Obama suffers from decision-deficit disorder. He routinely is described as detached, disengaged, ambivalent and uncertain in everything from the economy to securing our borders to the Gulf oil spill to the war itself. He has been unable or unwilling to name our radical Islamist enemies or define victory. He is the only commander in chief to announce a deadline for withdrawing troops while committing more Americans to combat.
McChrystal was relieved because a thin-skinned president couldn't take criticism in the press and needed to prove he's the boss. The intemperate published remarks made by McChrystal and his staff in Rolling Stone provided an opportunity for Obama to show his left-wing base that he is in charge.
The task of commanding 140,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan now falls on the shoulders of Gen. David Petraeus. In accepting the assignment, Petraeus has not only stepped down from the more senior post as head of U.S. Central Command but also been thrust into the role of "America's only competent general." One critic suggested, "He's very good, but it does make us look like we're a banana republic." Another, a senior officer, said, "Petraeus has accepted 'mission impossible' -- herding coalition cats, getting the cooperation of a completely corrupt regime in Kabul and meeting the often conflicting expectations of an inept regime in Washington."
Leading the unruly coalition in Afghanistan may well prove to be far more challenging than what Petraeus had to do in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. In Baghdad, he had a close working relationship with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the respect of other coalition leaders, a supportive and united White House, and backing from a bipartisan coalition in Congress. The command in Kabul offers few of these advantages, for the O-Team is nearly incapacitated by internal rivalries and enormous egos.
"Why would Gen. Petraeus take what amounts to a demotion?" I asked. The answer, from an admirer, was revealing: "He was selected because he is a proven commodity. Everyone knows Petraeus is a battle-tested commander and a patriot. In Iraq, he showed how to work every military, diplomatic and political angle necessary to get the job done. By taking the evidently thankless job in Kabul, he just guaranteed he will be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
Perhaps. But first, Petraeus has to persuade this commander in chief to say "victory." He has a year to do it.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.