President Obama is being hailed for toughness in his firing of Gen. McChrystal and brilliance in his replacing him as Afghan field commander with Gen. David Petraeus, who managed the George W. Bush "surge" in Iraq that saved this nation from an ignominious defeat.
Herewith, a dissent.
By firing a fighting general, beloved of his troops, Obama just took upon himself full responsibility for the McChrystal Plan. The general is off the hook.
As of now, the plan is not succeeding. And given the inability of Kabul to deliver the "government in a box" to Marja, after Marines supposedly de-Talibanized the town, the McChrystal Plan is failing. The Battle of Kandahar has not yet begun, though the June D-Day has come and gone.
Should we be in this same bloody stalemate in December, Obama will be blamed for having fired his field commander who devised his battle plan, and was carrying it out, over some stupid insults from staff officers to some counterculture magazine.
More critically, Obama just made himself hostage to a savvy general who is said to dream of one day holding Obama's office.
Consider the box Obama just put himself in.
In 2009, he sacked Gen. David McKiernan and replaced him with his own man, Gen. McChrystal. Now, he has sacked McChrystal and replaced him with Petraeus.
The former community organizer and acolyte of Saul Alinsky cannot now possibly fire the most popular and successful general in the U.S. Army, who accepted a demotion to take command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, without a firestorm that would consume his presidency.
If Obama has not noticed, the neocons, who want a "long war" in the Islamic world and a new war with Iran, are celebrating the Petraeus appointment with far greater unanimity than Obama's own staff.
Why is the War Party celebrating? Petraeus is one of them.
And the untouchable general's demands have begun to come in.
Clearly, Obama has been told he must back away from his declared deadline of July 31, 2011, for beginning withdrawals of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. And Obama is already moving to do so.
Vice President Joe Biden's statement in Jonathan Alter's "The Promise" that, "in July of 2011, you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it," has already been challenged by Defense's Robert Gates.
No such decision has yet been made, said Gates.
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