most senior leaders, military or civilian, think this) than it's easy to see how staying in the job is the right decision. On the other hand, if all the service chiefs and the CJCS had quit at once over the handling of the war, maybe that would have drawn public attention to the issue.

What's unacceptable is to publicly criticize the existing policy, or the civilian leadership, while wearing the uniform.
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Old 06-27-2010, 12:11 PM   #67
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What's unacceptable is to publicly criticize the existing policy, or the civilian leadership, while wearing the uniform.
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Old 06-27-2010, 12:15 PM   #68
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SamClem +1

The problem is there are darn few Generals that will resign in protest. Vietnam proved that, and I do not think it is any better today.
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Old 06-27-2010, 12:24 PM   #69
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Ok, Obama did what he had to do, never mind his motivations or reasons. But, what do most of the non paper pusher/burocratic military think of the outviews of Mc Crystal, so imprudently expressed? And will Obama give some thought to them and subtly react accordingly?

I know that this a sensitive issue bordering on politics -if not politics.....
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Old 06-27-2010, 12:30 PM   #70
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What's unacceptable is to publicly criticize the existing policy, or the civilian leadership, while wearing the uniform.
+1
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Old 06-27-2010, 01:36 PM   #71
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But, what do most of the non paper pusher/burocratic military think of the outviews of Mc Crystal, so imprudently expressed?
I have frequent personal contact with mid-grade officers who are fighting this war. Most of them believe that the military fight is an important part, but only a part, of the total strategy there. They think the war can be won if the rest of the other parts of the strategy and the military component complement each other. And, none of these guys wants to send people out to get killed if the US isn't in this to win. Which means, in this for the long haul with a coordinated strategy run by committed people who want to see a stable Afghanistan that doesn't harbor extremists.

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And will Obama give some thought to them and subtly react accordingly?
I don't know. I'll say this--we've all worked for people who don't like to get bad news. Sometimes these people, especially if they are a little insecure, view the deliverers of bad news, or the questioners of existing policy, as the problem. When this happens, needed feedback from below stops and bad situations get much worse over time. These people usually so thoroughly ruin an organization that they don't get moved into higher executive positions. That's one reason it's good if an individual who is running for a high political office in the executive branch (as opposed to a legislator) has a few items in his/her resume that indicate they have successfully run a large organization in the past.

Also, Presidents are supposed to have a wider view than military leaders. I'm sure President Obama is taking into consideration lots of things that Gen McChrystal is not influenced by.

President Johnson viewed the Vietnam War as a distraction from his "Great Society social policy objectives. He did all he could to execute the war "on the cheap" (e.g. not mobilizing the Reserves, etc) so that he might save physical and political resources to use in his domestic agenda. If the war is viewed as a secondary "economy of force' effort, we shouldn't be surprised if the results are poor. And those sent to that war can be expected to be embittered.
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Old 06-27-2010, 02:03 PM   #72
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I have frequent personal contact with mid-grade officers who are fighting this war. Most of them believe that the military fight is an important part, but only a part, of the total strategy there. They think the war can be won if the rest of the other parts of the strategy and the military component complement each other. And, none of these guys wants to send people out to get killed if the US isn't in this to win. Which means, in this for the long haul with a coordinated strategy run by committed people who want to see a stable Afghanistan that doesn't harbor extremists.
I feel sure that this was McChrystal’s issue. This war is not going to be won, not even going to be fought with intensity and commitment, but rather with one booted foot a little bit in, the other in track shoes ready to get the hell out. All the while with a direct feed from the pollsters into the big chief's ear. Sending your team to die for utterly no reason is really not appealing to a man of integrity. What would an opposing commander do in this situation? Hide out in a cave, hit and run, and send the stupid inadequate beast home in due time with its tail between its legs.

If the Russians ultimately gave up in spite of them being able to control news and to a large extent being willing to incinerate villages and take appalling losses, does anyone really think it is possible that the US will do anything other than have a very expensive failure?

I am not sure that we have done any large military operation correctly since WW2.

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Old 06-27-2010, 02:15 PM   #73
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If the Russians ultimately gave up in spite of them being able to control news and to a large extent being willing to incinerate villages and take appalling losses, does anyone really think it is possible that the US will do anything other than have a very expensive failure? Ha
I agree with you. I think many people assume what 'winning' in Afghanistan looks like. We still have an image of post WWII Japan & Germany. That will not happen in Afghanistan. The corruption in the last presidential election, drug trade, corruptions in the police and defense forces shows that.

The best we can hope for is that Afghanistan does not become a base for terrorists that can attack us and spread to east to Pakistan, north to the former USSR states, and west to Europe.

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I am not sure that we have done any military operation correctly since WW2.
Ha
That is a characteristic of an empire in decline.- wars are holding actions that drain financial and political resources. (During the ascent wars increase them..)
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Old 06-27-2010, 02:32 PM   #74
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One must wonder what is a "victory"?

Taliban surrenders? USA (United States of Afghanistan)?

Defeating the Germans and Japanese at all costs was the goal in WWII, and was pretty much supported by the govt, the military, and the civilian population. What war since has been so well defined?
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Old 06-27-2010, 02:34 PM   #75
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If the Russians ultimately gave up in spite of them being able to control news and to a large extent being willing to incinerate villages and take appalling losses, does anyone really think it is possible that the US will do anything other than have a very expensive failure?
Of course, a lot of the things the Soviets did (incl incineration of villages, large indiscriminate artillery barrages, etc) were exactly the opposite of what you'd need to do to win the populace over to your side.

Afghanistan doesn't have a history that will enable it to rapidly transition to a "clean" representative democracy, rule of law, and a thriving market economy. That doesn't mean it can never happen, but it means it will take a long time. When I hear folks claim that the culture can never advance past it's present state, I realize the "soft bigotry of low expectations" extends to entire societies, not just individuals.

We already know what ignoring Afghanistan can bring.

Maybe folks want some sort of middle road--not investing enough to make the place better, but just enough to keep them from developing into a pariah state. That's a rational course of action, and not unreasonbable from a realpolitic perspective. What after all, does the US "owe" Afghanistan? Are US vital national interests at stake there? Could we better use resources elsewhere? But, if that's the decision, then implement it immediately and don't waste another life pretending our goal is something else. And don't expect those who've given so much (US and Afghanis) to respect those who choose this course.
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Old 06-27-2010, 04:53 PM   #76
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In a word because I don't want the US to end up like Turkey.

The military in Turkey, like the US, is highly respected institution. The difference is that in Turkey when the civilian leadership starts doing autocratic/unconstitutional things, the military steps in an institutes a, generally bloodless, coup. Now in Turkey's case these coups are generally a good thing, but for most of the rest of the world it isn't example Burma.

It all starts when the military thinks that it is nominal civilian bosses are a bunch of corrupt, incompetent idiots and decides it can do a better job. Now we probably can't stop stupid, corrupt, incompetent folks from being in government, and we certainly can't stop military leaders from recognizing the obvious.

What we can do is continue make military leaders fearful of expressing their thoughts about civilian leadership because they know they'll lose their job. It sort of a like a lion tamer in a circus, the lions really have all the power, but it is the lion tamers job to use the whip to keep them in line and prevent them from every figuring that out. You are right, what McChrystal staff said wasn't worse than what people routinely say about their bosses and others, but we aren't lions.
In this vein, some might find this op-ed from the Washington Post of interest.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...062502160.html
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Old 06-27-2010, 05:37 PM   #77
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In this vein, some might find this op-ed from the Washington Post of interest.

washingtonpost.com
I think one aspect that the author does not acknowledge is - draft Vs volunteer.

The protests against the Vietnam war began in earnest when Johnston got rid of most of the deferments - the middle and upper class were now in jeopardy of getting drafted; they were also people in position of authority - journalists, politicians, moneyed. Also, the health care for the troops has improved and kept the deaths down - if they were higher there might be more protests.

So if we really want to change the threshold for war we should bring back the draft. "civic obligation" might mean "draft".


"The responsibility facing the American people is clear. They need to reclaim ownership of their army. They need to give their soldiers respite, by insisting that Washington abandon its de facto policy of perpetual war. Or, alternatively, the United States should become a nation truly "at" war, with all that implies in terms of civic obligation, fiscal policies and domestic priorities. Should the people choose neither course -- and thereby subject their troops to continuing abuse -- the damage to the army and to American democracy will be severe. "
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Old 06-27-2010, 06:07 PM   #78
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One must wonder what is a "victory"?

Taliban surrenders? USA (United States of Afghanistan)?

Defeating the Germans and Japanese at all costs was the goal in WWII, and was pretty much supported by the govt, the military, and the civilian population. What war since has been so well defined?
A) Remove the Taliban from power, B) capture Osama bin Laden. Pretty clearly defined at first, with support from all of the above. Did A, didn't do B, and then things got confused. The problem is nobody knows how to end a war anymore.
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Old 06-27-2010, 07:28 PM   #79
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A)The problem is nobody knows how to end a war anymore.
Really? I know how. Bring the troops home. If we need something for them to do, they can police the border enforcing existing law.
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Old 06-27-2010, 07:34 PM   #80
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There is a time and a place to disagree with the military and civilian hierarchy, but once that the final decision is made by the "boss" all disagreement is to cease (at least all public disagreement). That's the way it has worked in the USA for as long as we have been a world power. Probably one of the reasons that we have the most powerful military that the world has ever seen.
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