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General Silence

In An Alternate Universe, Biden Is An Insurgency Expert and Petraeus & McChrystal Are Selling Snowcones

By Steve Schippert | September 28, 2009

The revelation should be startling. In a 60 Minutes interview on CBS, America's top commander in Afghanistan was asked about and revealed that he has had only one briefing with President Barrack Obama since he took command on July 15th of this year. This is disturbing on many levels. First, hear General McChrystal's responses from his own mouth.

David Martin, CBS: How often have you talked to the President?

Gen. McChrystal: I've talked to the president since I've been here once on a VTC [Video Tele-Conference via secure satellite communications].

David Martin, CBS: ...You've talked to him once in 70 days.

Gen. McChrystal: That's correct.

David Martin, CBS: Do you expect to be talking to him more than that? It seemed the theater commander spoke with President Bush on a weekly basis.

Gen. McChrystal: Well I don't think I lack for guidance or an understanding of his intent, but it would certainly be up to him on the frequency.

Gen. McChrystal is showing some professionalism here in service to his president. Because the fact of the mater is, it's not the theater commander who gets guidance in regular high-level conferences with the President of the United States. It is the reverse. The primary purpose of regular virtual face-to-face discussion and conference is for the theater commander to update the president and apprise him first hand of the developing situations and conditions in the distant theater.

This is astounding on one hand, yet not surprising on the other. President Obama gives every indication of a wartime president who cannot be bothered with the day to day distractions of conducting warfare in hot theater of operations, let alone two. There are apparently bigger fish to fry and more important things to do than wrap one's head around the theater in which our men bleed and die.

We do not know when the video conference between McChrystal and Obama took place in the Situation Room under the West Wing of the White House, but it is fairly safe to surmise that it would have been relatively early on in his new command. It is unlikely that the conference took place in September.

The president was almost certainly too busy with other things to be distracted. A brief though incomplete glimpse of his schedule, speeches and travels for September is disturbing in contest with the lack of updates availed from General McChrystal.

September 1: WH: Meeting w/Dept Directors on H1N1 Preparedness, address outside after. September 8: DC: Nat'l Speech to US Students
September 11: DC: Brief 9/11 Memorial Ceremonies, then "Remembering Through Community Service"
September 12: Minneapolis MN: Health Care Rally
September 14: Wall Street NYC: Stimulus, Economy
September 14: Belgrade MT: Town Hall Meeting, Health Care
September 15: Union Convention, Pittsburgh PA: Health Care
September 15: Event Speech, Philadelphia PA: Fund Raiser
September 15: Youngstown OH Auto Plant: Stimulus, Health Care
September 17: College Park MD: Major Health Care Rally
September 20: 5 Sunday Morning Poli Talks Shows: Health Care
September 21: David Letterman in NYC: Health Care
September 23: UN, NYC: Address to UN General Assembly
September 24: UN, NYC: Security Council, Nuclear Arms Reduction
September 25: G20 Pittsburgh PA: Global Economy

No time for updates from Afghanistan from the man tasked with commanding the operation. There are talks to be had with the Iranian regime and North Korean regime, after all. Government intervention in the Health Care sector is clearly a higher priority than chit chats with some sweaty guy in dusty camouflage pants half way around the world.

The president delivers a vital speech to union members at an AFL-CIO meeting in Pittsburgh, leading them in fever-pitched chants of "Are you fired up?!? Are you ready to go?!?" in reference to winning their support for the Obama Health Care effort.

Our troops meanwhile, from top to bottom, can pound sand in place where they stand in Iraq and Afghanistan. No such rallies for them or the American people for their efforts. Nope. None.

Zero. Zip. Nada. Oh, but President Obama did have a chit chat with General McChrystal a couple of months ago. That's got to count for something, right?

I've been in the Roosevelt Room off the Oval Office with a live secure video feed from Baghdad headquarters. I've also been in the Situation Room several times with live secure video feeds with commanders in both Baghdad and Kabul. It is not difficult. One merely needs the wherewithal, the intellectual curiosity and the sense of urgency to sit, listen and then converse.

Why is this president unable or unwilling to do this on a regular basis? After all, isn't this the 'good war' that is "necessary" and "right"?

The answer, to put a necessarily blunt edge on it, is because on issues of National Security and the conduct of warfare, President Obama is woefully out of his depth and has not surrounded himself with the kind of people that can bridge the gap between what he understands and what he needs to understand. The absence of interest and/or priority is a horribly difficult challenge to overcome in a leader. We do not stray into the political often here at ThreatsWatch. But we are experienced enough to know that there is simply no other way to put it. And dancing around the issue is a disservice to the American people that merely compounds the problem already at hand.

Meanwhile, Vice President Biden's 'plan' from the Naval Observatory perches on how to prosecute the effort in Afghanistan gets more attention than the actual experienced military commander fighting the fight. Surely Biden gets more face time with the president than once in 70 days. I would much prefer he take another slow train ride to Deleware than attempt to craft a plan on an issue and conflict in which he is inept and thus unqualified to construct. no matter what office and title he holds.

Yet, President Obama is still pondering the merits, unsure of which way to turn between the apparently newly-anointed counterterrorism and counterinsurgency expert, Vice President Joe Biden, and the plan laid out by General McChrystal with full endorsement of CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus.

Among the three men, two of them have experience in successfully defeating an insurgency. I'll leave it to you to identify the odd man out. [Hint: I wouldn't ask Joe Biden's advice on stinkin' snowcones, let alone counterinsurgency or counterterrorism.]

Somewhere, in an alternate universe, Joe Biden is an experienced counterterrorism and counterinsurgency expert with success under his belt, and Dave Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal are pushing a cart in DC selling snowcones on a lazy, hot summer's day.

Stop abdicating your responsibilities as Commander in Chief, Mr. President, and do your damned job. The briefings are not for General McChrystal's benefit. They are for yours. Allow yourself to be bothered. Listening to Joe Biden and merely reading Gen. McChrystal's report does not cut it.



Good Morning!

Regarding "General Silence"

i'm trying my best to give this president the benefit of the doubt out of respect for the Office of POTUS - so here's my take on the Obama-McCrystal's "penpalsmenship" -

We have a president who had NO prior executive experience. So should it be a surprise that he doesn't understand that even the Chief Executive and Commander-in-chief must follow up with his subordinates? Should it be a surprise that he doesn't inspect what he expects?

Should those who voted for Obama feel guilty for entrusting the conduct of a war and the lives of our warriors to his hands? Those voters will have to search their own consciences.

Others may also recall that Obama's 2 Democrat predecessor presidents, Clinton & Carter, had the same approach to consulting with their military and security staffs as Obama seems to have. A Democrat aftermath of VietNahmItus and their over reaction to LBJ's compulsive need for almost hourly updates from his generals on body counts, and obsession with micro-managing that war? LBJ hadn't had prior executive experience either.

But hey! Obama does give a heck of a speech off of the teleprompters!

So, is it time to dumb-down the job of President as defined in the U. S. Constitution? - or will this wannabe president learn quickly enough on the job?

Steve, I feel and share your frustration! When it comes to foreign policy, it seems this president is, unfortunately, committed to a naïve ideology that steadfastly refuses to even acknowledge the existence of evil, and therefore provides no basis for dealing effectively with threats from our enemies. All in all, we live in an increasingly unsettling situation that could definitely be mitigated were there "grown-ups" in the White House these days.

It's amazing that he is "commander in chief". Talk about an oxymoron!

Keep up the great work!
Great website!

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