Alas, after nearly three months of military deliberations, our commander in chief is finally coming out of the closet with his Afghan strategy. But is his plan based more upon politics than national security?
In September, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, requested 40,000 additional troops on top of the 68,000 already there. This increase would allow the military flexibility to deploy 15,000 forces to the Taliban stronghold in the south, 5,000 to the eastern border with Pakistan and 10,000 as trainers for Afghan security forces. The other 10,000 would be deployed across the country in various overt and covert operations.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen suggested a plan deploying roughly 30,000 more forces. Vice President Joe Biden advocated a plan of only 10,000 to 15,000 more. And President Obama appears to be landing on roughly 30,000 more troops (with hopefully 10,000 more from the 41-country international alliance).
And one of the big questions that keeps coming to our minds is: How is it that Obama fast-tracks borrowing, bailouts or Obamacare, but he’s slower than molasses when it comes to decisions like this one for the military, especially when he basically is returning to Gen. McChrystal’s three-month-old request?
Some answer that military decisions are more complicated – more life and death at stake – and warrant the delay. But I genuinely believe Obama’s nearly three-month delay reflects both his leadership deficiencies and a quandary that he cannot appease the left and simultaneously fulfill his campaign promise, “I will make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be.”
As I shared more than a year ago while Obama was still on the campaign trail, a professional leadership and personality profile was completed on him that revealed that he implodes when in jams that require quick or solo decisions under pressure. St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics in the Department of Psychology, did this test “for anticipating Obama’s likely leadership style as chief executive, thereby providing a basis for inferring the character and tenor of a prospective Obama presidency.” The study concluded:
The combination of Ambitious, Accommodating, and Outgoing patterns in Obama’s profile suggests a confident conciliator personality composite. Leaders with this personality prototype, though self-assured and ambitious, are characteristically gracious, considerate, and benevolent. They are energetic, charming, and agreeable, with a special knack for settling differences, favoring mediation and compromise over force or coercion as a strategy for resolving conflict. They are driven primarily by a need for achievement and also have strong affiliation needs, but a low need for power.
Did you catch the part, “favoring mediation and compromise over force or coercion as a strategy for resolving conflict”? An “accommodating agreeable conciliator favoring compromise” type of personality might be good for mending relations, conveying the warm fuzzies and closing a used-car deal, but it is absolutely not a positive trait for a commander in chief who must lead through emergency conflicts that often require unpopular actions. In times of war, a commander in chief often doesn’t have significant time to ponder and reflect, or such a delay will costs lives and impede progress, which is exactly the price we’ve paid over the past months. (But then again, what did those who elected him expect when the man has not spent a day in the military in his life?)
Long forgotten by most but a haunting reminder to me at the moment are the campaign-trail words of three leading Democrats. Obama’s own vice president, Joe Biden, said last year about the president’s preparation for office, “Right now I don’t believe he is [prepared]. The presidency isn’t something that lends itself to on-the-job training.” And before Obama was her party’s choice, Hillary Clinton repeatedly accused him of being an indecisive waffler. And even former president Bill Clinton dodged having to give an affirmative answer to an ABC correspondent, when asked if Obama was ready to be president, by saying, “You can argue that no one is ready to be president.”
The real problem here (at least for Obama) is that his final Afghan decision can’t be hidden behind closed doors, reserved for late-night Saturday meetings or delegated over to the Democrats in Congress (like the path of Obamacare). At the end of the day, what happens in Afghanistan rests on his shoulders.
Obama desperately needs an “accommodating agreeable conciliator favoring compromise” to please both right and left in this military matter, but he has struggled to find it. In the end, he has chosen a middle option in troop escalation to appease the right and a promise for a quick exit to appease the left. At least, that will be his pledge. Reality, however, is that it will take years (some say even generations) before the Afghan people are at a place for us to hand over security measures.
I understand that military strategy includes multifaceted complexities, especially in a place like Afghanistan. But is fulfilling the strategic request of the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, who understands the war better than anyone, really rocket science? Does Biden’s or Clinton’s input even measure on the meter to such mastery in the military? As I wrote more than a month ago, Obama should have provided immediate and complete compliance to our generals’ expert analysis and requests that is based upon the protection of our troops and the success of the mission. And provide them with better equipment, better trucks and more armor.
Obama’s military dithering and waffling has nearly caused me to drink. (And, trust me, it takes a lot to do that!) Does the present Washington regime really believe the best-laid plan is to send a message to our troops in Afghanistan and their families back home, “Have a Merry middle-of-the-road Christmas”? Is playing politics and compromising troop numbers the right choice when American lives and national security are on the line? You know we’ve come to the end of our rope when our president’s fear of the left (who oppose a troop surge) is greater than his passion to protect our troops.
President Obama, please quit trying to please everyone, help our troops on the ground overseas and complete this mission or get out of Dodge!
This much I know: We should either unleash the full potential of the U.S. military on Afghanistan to complete the mission as quickly as we can or pull out completely and bring our service men and women home to U.S. soil and their families.
Most tragically, the real aftermath of the White House delay has been a record number of U.S. casualties – the highest in the eight years of war: 44 in July, 51 in August, 37 in September, 59 in October and 17 more in November.
Monthly U.S. casualties in Afghanistan since 2001 (as of Nov. 27, 2009)
Chart by iCasualties
Is any political or military delay worth the death of one of those courageous warriors? Could all the corporate bailouts together value more than just one of those lives? No need to rush a decision? Are you kidding me?! Why haven’t the left and lamestream media been crying out over the past months against these war casualties the way we all did when Bush was in office?
I want to finish this column by putting flesh to these sacrifices by telling you about just one of those brave warriors, Staff Sgt. Matthew Pucino, whose family wrote me last week and shared with me about his sacrifice for our and others’ freedom, and that he will be laid to rest soon at Arlington cemetery. Here’s Staff Sgt. Pucino’s obituary and a photo the family sent me of him and me when I toured the Middle East to encourage our troops.
SSG Matthew Albert Pucino
10 Mar 1975 – 23 Nov 2009
SSG Pucino was a true patriot and hero. He was serving on his fourth combat tour when he was killed in action in Pasha Kala, Afghanistan. He had served in the Army since 2002. He joined in the aftermath of the 9/11. He was serving honorably with Co B. 2nd Battalion 20th Special Forces Group, Glen Arm, MD. He had previously served with 5th Special Forces Group. He served as engineer sergeant and an intelligence sergeant.
He was a graduate of Bishop Stang High School; he was also a graduate of Northeastern University with a BS in Criminal Justice. SSG Pucino also graduated from the Infantry School, Airborne School, Special Forces Assessment and Selection, Special Forces Engineer Sergeant Qualification Course, SERE Level C course (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape), and Special Forces Intelligence Sergeant Qualification Course.
SSG Pucino’s awards include Special Forces Tab, Parachutists Badge, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart and many other military awards.
Matthew was an outstanding professional soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country, but he is also remembered by his friends and family as a loyal brother and friend, who did love to joke around and have fun. He also loved to cook Italian food and will be remembered for his outstanding Veal Parmigiana.
He is survived by his parents, Albert and Kathryn Pucino, his sisters Lisa Haglof (Pucino) and Melissa Pucino, uncle to PFC Michael Pucino, Nicholas Haglof, Joshua Haglof and Katelyn Haglof.
Chuck Norris and Staff Sgt. Matthew Pucino
Let us all pray this Christmas season for the Pucino family, as well as the families of all the other fallen freedom fighters.
God help our president. God help the Afghan people. God help us. God especially help our troops.
(I highly recommend as Obama’s Afghan strategy is sent out and received by our military personnel that we all simultaneously send some form of encouragement to our troops, whether it’s participating in a Christmas care package for our troops through Give2TheTroops.com, the deadline for which is Dec. 5, or a word of encouragement by sending a free Christmas card via LetsSayThanks.com.)