The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

McChrystal continues to undercut Obama

It seems McChrystal, the Afghanistan theater commander, continues to undercut Obama to the media: in this case noting that Obama has only talked to him once.

Well well.  I hope Obama is pleased that he ok’d McChrystal for the job, eh?

You reap what you sow, and Obama is getting the commander he promoted: a political officer happy to use the media to get his way, whether that hurts the Commander in Chief or not.

A lot like his mentor, Petraeus.

Petraeus and his cadre should have been been sidelined when Obama took office, for their rampant political actions during the Bush administration.  They proved they were political officers, and Republican inclined officers.

But as usual, Obama wanted to play nice with conservatives.

He’s getting what he deserves, but I’m sure he won’t learn from it, since so far he’s shown no ability to understand the fundamental point that playing nice with modern American conservatives doesn’t work.

(One might suggest that McChrystal is standing up and saying honestly what he thinks he needs to “win” the war as did General Shinseki before the Iraq war.  Even if one takes that view, he should still be canned for insubordination.    The difference between him and Shinseki,  is that Shinseki gave his testimony to Congress, he didn’t run around to the media undercutting President Bush.)

Parable of the Scorpion and the Frog

One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river.

The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn’t see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.

Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.

“Hellooo Mr. Frog!” called the scorpion across the water, “Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?”

“Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you wont try to kill me?” asked the frog hesitantly.

“Because,” the scorpion replied, “If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!”

Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. “What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!”

“This is true,” agreed the scorpion, “But then I wouldn’t be able to get to the other side of the river!”

“Alright then…how do I know you wont just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?” said the frog.

“Ahh…,” crooned the scorpion, “Because you see, once you’ve taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!”

So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog’s back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog’s soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.

Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog’s back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.

“You fool!” croaked the frog, “Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?”

The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drownings frog’s back.

“I could not help myself. It is my nature.”

Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.


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  1. Truman fired MacArthur (April 11, 1951), when MacArthur improperly sounded off on policy. There was a mighty shitstorm over it, and Mac Arthur got a ticker tape parade down Broadway on his return to the states. But MacArthur just faded away, and the Korean War went on with Matthew Ridgeway in command. The war ended in a stalemate that continues to this day. And no one is talking about what might have happened if MacArthur were left in charge, or even questioning Truman’s replacing him.

    Let’s see what President Obama is made of, if he concludes that this was indeed the case with McChrystal. I’m not willing to believe everything I read in the papers. There may be more to this than meets the eye.

    Sec. Gates also seems to be pushing publicly toward a hard line position. Either he, the Joint Chiefs, Petraeus, and McChrystal are pushing Obama or not. There are other possibilities. For example, Obama may be giving a nod to the left by seeming to take time to decide but has already pretty much decided to escalate troop levels and is using the DOD for cover. There’s always the agenda and the hidden agenda. That’s part of strategy, military and political.

    The problem here is that militarily, the DOD has to give the president their best assessment, and McChrystal is doing that as the commander on the ground. But the president has to decide based on a number of other factors. If the military tries to influence policy instead of only proposing strategy, then the president has to let them know who the decider is. And, if it is an attempt to influence policy, I don’t think that this involves only McChrystal.

  2. Obama isn’t the one who is not getting it, Ian. You are. For 8 years the Republicans refused to work with the Democrats. They simply crushed them underfoot. Obama rightfully campaigned on a pledge not to act like the Republicans did. He’s sticking to that pledge even if it’s ultimately futile and does occasionally cause problems.

  3. Ian Welsh

    Occasionally? Obama is getting bum rushed and betrayed by them on every single issue. I admire consistency, but not when it turns into futility and stupidity. Obama made a lot of promises, many of which he’s broken. It’s notable that one of the ones he hasn’t is “working with Republicans”, as opposed to, say, “no spying on Americans without warrants”.

    Shows his priorities.

    Unilateral disarmament isn’t “rightful” it’s either stupidity or something rather worse.

  4. Don’t be absurd, Ian. Obama is getting quite a bit done. He’s just not doing it fast enough for you or in the destructive way the Republicans did it.

  5. Ian Welsh

    Well yes, Robert. He’s given away trillions to the rich, he’s passed a compromised stimulus, he’s filed briefs supporting DOMA, he’s announced that he wants to hold people indefinitely without trial, he’s escalated the Afghanistan war and he’s attempting to pass the largest regressive tax raise in years under the guise of “health care reform”, among other things. If that’s getting things accomplished, then I concede your point.

    I’d say he’s being plenty destructive, but then I count bad policy as destructive, nor am I impressed by his pathetic attempts to be bipartisan, which then get thrown back in his face repeatedly. Bad policy as the cost of fake bipartisanship is far more destructive than good policy without fake bipartisanship.

    Remind me, how many Republicans voted for the stimulus? How many have indicated they will vote for health care “reform”?

  6. John B.

    I will remind you Ian. Zero, maybe one, maybe two.

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