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June 27, 2010

McChrystal vs MacArthur

Although it’s tempting to compare Obama’s firing of Stanley McChrystal with Truman’s sacking of Douglas MacArthur in Korea almost Sixty years ago, it’s considerably more accurate to compare the rookie president’s dilemma to the one we faced in a more recent conflict: our equally ill-advised adventure in Viet Nam in the late Sixties and early Seventies. It was there that we failed to learn a very important lesson, namely that a foreign army attempting to fight a prolonged guerrilla war while also maintaining the “rule of law” in a nation with a different language and culture faces an almost impossible battle. In Viet Nam, we lost a protracted war while substituting aerial bombardment for an army of draftees. In Afghanistan, we are also failing with an all-volunteer army in an otherwise similar context. Also; just as we failed to learn from the French adventure in Viet Nam, we have ignored its Russian variation in Afghanistan. Santayana was right.

I’ve now had a chance to read both the Rolling Stone article that induced President OBama to fire McChrystal and a more recent dispatch from the same author. Both lead to the same conclusion: McChrystal was a bad choice for the mission; once his disrespect for his commanding officer had been made public, Obama had no choice but to fire him. However, the two phenomena are essentially unrelated and it's also unlikely Petraeus will fare any better.

As someone who has wished Obama Well (and still does) I am increasingly distressed by his reliance on shibboleths over informed, rigorous analysis of hard facts. That’s a mistake he's also made vis a vis the drug war.

I hope to go into more detail on the reasons for those opinions in the near future.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at June 27, 2010 05:47 AM