Hiding Behind Synonyms: Obama Begins Campaign to Throw Gen. McChrystal Under the Bus

Posted by Erick Erickson

If they had gone to the New York Times, the nation would see it as just another example of the Gray Lady’s unrepentant sixties bra burning hysteria against war. Instead, the Obama administration has gone to the Washington Post to begin the process of getting rid of their troublesome General who dares to think winning in Afghanistan is possible.

To understand why and how, we must refer to Jonah Goldberg and his important work Liberal Fascism. This book is necessary reading to understand the goings on of the Obama White House.

“Inspired by ideas like those in William James’s famous essay “The Moral Equivalent of War,” militarism seemed to provide a workable and sensible model for achieving desirable ends. Mussolini, who openly admired and invoked James, used this logic for his famous “Battle of the Grains” and other sweeping social initiatives. Such ideas had an immense following in the United States, with many leading progressives championing the use of “industrial armies” to create the ideal workers’ democracy.” (Goldberg, p. 5-6)

Obama is a product of the left and the left, as Goldberg notes, has taken the idea of the moral equivalence of war and run with it through social policy. In a column last year on the “War for the Environment”, Goldberg noted,

Ever since philosopher William James coined the phrase “moral equivalent of war,” self-described progressives have sought to galvanize the masses for collective purposes. They have loved the idea of war-without-war precisely because they want a public that follows in lockstep and individuals who will sacrifice their personal ambitions for the “greater good.” This is what John Dewey, James’s disciple, called the “social benefits of war.” Dewey, later a famous pacifist, supported WWI because he believed it would usher in an age of collectivism and crush laissez-faire capitalism.

Thus we find ourselves staring in the face of military defeat in Afghanistan, which will lead to a cascading series of events up to and including a collapsed Pakistan followed by an Islamofascist war against India run out of Islamabad.

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That we are headed in this direction is all laid out in the Washington Post. E. J. Dionne’s column this morning provides the foundation for Obama’s capitulation in Afghanistan. This is the proverbial “trial balloon.”

At a White House dinner with a group of historians at the beginning of the summer, Robert Dallek, a shrewd student of both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, offered a chilling comment to President Obama.

“In my judgment,” he recalls saying, “war kills off great reform movements.” The American record is pretty clear: World War I brought the Progressive Era to a close. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was waging World War II, he was candid in saying that “Dr. New Deal” had given way to “Dr. Win the War.” Korea ended Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, and Vietnam brought Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society to an abrupt halt.

Dallek is not a pacifist, and he does not pretend that his observation settles the question against war in every case. Of the four he mentioned, I think World War II and Korea were certainly necessary fights.

But Dallek’s point helps explain why Obama is right to have grave qualms about an extended commitment of many more American troops to Afghanistan. Obama was elected not to escalate a war but to end one. The change and hope he promised did not involve a vast new campaign to transform Afghanistan.

In Dallek and Dionne’s minds, and no doubt Obama’s mind, the real war is in danger of sabotaging the metaphorical wars of moral equivalence that Obama would rather be fighting. Dionne goes on to rain on General McChrystal’s parade.

In his recent report to the president, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, noted repeatedly that the effort there had been “under-resourced.” It sure would have been nice if we had settled Afghanistan before beating the drums of war in Iraq.

It’s also enraging that those who insist on offsetting every penny spent to expand health coverage would never ask the Congressional Budget Office to score the costs of McChrystal’s strategy. For the uninsured, they propose fiscal prudence. For war, they offer profligacy.

Note that “profligacy” means a “wasteful use of resources.” Dionne cannot yet say we are “wasting” our time in Afghanistan because the White House has not made the case yet. Dionne instead hides behind synonyms, but, like Obama, uses words with purpose.

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Because we are wasting our time in Afghanistan, we cannot waste our resources on health care, global warming, etc. Each liberal issue is more important than our national security. The shift away from Afghanistan must happen. Dionne is signaling that it will happen. He is floating, in this trial balloon, the idea that we are wasting our time in Afghanistan and that we should be prepared to treat all wars on the same budgetary footing — especially morally equivalent wars that are, to the left, of even greater importance.

For this to happen, the White House must undermine popular General Petraeus and paint General McChrystal as insubordinate and out of control.

The White House is already starting the machine.

First, they are ignoring Petraeus. Second, they are out to get McChyrstal.

National security adviser James L. Jones suggested Sunday that the public campaign being conducted by the U.S. commander in Afghanistan on behalf of his war strategy is complicating the internal White House review underway, saying that “it is better for military advice to come up through the chain of command.”

Never mind that advice cannot go through the chain of command when the chain puts ear muffs on. Why the ear muffs? Because Joe Biden wants a different policy.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who commands the 100,000 U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, warned bluntly last week in a London speech that a strategy for defeating the Taliban that is narrower than the one he is advocating would be ineffective and “short-sighted.” The comments effectively rejected a policy option that senior White House officials, including Vice President Biden, are considering nearly eight years after the U.S. invasion.

Remember, it was less than two years ago that the left was criticizing George Bush for ignoring the advice of his commanders.

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Now the circle begins to complete itself. The War in Afghanistan is a distraction from morally equivalent wars. E. J. Dionne writes a column saying as much and pointing out the costs of the war are ignored when the costs of health care are not. The White House begins throwing McChrystal under the bus. Once McChrystal goes, the war can be declared unwinnable by a more compliant General. Resources can be pulled. Obama can explain the War on Health Care is winnable and more important.

Prediction: The media will begin a detailed examination of the Soviet Union’s losses in Afghanistan and will wholly ignore the fragile state of Pakistan’s government and the fact that we were fighting the Soviets by proxy in Afghanistan.

Why would they ignore that? Because (A) they will have to make the case that no one is using Afghanistan to fight us by proxy or (B) if they did (A) they would then have to identify who is fighting us by proxy, which would raise too many questions Obama and the media protecting him would rather ignore.

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