There is no doubt that President Obama is commander-in-chief – I got it — but does that mean he’s also the second coming of Prussian General, Carl von Clausewitz, who saw war primarily as ” the continuation of politics by other means?”The uniformed leaders of the U.S. military will render the proper and due respect to the civilian leadership of the military, to include the president. However, does there come a time when the uniformed leadership should stand firm and question the commander-in-chief when what he’s doing is detrimental to the functions, missions, and operations of the United States military and the premier duty “to provide for the common defense?” I’ve researched it and haven’t found a previous occurrence — but before Obama, does anyone recall when a president stood before uniformed generals and delivered a press conference at the Pentagon? Maybe I’m all wet, but I don’t recall.
It appears there’s a steadily growing level of discontent arising in the Pentagon, especially after the last order of 50 special operators into Syria who won’t be on the front lines or getting into firefights with ISIS.As reported by the Washington Times, “Key lawmakers from both parties say frustration with the White House among the top military officers is at its highest level in decades, the product of President Obama’s cautious approach to the wars in Syria and Iraq and an indecisive inner circle of White House advisers who, critics say, have iced the Pentagon out of the policymaking process.
“There’s a level of dissatisfaction among the uniformed military that I’ve never seen in my time here,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain in an interview. “For some of us who are a little older, let’s go back and read the Pentagon Papers — what the administration is doing is the kind of incrementalism that defined much of the Vietnam conflict.”
The Arizona Republican is known as a fierce critic of President Obama’s foreign policy, but his complaints were echoed by an unlikely source: Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.“Frustration among the uniformed service is real,” the Washington Democrat said, adding that the administration “does keep things in the White House and has not been more inclusive in the decision-making process.” But Mr. Smith also defended the administration’s overall approach to the troubled Middle East, arguing that the “sheer complexity of the situation” following the Arab Spring and the rise of the Islamic State — also known as ISIS — have defied a simple U.S. solution. “I don’t think dropping 50,000 U.S. troops down is going to fix the situation,” he said.”
I served on the House Armed Services Committee with Ranking Member Smith and I must correct him on something — if Obama had heeded the advice of his generals, namely General Lloyd Austin, regarding Iraq, we wouldn’t have the “sheer complexity of the situation.”
You see, this is the point being raised. Obama made strategic level national security decisions not based on sound logic and reason, but instead on campaign promises and a rigid ideological stance that persuaded him to distance himself from George W. Bush. Rep. Smith shows his lack of strategic military knowledge by just throwing out some arbitrary 50,000 troop number. This is how the liberal left detractors dissuade us from taking any action — basically they wish to have no responsibility for the outcomes.President Obama demonstrated that assertion when on CBS’ “60 Minutes” he was asked about the abject failure of his ISIS strategy of training Syrian rebels. The Obama administration spent 45 million taxpayer dollars to train 54 Syrian rebels who all but 4-5 (as detailed in Senate Armed Services Committee testimony by the CENTCOM CG, Gen. Austin) were killed or captured, not by ISIS but rather by Al Nusra — affiliated with al-Qaida. When Steve Kroft pressed President Obama on his failed strategy, Obama responded by stating he didn’t want to do it anyway. And former SecDefs Gates and Panetta have alluded to a sense that President Obama never had his heart in the Afghanistan strategy that he went before the American people to articulate. So what gives? Why does President Obama say this is HIS strategy, then when challenged — or when it fails — he says he never wanted to do it in the first place. Remember the infamous Syrian “red line”?
If I were a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or one of the major combatant commanders (CENTCOM, EUCOM, AFRICOM, PACOM, SOUTHCOM)…I’d be more than frustrated.
Imagine if you’re the EUCOM commanding general and you’re facing the specter of Vladimir Putin and the concerns of our Eastern European allies — namely Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — what do you say to them? Yep, I applaud the recent participation of the 82nd Airborne Division rapid deployment force, 18 hours wheels up, to Zaragoza, Spain for NATO exercises…Spain, not Eastern Europe. And I honor the bravery and valor of my paratrooper brethren, but 500 airborne troopers is not enough to make a statement to the mechanized and armored formations of Russia sitting in eastern Ukraine. Now, THAT is frustrating.“Senator McCain argued that the frustration on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon stems from the administration’s “complete lack of any kind of coherent strategy, much less a strategy that would have any success on the battlefield” against Islamic State and the Assad regime. The White House, he argued, has effectively blinded itself to such absurdities by promoting a system over the past seven years that suppresses dissenting voices.
“Compliant and easily led military leaders get promoted,” he said. “People who have spoken truth to power get retired.” He pointed to the cases of Marine Gen. James Mattis, reportedly dismissed as head of U.S. Central Command in 2013 for pressuring civilian officials in the White House on potential military options against Iran; and Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, allegedly pushed out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency last year amid clashes with the White House over his leadership style.
When it comes to actual policy, Senator McCain lamented, the administration pursues half-measures and decisions, “when they are made, consistently disregard recommendations from the uniformed military.” Such recommendations, he argued, often get overridden by National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice and Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett, both of whom are close to the president.”
Remember how the liberal progressive media just hammered Bush 43 and his national security team relentlessly on Iraq and Afghanistan strategy? Doggone, the New York Times ran Abu Gharaib stories pretty much daily on the front page for how long? There were the incessant pictures of troops who lost their lives front and center — how many stories were written about MSG Joshua Wheeler?
The liberal media pounded Bush about his SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, yet you hear very little about Obama’s current national security team. They just seem to get a pass for their failed policies. Can you imagine what would be happening to a Republican administration if the bombing of a “Doctor’s Without Borders” hospital had been bombed on its watch?
Yep, frustrating. Obama has sent a very clear message: obey me generals, or be cast asunder, and that’s exactly what has happened. But the last thing we need at this critical juncture, during this final year, are go along to get along generals and admirals. When the National Defense Authorization Act was vetoed by the commander-in-chief, a joint statement by the Joint Chiefs would have been appropriate, and certainly necessary. Obama isn’t running our national security strategy based on the reality of the situation and the enemy. He’s doing what he wants and his ideological base deems right — which is totally wrong.
I agree, there is frustration, but it ain’t just at the top military levels — trust me, I get plenty of backchannel intel. Frustration is just an emotional expression, but if you want it to be turned into an action, you speak up. If American generals and admirals want to send a message, start putting those stars on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. Not only will you gain the respect and admiration of the men and women you’re supposed to be leading – but this nation would be grateful. We don’t need kommissars, we need unformed leaders who will say the business of the U.S. Armed Forces isn’t social egalitarianism and transgenders – it’s about fighting and killing the enemy. And telling deployed warriors they’re not to be on the front lines and or engage the enemy – that’s damn frustrating.
Sheep leading lions – that’s most frustrating of all.