Is the Obama White House filled with wimps like Vice President Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke?
That's apparently what Gen. Stanley McChrystal told Rolling Stone magazine, only to apologize today. Biden could be fairly described as loquacious. And Holbrooke, as bellicose. But wimpy? No way. Instead, it sounds as though McChrystal is doing more than simply venting. He's trying to dodge responsibility for the war and pin it on President Obama. His remarks thus crystallize, if you'll forgive the pun, the problem facing the Obama White House, which is that its Afghan surge appears to have failed before it even began.
The signs of failure are everywhere. A shyster Afghan president who's enriching his family rather than rebuilding his country. An American ambassador who believes that the war plan is doomed. And a scorching new report from Rep. John Tierney called "Warlord, Inc., Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan" which shows, as the Washington Post puts it today, that the "U.S. military is funding a massive protection racket in Afghanistan, indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars to warlords, corrupt public officials and the Taliban to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country..." And now the American General who's heading the effort is tearing down the commander-in-chief.
In Jonathan Alter's bestseller about the Obama administration The Promise, he describes how Obama agreed to the 30,000 troop surge on the condition that they start returning in July 2011 and that the Pentagon brass explicitly acknowledge that it had received everything it needed to prosecute the war successfully. So much for that acknowledgment.
The military is retreating on attacking Kandahar. Now McChrystal has handed Obama a crisis in relations with the military. McChrystal said Tuesday, "I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard."
The General is on the road to Canossa -- he's been ordered to return to Washington -- but will it be enough to smooth over relations with Obama? Obama doubtless feels betrayed by McChrystal. But perhaps he betrayed himself by signing on to the Afghan war in the first place.