June 23, 2011

"The president’s decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept."

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen testified today to the House Armed Services Committee.
“More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course... But that does not necessarily make it the best course. Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take. I believe he has done so....

"No commander ever wants to sacrifice fighting power in the middle of a war. And no decision to demand that sacrifice is ever without risk."

67 comments:

DADvocate said...

“More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course... But that does not necessarily make it the best course. Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take. I believe he has done so....

They must have a helluva damn good double talk program at Annapolis.

BarryD said...

The good general sounds like a prime candidate for the Nottap S. Egroeg Award!

(Not that I particularly like leaving American forces all over the world like we've been doing since at least the end of WW II.)

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)



Mullen didn‘t get to be an Admiral because he couldn’t play ball.

ndspinelli said...

I know Obama will get blasted from the hawks. It appears he is not micromanaging like LBJ, nor is he leaving it up to the generals ala W. He's somewhere in the middle and I can abide that.

NYTNewYorker said...

How did this meme that the democrat party can't handle military matters get started anyway?

BarryD said...

Hmmm... There's more to that, Joe. Maybe Libya ISN'T really a war, because where we're really at war, these aren't the characteristics we tend to value most in our generals.

Obama wins this round?

Hoosier Daddy said...

Country is in the very best of hands.

AST said...

Mullen: I don't know, Mr. President, what do YOU want to do?

How can I be a yes man when you don't tell me what to agree with?

ndspinelli said...

Is yelling "Allah akbar" in a crowded theatre playing Schindlers List protected speech or hate speech?

Lucius said...

Translation: "God, it's hard not to jerk off watching 'Seven Days in May' right now."

Fred4Pres said...

How diplomatic of him...I think. What exactly did he just say?

Wasn't Mullen also a big fan of Three Cups of Tea and Greg Mortenson?

traditionalguy said...

Is this a quote taken from McArthur in Korea?

Hagar said...

That's not double-talk; that's pretty straight-forward: "This is the President's show; I just work here."

jerryofva said...

Every hear of civilian control of the military? Mullen may not like it but until he retires he salutes and does his job. If you know how to read between the lines then you know he is calling a BS moment.

rhhardin said...

He's saying Obama is wrong but he's just paid staff so he doesn't get to say what the goal is and so is going along.

Obama is clued into what the reason for being there is, probably, and isshading things a little to favor his reelection.

DADvocate said...

That's not double-talk;...

He's avoiding saying what he really thinks. He should say it's the president's show, period. "safer course" "best course" "acceptable level of risk" all very ambiguous.

rhhardin said...

A starker interpretation from Belmont Club, the military knows Obama's decision is a disaster.

Godot said...

Mission accomplished!
_

rhhardin said...

I found the original strategic analysis essay from September 2003, which still applies

Three Conjectures.

Say where it's wrong.

It explains everything going on, except Obama's retreat, which would be explained separately as fecklessness. Nothing takes priority over an election.

JAL said...

Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take.

And how exactly does he do that?

How does someone who hates the military and all that it stands for determine what the risk is? He has zip zero nada sense of what war, kinectic encounters or whatever involve.

While it's true that the CIC makes the final call, I am puzzled that he has the ability / smarts / experience to evaluate "acceptable risk."

If Mullen (who was on with Charlie Rose last week or so, I believe) had just said: "The President / Commander in Chief, in the end, makes the call."

edutcher said...

Where's Douglas MacArthur when you need him?

traditionalguy said...

Is this a quote taken from McArthur in Korea?

What MacArthur said is, "In war, there can be no substitute for victory".

What he told Roosevelt was even better.

WV "skeerie" (no kidding) Anytime a POTUS takes his advice from Joe Biden.

Lance said...

No commander ever wants to sacrifice fighting power in the middle of a war. And no decision to demand that sacrifice is ever without risk.

When did any President ever ask the armed forces to sacrifice fighting power in the middle of a war? Other than Vietnam, that is?

It's true that the armed forces have pretty much always wanted more fighting power than was available. But this is different: the force is available, it's just being withheld.

Zach said...

Obama's getting thrown under the bus here. Mullen says several times that this is not his preferred action and not what he recommended, but that Obama made the final decision.

How often do people who believe they're doing the right thing repeatedly go on the record to emphasize that they recommended something else?

Roger J. said...

my thought w/respect to CJCS. If you diagree with the decision you incur the responsibility to resign and then take your case public. ADM Tom Moorer during LBJ's admin did not do that--he went along, got his 4 star bennies and then said he disagreed with it all along--but he didnt have the courage to resign. Hard to give up the bennies a four star has. Must be a navy thing.

Jeremy said...

Your hero agrees with the President...

WASHINGTON -- "Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told members of Congress Thursday that he backs President Barack Obama's plan to withdraw troops from the war, although it was a more "aggressive" drawdown than the military had advocated."

Roger J. said...

Gen Patraeus' statement would have been fine if he left off the last clause.

Jeremy said...

"Gen. Petraeus presented the president with a range of options for pursuing this drawdown," said the official.

"There were certainly options that went beyond what the president settled on in terms of the length of time that it would take to recover the surge and the pace that troops would come out -- so there were options that would have kept troops in Afghanistan longer at a higher number. That said, the president's decision was fully within the range of options that were presented to him and has the full support of his national security team."

LarsPorsena said...

"..They must have a helluva damn good double talk program at Annapolis."

What would you expect from an admiral in charge of a war in a land-locked country?

Roger J. said...

To Jeremy's point, less the "your hero" crap: Both Mullen and Patreus caveated their statements--not good. The advice they give the CINC should not be subject to word games--they either fully support or if they disagree resign and take their case public--both chose the middle ground.

Jeremy said...

Roger J. - When Petraeus was saying what you and others wanted to hear, he was indeed your "hero."

Now...when he evidently agrees with the President...well, it's a different story.

Roger J. said...

Jeremy: you have no idea what I think. go fuck yourself. you remain an ignorant pissant devoid of any intelligence.

Zach said...

That said, the president's decision was fully within the range of options that were presented to him and has the full support of his national security team.

This sounds like doom.

Kissinger always complained that if you asked for three options, they would come in
1) Surrender
2) Nuclear War
3) The State Department's preferred policy.

Emphasizing that the president's decision was fully within the range of options presented to him sounds like he chose option 1.

The Drill SGT said...

Lance said...
It's true that the armed forces have pretty much always wanted more fighting power than was available. But this is different: the force is available, it's just being withheld.


Clinton and Aspin would not send tanks to Mogadishu, that where requested by the field commander and the CJCS Powell.

"Too provocative"

Gen Powell, Roger J and I of course all know that is exactly the purpose: to intimidate. Nothing looks more unstoppable that 60 tons of cold rolled steel thundering down a street....

Penny said...

"How did this meme that the democrat party can't handle military matters get started anyway?"

Don't confuse the democrat party with a democratic president.

Penny said...

"..both chose the middle ground."

Last I looked, there still IS a middle ground.

Nice for all of us to walk it now and again.

Roger J. said...

Penny--I think you missed my point--it has to do with supporting the commander in chief--what Mullen and Patraeus have done is to caveat their support--thats a big no no in my book. It was their middle ground, not the president's

Mr Obama has made his decision--their role is to support unequivocally and they failed.

The Drill SGT said...

NYTNewYorker said...
How did this meme that the democrat party can't handle military matters get started anyway?


perhaps:
Johnson
Church
McCarthy
McGovern
Carter
Clinton
Dukakis
Kerry
Aspin
O'bama

and a few more

Truman, the Last Dem who knew without a doubt how to be the CiC

The Drill SGT said...

Roger J. said...
Mr Obama has made his decision--their role is to support unequivocally and they failed.


support unequivocally in public or walk....

Roger J. said...

Drill--I gues the military I knew has faded--this was one of the first lessons I learned. Sad indeed. But those 4 star bennies are awfully hard to give up

dbp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger J. said...

dbp: I think that was mine, and drill's point--I may have made my point inartfully, but I am full agreement with your restatement

dbp said...

what Mullen and Patraeus have done is to caveat their support--thats a big no no in my book. It was their middle ground, not the president's

Mr Obama has made his decision--their role is to support unequivocally and they failed.


I have to disagree: If the policy truly is disastrous then resign and rail against the policy. If the policy is really bad, then I think it is fine to "support" it less than wholeheartedly. It makes sense to not be so against it that the president is forced to fire you since resigning always looks better than being fired.

PETER V. BELLA said...

Translation of that:

He gave an order. I said yes sir.

dbp said...

Sorry, I messed up the give-and-take by noticing a spelling error just after making my first comment...

Roger J. said...

The overarching issue is civilian control of the military. Period

edutcher said...

And just so we all realize how "involved" Little Zero is when it comes to our troops, consider the fact that he can't tell the dead ones from the lives ones.

Roger J. said...

The two presidents who have best understood their roles of commander in chief are Abraham Lincoln who stacked up a lot of generals until he found Grant and Sherman, and Harry Truman who fired the meglomanical Douglas MacArthur. That is civilian control of the military.

The Drill SGT said...

dbp said...
I think it is fine to "support" it less than wholeheartedly. It makes sense to not be so against it that the president is forced to fire you since resigning always looks better than being fired.


dbp, I doubt that your served as an officer...

The approach you advocate is naked insubordination.

In the military, one should always speak clearly and bluntly to the boss during the planning stages if opinions are solicted, to do less is failing your duty, but once the decision has been made then the course of action (COA), then your only duty is to salute and make that COA succeed or ask to be relieved...

AllenS said...

edutcher,

My guess would be that obama was just reading what someone had wrote for him. obama doesn't have a fucking clue.

Phil 3:14 said...

Peter said:

He gave an order. I said yes sir.

Exactly

rhhardin said...

If the House asks for the guy's judgment, he should give it, military guy or not.

Otherwise there's no expert opinion available to the legislature on which to decide about funding for example.

Skyler said...

I agree with the Drill Sgt.

This public disagreement is unprofessional. If they are going to disagree, they should resign. It serves no one's interests to have general and flag officers who are not supporters of the plan.

I have no respect for an officer who will, when choosing between what he believes is right and what he must do for his career, decides to protect his career.

There are too many Marines and Soldiers that have paid a much more horrible price for me to give a hoot about the careers of men who already have four stars.

I hope the characterization shown here is in error because I would hate to think that my military leaders are such moral cowards.

Penny said...

What if the President said something like this..

"I heard all the arguments, and now I need to make a decision. We're going to move forward doing "X". Granted the timetable may be more aggressive than you wanted, but does anyone think this will be a catastrophic mistake?"

No one does, whereupon the President says, "Look, if you want to talk about how my timetable is more aggressive than yours, I have no problem with that. We have different roles here, and I appreciate yours as long as you understand that my role goes beyond military considerations."

The Drill SGT said...

another nuance that civilians may not grasp.

Let's say you get an order that you think is dumber that $h_t, and you are in combat. Perhaps it doesn't rise to the level of deadly stupidity so you don't feel you need to ask to be relieved and you have pushed back in private to the boss...

You not only, do everything you can to make the course of action work, what you don't do is let your subordinates think that it comes from the boss and it's dumber that $h-t. You make sure they know it has your full support.

such are the tenets of combat leadership....unity of command...

serfer1962 said...

Generals are politicans...the're not gonna get shot so why not pad the nest

edutcher said...

Roger J. said...

The two presidents who have best understood their roles of commander in chief are Abraham Lincoln who stacked up a lot of generals until he found Grant and Sherman, and Harry Truman who fired the meglomanical Douglas MacArthur. That is civilian control of the military.

The "MacArthur was a megalomaniac" is pure Lefty propaganda. To be sure, Truman was within his rights firing MacArthur for insubordination, but MacArthur's real crime in the eyes of the Lefties was wanting to beat the Communists.

It was never that well-known, but MacArthur would submit his battle plans to Truman who would turn them over to the UN, knowing that the Russians would see them and warn their pals, the Norks and the Red Chinese.

One reason Inchon worked is that MacArthur didn't tell Truman about it.

dbp said...

I think that certainly at the level I served, (Staff Sargent USMC)what The Drill SGT and others have said is true.

At the level where you have four stars, things are a bit different. A general officer needs a middle ground between pretending to agree with foolishness and resigning. Otherwise, we end up with with both stupidity AND only worthless generals (the ones who don't resign out of either stupidity or higher concern for career than country). That middle ground includes making it clear that the path taken is not what was advised AND that as long as you wear the uniform, lawful orders will be obeyed.

The Drill SGT said...

edutcher said...It was never that well-known, but MacArthur would submit his battle plans to Truman who would turn them over to the UN, knowing that the Russians would see them and warn their pals, the Norks and the Red Chinese.

One reason Inchon worked is that MacArthur didn't tell Truman about it.


The second point is clearly not accurate. MacArthur had to get Truman's ok along with the JCS before he could get the assets for Incheon. The simple proof is the Aug 23, 1950 decision brief conducted by MacArthur in Tokyo for the Army Chief, the Navy Chief and the USAF Deputy Chief.

On the first point, I think that is false as well. Former Colonel Truman knew the Soviets were the enemy. He'd already dispatched US troops to fight Greek communists in 47 as well as committed to feeding Berlin. The US didnt give squat to the UN in terms of plans...

Skyler said...

DBP,

What you say is reasonable, but you should add one important point. If they are going to stay in their offices and support the plan, then they should shut up about it. These comments do nothing but undermine their commander in chief's decision, and they know it.

So now I know that I'm in a war zone with Afghans pointing guns at me, and I know that the highest levels of leadership in the military have told the president that his plans are not the best.

Thanks, it makes me feel so good.

So, as we begin discussing how to implement this new plan, I know that it's not a good one already. Should I emulate my leaders by telling my Marines that the plan is dumb but we're going to do it anyway?

You know what happens if you tell the squad leader that? He figures out a way to make sure no one gets hurt at the cost of accomplishing the mission. That is, if you tell him, "Take that machine gun nest" and by the way no one thinks it's important, then he will do a half-hearted effort to make a show of looking like he made a reasonable attempt to take the machine gun nest.

If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna. Don't tell people that Vienna is too hard but we're going to try anyway.

Big Mike said...

If things are going our way, as the president claims is the rationale for the draw-down, then isn't that all the more reason to keep maximum pressure on the enemy?

This decision is right out of LBJ's playbook. Never do enough to win, just do enough to get people killed for no reason. Professor, perhaps you can add an "Obama is like LBJ" tag?

edutcher said...

The Drill SGT said...

edutcher said...It was never that well-known, but MacArthur would submit his battle plans to Truman who would turn them over to the UN, knowing that the Russians would see them and warn their pals, the Norks and the Red Chinese.

One reason Inchon worked is that MacArthur didn't tell Truman about it.


The second point is clearly not accurate. MacArthur had to get Truman's ok along with the JCS before he could get the assets for Incheon. The simple proof is the Aug 23, 1950 decision brief conducted by MacArthur in Tokyo for the Army Chief, the Navy Chief and the USAF Deputy Chief.

On the first point, I think that is false as well. Former Colonel Truman knew the Soviets were the enemy. He'd already dispatched US troops to fight Greek communists in 47 as well as committed to feeding Berlin. The US didnt give squat to the UN in terms of plans...


Have to disagree, sir. As I understand it, Truman was obliged, as it was a UN war, to inform the UN of its battlefield commander's plans. Regarding Inchon, you appear to be correct, but I recall some element of the story that MacArthur withheld some point that was pivotal to its success. If I can dig it up, I'll pass it along.

As to the first point, I've heard it enough times - beginning with the head of my history department in school (and someone whose opinion I trust) - to feel secure on that point.

I understand where you're coming from and understand how command structure works. Not debating that, merely saying that this UN war was a strange hybrid. As I say, the "MacArthur was a nut" line is a standard Lefty dodge. This was a time when what the Left calls the Red Scare was no scare, but a very real threat.

William said...

It's a curious choice of words to say the President's decisions are aggressive when they are exactly the opposite. A glorious charge to the rear......In his campaign, Obama ran on the platform that Afghanistan was the crucial war, and Iraq was the distraction. He seems to be backing off that particular insight.....I'm confused about Libya and Afghanistan, and so are most people. Unfortunately that includes Obama, and it shows. He doesn't have to actually have righteous principles, but it would help if he could hum a few bars. No AQ or Taliban will ever give up because of Obama's relentless determination.

The Drill SGT said...

William said...
No AQ or Taliban will ever give up because of Obama's relentless determination.



LOL, let there not be a JFK tag, evah:Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

William said...

At the time, the liberal criticism of Rhee in Korea and Chiang on Taiwan was that they were corrupt and fascist leaders. Lippimann and other pundits felt that such despots did not deserve American support. You can fairly argue that these men were nothing special, but history has shown that they were better than the alternative.....Karzai is in the process of being discredited, and, for sure, he is no bucket of ice cream. However, he does not believe in throwing acid into the faces of women teachers. For all his manifest flaws, he is better than the Taliban.....I don't know whether Afghanistan is worth another American death, but I'm sure that there are many women there who would think so.

junyo said...

What you say is reasonable, but you should add one important point. If they are going to stay in their offices and support the plan, then they should shut up about it. These comments do nothing but undermine their commander in chief's decision, and they know it.

So now I know that I'm in a war zone with Afghans pointing guns at me, and I know that the highest levels of leadership in the military have told the president that his plans are not the best.


At the levels of Petraeus and Mullen, their audience isn't just the troops and Congress, it's the public, the enemy, their potential new bosses, and more importantly Obama himself. This is how you manage your boss; by letting him know that the military and the intelligence branches won't take the heat if this goes badly (and if they hadn't put it out in public, any claim later would have just looked like CYA) without quitting (which would have put him directly on point) they've actually given him a path out. He can climb down off this later, because they all can claim "we always had a range of options on the table and once the situation changed we acted accordingly". A protest resignation makes you feel better, but it also means you can't manage the situation anymore and makes it nearly impossible for the boss to reverse course w/o losing a massive amount of face.

BJM said...

Look for the backbone of the military; four and five stripers to hit the exits in disgust, as they are doing en mass in the UK.

ken in sc said...

Truman was an elected National Guard officer during WWI, which was the practice at the time. However, I am pretty sure he was not a Colonel. He was the last president, that I know of who did not have a college degree. He is the first president that I remember. I saw him in the news-reels at the movies.