Chain of Command

by Brien Jackson

This simply can’t be tolerated:

CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn’t convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.

 

Obama’s decision to override Petraeus’s recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.

A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama’s decision.

I don’t know the specifics here, and insomuch as Gates has agreed with the 16 month timeframe before, I’m sure there’s something to it the article doesn’t mention, but as far as the military’s attempt to undermine Obama goes, he needs to remind them what the chain of command is. Bill Clinton let himself get rolled by the military’s political apparatus, and it was one of his most embarrassing early defeats. Obama should put his foot down on this quickly, and someone needs to be tendering their resignation this week.

In truth, there’s something to be said for taking a scalp even if th report isn’t true. Clinton’s problem, early on, was that he was neither a particularly popular nor credible new President. Indeed, Colin Powell was a much more popular national figure than Clinton in 1993. Obama doesn’t have that problem, as he’s arguably the most popular public figure in a generation or more in the United States, and a solid majority of the public agrees with him on Iraq. To that end, Obama should demand the resignation of a high ranking military official (I prefer Mullen myself) as a demonstration of his political heft and lack of patience with uniformed stonewalling.

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