Calvin Freiburger

Apparently Nobody on the White House National Security Team Takes Meeting Minutes

Posted on December 8 2009 5:00 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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For those of us concerned about President Barack Obama’s seriousness in prosecuting the War in Afghanistan, last night Sean Hannity offered a brand new cause for doubt – and it’s a doozy:

Video: Sean Hannity, 12/7/09

Hannity highlighted a Washington Post report recounting a jaw-dropping set of White House meetings with General Stanley McChrystal:

In June, McChrystal noted, he had arrived in Afghanistan and set about fulfilling his assignment. His lean face, hovering on the screen at the end of the table, was replaced by a mission statement on a slide: “Defeat the Taliban. Secure the Population.”  “Is that really what you think your mission is?” one of those in the Situation Room asked.

On the face of it, it was impossible — the Taliban were part of the fabric of the Pashtun belt of southern Afghanistan, culturally if not ideologically supported by a significant part of the population. “We don’t need to do that,” Gates said, according to a participant. “That’s an open-ended, forever commitment.”  But that was precisely his mission, McChrystal responded, and it was enshrined in the Strategic Implementation Plan — the execution orders for the March strategy, written by the NSC staff […]

“It was clear that Stan took a very literal interpretation of the intent” of the NSC document, said Jones, who had signed the orders himself. “I’m not sure that in his position I wouldn’t have done the same thing, as a military commander.” But what McChrystal created in his assessment “was obviously something much bigger and more longer-lasting . . . than we had intended.”

Whatever the administration might have said in March, officials explained to McChrystal, it now wanted something less absolute: to reverse the Taliban’s momentum, deter it and try to persuade a significant number of its members to switch sides. “We certainly want them not to be able to overthrow the government,” Jones said.

On Oct. 9, after awaking to the news that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama listened to McChrystal’s presentation. The “mission” slide included the same words: “Defeat the Taliban.” But a red box had been added beside it saying that the mission was being redefined, Jones said. Another participant recalled that the word “degrade” had been proposed to replace “defeat.”

Already briefed on the previous day’s discussion, the president “looked at it and said: ‘To be fair, this is what we told the commander to do. Now, the question is, have we directed him to do more than what is realistic? Should there be a sharpening . . . a refinement?'” one participant recalled.  Said a senior White House adviser who took extensive notes of the meeting: “The big moment when the mission became a narrower one was when we realized we’re not going to kill every last member of the Taliban.” [Emphasis added.]

Good Lord, where to begin?  That the Administration gave the mission commander orders it either never really believed in or didn’t bother to think through carefully?  That the man who signed the orders apparently did so with the expectation they wouldn’t be carried out “literally”?  Or maybe the suggestion that “defeating” an enemy means killing “every last member” of it, anything short of which is failure?  I’ll be that’s a new one among military historians.

Allahpundit thinks this farce is the natural result of how few times the commander-in-chief has bothered to meet with McChrystal, and is indicative of Obama’s lack of interest in foreign policy in favor of his real passions like health care.  Whatever the cause of this insanity, it once again demonstrates the deadly folly of expecting liberals to competently defend the nation.  President Obama should let Senator John McCain (R-AZ) give him a refresher course:

The rationale for war is to break the enemy’s will. That’s the whole rationale for war.  Do you break the enemy’s will by saying, “We’re going to be there,” or send a message we’re going to be there for a year and a half or so and then we’re going to begin to leave, no matter what the circumstances are?  Or do you tell them, “We’re going to win and we’re going to break your will, and then we’re going to leave”?


Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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