Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Who Betrays US?

"If everybody is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.” - George S. Patton

Crystal is not glass. Strike crystal and it rings like a bell. When it breaks, crystal makes a special noise, a sound like the end of music. The other day, we heard the end of a special elergy, the 24 notes of taps, when General Stanley McChrystal furled his flag.

McChrystal was no ordinary infantryman; he chose the road not taken. Rangers are a unique fraternity where only extraordinary warriors thrive. Those who rise to the top in any calling often walk a fine line between genius and eccentricity, soldiers are no exception. General McChrystal crossed the line more than once, but he never stepped on a land mine until Rolling Stone magazine came to do a “profile” at HQ Afghanistan.

The agent of McChrystal’s demise was an effete free lancer who looks and sounds like a prep school refugee. Lest anyone pretend the author of “The Runaway General” didn’t have an agenda, Michael Hastings coined the following journalistic axioms in an earlier piece for GQ:

"You pretend to be friendly and non-threatening. And over time you build trust, which everyone knows is an illusion. If the time comes, if your editors calls for it, you're supposed to f--k them (your subject) over."

Hastings was on special assignment for a magazine whose usual fare is sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Yet, like Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone has cultural pretensions. Those affectations were on full display in the McChrystal issue. Lady Gaga (sic) graces the cover; equipped with a bullet brassiere on full auto. Ms. Gaga is a performance artist whose cultural niche is defined by Madonna groupies.

Like Hefner, Wenner panders to a young and, by their own definition, hip demographic of readers under 30 years of age; although both publishers might charitably be described as priapic geriatrics, 84 and 64 years of age respectively. Like all purveyors of progressive culture, Wenner has trouble separating value and vulgar. And, to no one’s surprise, he consistently carries water for the left; as a Clintonista or, more recently, as an Obama contributor.

From any perspective, we have to assume that General McChrystal, and/or his staff, was aware of these things and the risks of having of an anti-war zealot in their midst. The key question to be answered is; who was using whom?

After Afghanistan, a maverick like McChrystal wasn’t going to be selected for a political job like Army Chief of Staff. Hard to picture McChrystal, like the incumbent George Casey, making the rounds of the Sunday gab shows reminding citizens that the feelings of Muslims were more important than the safety of soldiers massacred at Ft. Hood, Texas. And surely McChrystal wasn’t a candidate to follow Mike Mullen into the political swamp at the JCS. On the Pentagon’s E Ring, Mullen is better known for social issues, like gay “rights” for sailors, than he is for war fighting. There were no stars in McChrystal’s future either; he already had his four.

McChrystal is a country music fan; no doubt he’s familiar with Kristofferson’s iconic line: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” When McChrystal let the fox into the Afghan hen house, he knew which huevos were in play.

Before the Rolling Stone controversy, the friction between the “White House wimps” and the military brass was the worst kept secret in Washington. Yet the rift, from the beginning was cultivated by the president - and what can only be described as a cabal of divisive beltway toadies. From the start, Obama ignored the field commander, refused to define the enemy or describe the end game - or explain to the American public why Afghanistan “is a war of necessity.” The party line had three “soft” features; don’t use the word “war,” don’t mention Islam, and restrict descriptions of the bad guys to either Taliban or al Qaeda.

Shortly after the election, Obama put on his long pants and fired the previous ISAF commander in Afghanistan - and then dithered for months over troop deployments. Since then, the White House has been driving on a learner’s permit. In the past year and a half, the commander in chief has met the tactical commander on few occasions; McChrystal, in contrast, has met with Hamid Karzai, face to face, over 50 times during the same period. If McChrystal claims Obama is only “disengaged” on the subject of war: the general is being generous.

The hapless Senate majority leader, Harry Reid (D- Nevada), told America that the Iraq “war is lost,” just before the last American election. A newly elected Vice President followed up with very public carping at General McChrystal’s expense. If there were ever a toady who should be cashiered for loose lips; it’s Joe Biden (hereafter known as Joe “bite me” to troops in the field). Biden doesn’t just put his foot in his mouth; he doesn’t bother to remove his shoes after he steps in something. Biden’s advice on Iraq was to subdivide, i.e. three new states (sic), as if the UN didn’t have enough dysfunctional members.

“Team” Obama was augmented by Richard Holbrooke and Karl Eikenberry early on, both sent to Kabul, presumably, to make sure McChrystal walked the “soft power” walk. Unfortunately, neither Holbroke nor Eikenberry play well with other adults.

Holbrooke’s function in South Asia is a dark swan. He doesn’t seem to get along with anyone but himself. In the foggy world of diplomacy, androgyny, and cookie pushing; Holbrooke stands out. He is supposed to be a special envoy; but, his specialties might be limited to arrogance and petulance. Holbrooke, former Clintonista and incumbent Karzai basher, doesn’t play well with 3rd World leaders or allied military officers.

And Eikenberry’s performance isn’t too far removed from Holbrooke’s. Soon after arriving in Kabul, Ambassador Eikenberry started to “back channel” McChrystal, (i.e. send critical, uncomplimentary reports back to Washington). Indeed, Eikenberry pique seems to have been tweaked because a Brit, and not Eikenberry, was appointed “viceroy”; a slight he seems to lay at the feet of a Karzai/McChrystal conspiracy. Eikenberry was miscast by Rolling Stone as a martinet “stuck in 1985;” the year may be closer to 1895 and the Eikenberry character could have come straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan.

On the UN side of Kabul, the blue helmets were having a civil war of their own. Norway’s Kai Eide, and his American deputy, Peter Galbraith, had a transnational shoot out over the legitimacy of Hamid Karzai’s election in 2009. Galbraith got fired, Karzai got a second term, and Eide took the Quisling special back to Scandinavia. Eide was and remains an ardent fan of accommodation with the Taliban

These “team” players were supplemented by a gaggle of second guessers back in Washington with the president’s national security advisor, Jim Jones, on point. Jones’ most recent contribution to the clueless sweeps was a “greedy Jew” joke spliced into a speech that was supposed to underline American support of Israel. After 18 months in office, the commander in chief has traveled to several Arab, Turkish, and Muslim capitals, yet never to Israel. Mr. Obama’s Islamic globe trotting sends a message consistent with Jones’ taste in jokes. From the beginning, the former Marine commandant, like Joe Biden, also made loud noises that undermined or contradicted McChrystal’s strategy at the front.

So what’s a soldier to do when a president hand picks you to lead the charge in combat and then allows rear echelon cockroaches to eat your lunch? McChrystal did what any good guerrilla fighter would do; he let another insect carry a poison pill back to a dysfunctional nest. Indeed, General McChrystal performed one final service for his country; he used a press nitwit to expose a confederacy of national security dunces; using the prescribed “soft” tactics – things like toxic ridicule.

A cipher in all of this is Hilary; she comes off like the Cheshire cat; grinning from ear to ear while the Oval Office tries to put lipstick on another pig. Clinton has kept her distance; “give him (McChrystal) what he wants;” says she. If and when the Obama national security crowd self-destructs, Hilary can say “I told you so,” pick up the pieces, and do a pants suit rendition of what Bobby Kennedy did to Lyndon Johnson in 1968.

Any idea that McChrystal was insubordinate or threatened civilian authority is bravo sierra, as they say in the barracks. The general simply raised the blinds and let in some light. He even helped the young president to grow up a bit. On the day Obama let his field commander go, the president used the word “war” to describe the Afghan conflict. That’s progress! Obama then appointed a third field commander in 18 months; demoting the CENTCOM commander to replace McChrystal in Kabul.

And yes, the new guy is the old David Petraeus who, when serving in Iraq under George Bush, was vilified by the left, including then Senator Obama, as a liar and traitor. Indeed, the same news outlets that published those scurrilous George Soros ads, now celebrate the Petraeus choice as “inspired.” General “betray us” under a Republican has morphed into General “save us” under a Democrat. So much for politics stopping at the water’s edge.

So what’s the plan now? It appears the exit strategy for Iraq and Afghanistan is on schedule (according to Joe bite me) and Petraeus will be the happy face of at least one success even if it belongs to the previous administration. Yet, the president is still hostage to a campaign slogan, that “war of necessity.” Unfortunately, the Oval Office position is already flanked left and right. The incumbent does not want to carry any war, of choice or necessity, into the next presidential cycle. And the Cheshire cat just grins and waits.

All of which highlights the distinction between politics, Chicago style and principled soldiering, McChrystal style. Given a choice between sacrifice and survival, which road do men of character take? McChrystal has answered that question; he fell on his sword. Obama will get back to us in 13 months.

Stanley McChrystal may have furled his flag, but let’s hope he has not spiked his guns. In or out of Iraq and Afghanistan, the threat whose name we dare not speak will get worse before it gets better. When it does, real soldiers will need to strap on their irons again. Keep your powder dry, Stan.


A shorter version of this essay appeared in the 29 June 10 edition of American Thinker

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Applebaum; the buck stops with BP?

“Never confuse movement with action.” – Ernest Hemmingway

Frau Fraud

Almost every time you read an Applebaum column in the Washington Post, you will be reminded that the author is a conservative. Such clues are necessary because, unlike Charles Krauthammer, you would never know from reading Annie's copy. Applebaum is in danger of giving tokenism and affirmative action a bad name.

Indeed, Ms. Applebaum reads more like E.J. Dionne on a bad hair day. Take her recent contribution, "The oil spill isn't Obama's Katrina,"(Wash Post, 15 June) where she absolves the administration for the accident and its consequences. With such reasoning Ms. Applebaum qualifies for an "s--t (rhymes with twit) happens" tee shirt, or maybe a bumper sticker that reads; THE BUCK STOPS WITH BP.

More than a few facts are ignored or distorted in Ms. Applebaum’s argument. First, the accident wasn’t a spill; it was a blowout (aka leak). Second, Katrina was an "act of God," as lawyers are wont to say, and the blowout was man-made. Thirdly, if you give government, at any level, an excuse to do nothing - it will do nothing. A fourth feature of the problem, overlooked by Applebaum, is that federal restrictions in safe areas have pushed oil seekers to deeper waters where the hazards are greater.

Nonetheless, the Oval Office response to the Gulf disaster from the start was too little and way too late. The initial posture was "not our problem," and a storm of invective was hurled at the most visible industry culprit. In fact, there were several industries and a host of government culprits including the Minerals Management Service (MMS). When the MMS chief, Elizabeth Birnbaum, was fired; the President either did not know, or lied, about the firing to a room full of complicit journalists. If the government could do nothing, why fire the hapless Ms. Birnbaum?

Instead of marshaling every resource, foreign and domestic, to manage the damage, political and Press nitwits insisted on quibbling for two months about estimates of the "flow," as if they didn't know that precise flow could only be known once the flow was captured. Here we have a legitimate Katrina flashback. Remember those early Press casualty estimates; those 10,000 Katrina dead that never materialized?

The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a case study of a flawed model of governance. Like all liberal or socialist models, the internal contradictions are insurmountable. On the one hand, the statist argues for more government hands in every detail of life - until government fails; and then he blames everyone except the “managers” feeding at the public trough.

The knee jerk reaction of the Oval Office to the Gulf disaster was to point fingers and look backwards. Somehow, even after years in power, four if you count a Democrat Congress, the previous administration is still blamed for all of our ills. The "blame Bush" irredentism is a creepy echo of Communist era paranoia when totalitarian failures were laid at the feet of Imperialists and counter revolutionaries.

The excuse making of Ms. Applebaum and like minded apologists does nothing but resurrect all the original doubts about a politician who was thought to be a callow amateur; an inexperienced, empty suit with a good rap. The "community organizer" model is one that sees management as a public relations problem; i.e. you manage the crisis by controlling the spin.

The drilling embargo announced shortly after the blowout is illustrative. Before the explosion, the White House was for more drilling, after the accident, a moratorium was announced - natural disaster would now be compounded by economic suicide. Halting new drilling is like shooting the wounded. What's next, grounding every airline after the another crash?

Stephen Chu’s resume is another swirl in the spin cycle. The White House seeks to reassure a skeptical public by mentioning the Energy Secretary’s Nobel Prize at every opportunity. Mentioning Chu’s physics prize does nothing but illuminate his lack of experience as a crisis manager or drilling engineer. Dr. Chu’s prize is about as relevant to the Gulf problem as Mr. Obama’s prize was to world peace. Credentials may be necessary, but they are never sufficient.

Ms. Applebaum, like the White House, seems oblivious to the big picture; that is how to achieve energy independence and minimize risk. There are no risk free solutions and there are no silver bullets either; there are only painful trade offs. Most hobby horse technologies amount to expensive wishful thinking while proven solutions like nuclear power languish because of opposition from the left. The same “progressive” factions that oppose safe shallow water exploration and safe drilling on federal lands are also anti-nuclear.

So again the nation is in peril because politicians can not overcome ideological or obstructionist partisans. The true villains in the Gulf disaster are vacuums; a want of political leadership and a lack of legislative courage.

Anne Applebaum is correct about one thing; the Gulf oil blowout is not another hurricane; it's much worse by orders of magnitude. The White House and Congress are hurling charges about a "reckless" oil industry in the vain hope that nobody notices the public servants who continue to posture and dither at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

It is more dangerous to work on a drill rig or a deep sea fishing boat than it is to serve in combat. The risks and sacrifices of oil workers are seldom noted by politicians or industry critics. Death by fire is a horrible end.

Until the blowout, BP was one of the most successful companies of modern times. Would that public services of any sort be half as productive or competent. Big enterprises, like BP, create jobs and wealth; big government consumes wealth and often smothers enterprise. It is obscene for any politician to suggest that safety is not a constant concern of those who take the risks as a condition of their employment.

BP has lost half its market value since the accident; were governments to shrink comparably when they fail, taxpayers might be better served. The problem with our notion of “public servants” is that only half of the phrase is true.

Ms. Applebaum's brand of journalistic agnotology recently won a Pulitzer Prize, a tribute which should put to rest any doubts about her politics. Indeed, she and fellow laureate, Janet Cooke, now share the same pedestal and similar fantasies.


This article originally appeared in the 22 June 10 edition of Family Security Matters.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Those Troublesome Jews

Charles Krauthammer
Washington Post

Some truth for a change.

A timely tale (Wash Post, 4 June 10), well told, Charles. Little room for optimism left. I used to think of Israel as the canary in the coal mine, now the metaphor might be changed to sacrificial lamb. Unfortunately, Israel may be the price we pay for our next wake up call. Were I an American Jew, I would be nervous; were I an Israeli, I might think about putting my head between my legs and kissing my ass goodbye. For Israel's enemies, the next three years are the window of opportunity they have been anticipating for last 60 years. The next Holocaust may not be a "final solution," but the next attempt will surely be worse than the last.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Manly Women and Girly Men

“If a woman possesses manly virtues one should run away from her; and if she does not possess them she runs away from herself.” – Nietzsche

Have you noticed how many Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) types are showing up on the editorial pages and network chat shows these days? You can’t miss the girls; Nina Totenberg, Diane Rehm, Gwen Ifill, and Eleanor Clift. (Yes, Eleanor made her bones as a public pundit!) Most of them look, and sound, like refugees from a John Waters makeover in Baltimore - hair helmets and all.

Top dollar female commercial network anchors and correspondents, on the other hand, usually look and squeak like pole dancers (think Kelly or Norah O’Donnell); yet, when the need is for an acid tongue; the public bullpens at CPB or BBC are where the go-to gals hang out.

Katty Kay missed the network glam team by a decade or three, but she kept her stage name anyway. Kay is one of those unique triple-dippers; hands in two public pockets - and one shapely ankle dipped in commerce. She now sits to the left of ABC’s Chris Mathews on Sunday morning - should there be any lingering doubts about Ms. Kay’s politics. Truth is, you can not have a news panel or reality (pardon any redundancy) show in America today unless your team includes at least one bitchy or condescending representative of the British Commonwealth. Take a bow Simon!

Most of the public broadcasting chaps, by the same token, seem to look like Andrea Mitchell or Katie Couric. The look may be pant’s suit ambiguous, thanks to Hilary, but there’s nothing vague about fey politics; all the boys hail from left field.

Even token conservatives like Paul Gigot are well left of center. A token is any nominal conservative who has accepted a Pulitzer or pretends to provide the “balance” on a loaded panel. The men of CPB seem to take their cues from progressive stalwarts like Bill Moyers or Daniel Schorr. Moyers, you may recall, had retired, but CPB brought him back to cover the Obama Awakening.

Girly men were all over the fish wrap last month. First, there was the study suggesting that healthy (as in plump?) women prefer effeminate men. The study was mute on the preferences of skinny sensitive men; but, chubby chasing was not excluded. Christina Romer and Elena Kagan might need Secret Service protection.

The ‘girlie man’ study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, also concluded that countries with “poor hygiene” were more likely to tolerate polygamy. What happens when the natives in Arabia, South Asia, and Utah get this bulletin?

And then we saw Rupert Murdoch outing Arthur Sulzberger, the flamboyant editor of the New York Times, as a “poofter” on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Can you say Manhattan cat fight? What’s next; limp noodles at fifty paces?

Ever anxious to stay with the big boys, Fred Hiatt, editor at the Washington Post has been featuring the soft side of Agnotology in the wake of the Obamacare vote. Take Matt Miller’s piece, “The Republican Crack Up,” on 31 March. Now if you knew ahead of time that Mathew had a sinecure at a “progressive” think tank (Center for American Progress), a microphone at National Public Radio, and a column at the Post – you probably wouldn’t read the article, because it would be too predictable.

Nonetheless, his argument has four premises; the Republicans “lost big” (sic) on the healthcare issue, the “tax issue” is dead, Mitt Romney will be hoisted on the “Massachusetts” health care petard, and Obamacare brings “security that families crave”. Any, or all of these, sound like they might be White House talking points?

Miller’s soft spin ignores more than a few facts. To date, all the political losses have been Democrat; and a bi-partisan majority has consistently opposed Obamacare and the inevitable higher taxes. And who anointed Mitt Romney as the Republican heir apparent? And who argues that a particular state, especially uber liberal Massachusetts, is representative of America on any issue?

Miller also ignores the risky synergy of debt, deficits, recession, unemployment, “higher taxes,” and all of the uncertainties associated with yet another major federal program. Sanity is now the major domestic concern; “security” left the tent when another entitlements circus came to town. Withal, Miller puts words in the mouths of imaginary enemies and then proceeds to argue with himself as if no one will notice him begging (or buggering) the question.

Such reasoning might be dismissed as the untidy musings of a giddy progressive, but it seems that the author is a Brown University product. Indeed, a few clicks of the browser reveal that Mathew Miller has a web site devoted to himself. Ut ameris, amabilis esto!

Like their role models at BBC, American public radio and television newsrooms have long been an employer of first resort for “progressive” polemicists like Miller. Ironically, their commercial colleagues, already awash in partisan muck, are trying to save themselves by throwing a lifeline to the Left. Featuring more liberals, to save a sinking “mainstream,” is a little like bailing water into the boat.

Maybe it’s something in the water or maybe just a politically correct variant of narcissism, but the Left in America has become loopier and loopier over time. Ambiguity and hysteria appear to emanate from some fundamental confusion. Admission to the progressive club today seems to be predicated on some bizarre affirmative action criteria; a 25% set aside for women who want to be men, a 25 % set aside for men who want to be women and a 50% reserve for those who might not make either team.


The author is a recovering urban progressive who left the Bronx at an early age to get a job and become an adult. He also blogs at G. Murphy Donovan


About Me

The author is a native of the Bronx, a transplant to DC. He is a Vietnam veteran and former USAF Intelligence officer with tours at all of the major 3 button Intelligence agencies. He is a graduate of the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. School and Cardinal Hayes HS in NYC. He also has several degrees from less illustrious institutions. Check Six writes primarily at G. Murphy Donovan and Agnotology in Journalism. His work has appeared in various political, national security, and Intelligence journals.