Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Forward or Backward?

Move America Forward, which presents itself as "the nation’s largest grassroots pro-troop organization", has issued a call for ousted General Stanley McChrystal to "come public with the true extent of the Obama Administration’s disengagement with the war in Afghanistan."
“Now that General McChrystal is no longer part of the military chain of command, he is free to expose the mismanagement of the war by the Obama administration, which is what got him in trouble in the first place.” said Move America Forward’s Director of Communications, Danny Gonzalez. 
Has Obama mismanaged the situation in Afghanistan?  There is an argument to be made that he has--certainly there are deep divisions within the Obama Administration over Afghanistan, divisions Obama has not managed to heal, and it is the civilian side of the US presence in Afghanistan, not the military side, that has a growing rift with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Yet there are also complaints to be levied against the Pentagon as well.  The glacial pace of the troop buildup in Afghanistan for the "surge" strategy (the last of the 30,000 troops are only now arriving in Afghanistan) can only be laid at the feet of the Pentagon, not the Administration.

If indeed Obama has been "disengaged" from Afghanistan, creating a continuing public controversy over his handling of matters to date is hardly going to assist him becoming "engaged" now.  Operations in Afghanistan are still unfolding, and there will be ample opportunities for General McChrystal to lend his perspective to the strengths and weakness of the Administration's efforts.  To "come public" with inflammatory charges of mismanagement and misconduct does not help the Administration focus its energies on Afghanistan.

Obama has publicly re-committed himself to the "surge" strategy.  In announcing the replacement of McChrystal with General David Petraeus Obama stated: "This is a change in personnel, but this is not a change in policy."

If the goal of  Move America Forward is to ensure the Obama Administration is fully engaged and supportive of the troops in Afghanistan, McChrystal's career-ending flirtation with Rolling Stone has already done most of what can be done to achieve that goal.  Supporting the troops now means standing back and giving the Obama Administration the latitude to manage things as they wish.  Obama remains the Commander In Chief until 2012; for the sake of the troops, that needs to be respected.