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You Are Here: Home » Dossiers and more » The removal of McChrystal: In line with the Obama doctrine?

By John Schneider

Special to CSMS Magazine

The removal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the US commander in Afghanistan, although endorsed by political pundits and politicians on both sides of the isle, could merely be a simple affair of political correctness. It’s true that the general had crossed the line of military discipline, but his swift removal reflects the growing frustration from a wartime president whose war is going from bad to worse daily. For sometimes, McChrystal’s counterinsurgency methods have been the subject of heavy criticisms for failing to subdue the Taliban-led guerrilla forces that control large chunks of territories in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

This assertion seems true, and one needs to just read what the media have been reporting on McChrystal replacement, General David Petraeus. Media reports confirm that Petraeus is ready to bring modification to the rule of engagement, and many fear this will certainly swell the number of civilian casualties in the coming months. New York Times, for instance, suggested that McChrystal went on a collision course with the Obama doctrine, picturing the general as an overly concerned military leader too close to the puppet regime of Kabul.

Critics believe one of the reasons that explain McChrystal’s disillusion with the Obama administration was that he was forced to put off his dream plan to launch a final offensive into the heart of the Pashtun territory, especially the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. At least, that was what was reported in the British newspaper, Independent.       

According to the Independent, McChrystal has made some strategic blunders in the months leading up to his removal. Among them was his briefing before NATO defense ministers in early June, when he warned them not to expect any progress in the next six months. The Independent continues, “It was this briefing, according to informed sources, as much as the Rolling Stone article, which convinced Mr. Obama to move against” McChrystal. The general was judged to be ‘off message’ in his warning to ministers not to expect quick results and that they were facing a ‘resilient and growing insurgency.’”

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed in more than nine years of warfare, the longest single military engagement in American history. US air strikes have hit wedding celebrations, family outings, even funeral ceremonies.

Thousands of Afghans have been seized and detained and tortured at the infamous Bagram prison camp and at other such facilities throughout the country. US Predator missiles have been fired from drone aircraft at villages on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, with hundreds, probably thousands, dead. And General McChrystal is a sift man?

The truth is that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. Just yesterday, suicide attackers stormed a four-story house used by an American aid organization in north Afghanistan, killing four people before being killed in a fierce, five-hour gun battle with Afghan security forces.

The scene of this latest incident was the northern town of Kunduz. Around 3 o’clock in the morning, a suicide car bomber launched a brazen attack, blowing a hole in the wall around a building used by Development Alternatives Inc., a global consulting company based in the Washington, D.C., area on contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. The company is working on governance and community development issues in the area.

Military observers in Afghanistan fear this pre-dawn attack may have been part of a militant campaign orchestrated by the Taliban against international development organizations at a time when the U.S. and its allies are trying to accelerate civilian aid efforts in order to stave off the insurgency’s growing influence over the population. The attack coincides with the arrival of Gen. David Petraeus, who landed in the Afghan capital to take command of U.S. and international forces fighting the nearly 9-year-old war. Petraeus was reportedly detoured into Brussels on his way to Afghanistan, where he sought to reassure allies that the war was perfectly on track despite rising casualties and problems regaining control over key parts of the country.

Interpreting the Obama doctrine

While waging war with an unforeseen fury, one must be reminded that, back in December, Barack Obama was the recipient of the most prestigious award for peace: The Nobel Peace Prize. To the shocking of all, the Nobel Peace Prize winner used his peace platform to remind the world that world peace has always been an elusive dream and sometimes waging war is holy necessary “as a legitimate means of pursuing national interests.” In what went down into history as the most bellicose Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech ever, the president was blunt in his message. “Evil does exist in the world….The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more then six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms….So yes, the instrument of war does have a role to play in preserving peace.”

So waging war to achieve peace is the cornerstone of the Obama doctrine, but since real peace will forever remain elusive, winnable wars will not necessarily guarantee genuine peace. It will be, as it has always been: Victor’s justice or injustice, depending on the side that is judging it.   However, in geostrategic and political matters, using military might is quintessential and fundamentally justifiable, Obama suggested.

It wasn’t pure political naivety that prompted the Christian Science Monitor to state that “liberal and conservative pundits both approve Obama’s Nobel Peace speech. They like his humility and his realism.” And Newt Gingrich was quite agreeable. “I thought the speech was actually very good,” he said on WNYC radio’s The Takeaway. This was a rare praise by neoconservatives like Gingrich, who consume nothing but a gross disdain for the commander-in-chief. This has also shown that Barack Obama has come a long way from where he stood on the campaign trail and from where he made himself a champion of the antiwar war movement.

But Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow of the Council of Foreign Relations, has summed up the speech in these terms: “He is winding down one war [Iraq], escalating a second, and stepping up the pressure on Iran. He is asserting America’s sovereign right to unilateral action in self defense while expressing the hope that these rights will not need to be exercised.” And Mead went on to say that “if Bush had said these things, the world would be filled with violent denunciations. When Obama says them, people purr. That’s fine with me.”

As a conformist politician, of course, president Obama clearly understands his role as president of the United States, specifically with regards with foreign policy matters, and his role CANNOT be different from that of his predecessors.

Note:  John Schneider is a senior fellow of Center for Strategic and Multicultural Studies. He lives and works in suburban Atlanta. Also see


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