March 20, 2017

Obama had a "tendency... to micromanage issues better left to military commanders."

According to the NYT, which recognizes Trump's return to what is the better approach.
The change is at the heart of a re-engineering of the National Security Council’s role under its new leader, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, and reflects Mr. Trump’s belief that the N.S.C. should focus less on military operations and tactics and more on strategic issues. A guiding precept for the president and his team is that the balance of power in the world has shifted against American interests, and that General McMaster should focus on developing foreign and economic policy options in concert with the Pentagon, State Department and other agencies to respond to that challenge....

“In defense of the Obama administration, every single time we went to the president and asked for something more, we eventually got it, though we often had to jump through a lot of hoops,” said Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger who held a senior position at the Defense Department under Mr. Obama. “The episode that took the cake was toward the end of the administration, when we literally had cabinet secretaries debating the movement of three helicopters from Iraq to Syria.”

58 comments:

Derek Kite said...

I guess they don't teach history at whatever school Obama went to.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

“The episode that took the cake was toward the end of the administration, when we literally had cabinet secretaries debating the movement of three helicopters from Iraq to Syria.”

Which is why nothing positive was getting done. Politicians have a tendency to see everything through a political perspective. Which is only natural, but when the political life is the only experience they have had, then you end up with situations such as this.

That's Trump's advantage. He has done things that can be measured via metrics, and the metrics can't be faked. Either the building gets built or it doesn't. Either it makes money or it loses it.

Bruce Hayden said...

I have been saying this for maybe nine years - Obama had nonanagenebt education, training, or experience when he ran for President. None. Which is why Crooked Hillary, apparently claimed that most of the time, it was if there were no hand on the tiller. And going 180 degrees in the opposite direction for military operations is a manifestation of the same thing. This is, BTW, why Dems in recent years have made horrible commanders in chiefs.

TosaGuy said...

The official lefty talking point you will soon read on this comment string are:

"By delegating this authority, Trump is washing his hands of the issue and can scapegoat the military if something bad happens."

and

"The military, now without civilian oversight, will now be able to manipulate Trump for everything they want"

Ron Winkleheimer said...

So in a situation such as described, I imagine Trump shutting down that kind of argument pretty fast and wanting to know why such a picayune matter even got up that high.

TosaGuy said...

Obama had a "tendency... to micromanage issues better . . ."

That is the point where lefties stopped reading the article.

TosaGuy said...

Harry Truman may have said "the buck stops here" but a lot of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters need to stop before they get to a Colonel, much less the Pentagon, NSC and the president.

Michael K said...

Part of the poison that is injected to the system is the tendency of lower levels of command to adopt the same sort of micromanagement.

Read "Into the Fire," Dakota Meyer's book about how, when they were in an ambush at a village, they called for artillery support. It took hours before the support would be approved as junior officers passed the decision up to superiors.

McMasters should be particularly well equipped to solve that problem as it was the topic of his PhD thesis and book, "Dereliction of Duty."

iowan2 said...

In the real world, managers hire people smarter than themselves. The CEO manages the ego battles of those people (head coach of NBA or NFL) Manages the expectations of his bosses, Manages the expectations of his employees, and customers. Successful CEO's dont spend a lot of time at the above. They spend their time with vision, long and short term, and getting is management team on board with his/her ideas.

This is exactly the way I saw a President Trump operate.(because thats what he has alway done)

He is always a salesman, if not selling, he is prepping the target to be actively sold. This is not a bad thing. It is the traits of a great communicator.

campy said...

In the real world, managers hire people smarter than themselves.

Obama didn't have that option.

/s

bagoh20 said...

This seems to be a problem primarily with Democrat Presidents. They have a baked in belief in top down management and control of everything from how much water you shower with, to how big your soda should be.

Quayle said...

Wait, you mean a businessman actually knows something about roles and responsibilities, integratied process deliverables, and coordinated ownership?

Shocking!

Are we sure this isn't more fake news?

Ron Winkleheimer said...

when they were in an ambush at a village, they called for artillery support. It took hours before the support would be approved as junior officers passed the decision up to superiors.

When I was in (back when calvary still road dino-raptors) we were taught that one of the lessons of Vietnam was that micromanagement was bad and that it was good to take initiative. In real live, initiative was generally measured by the metric of "did the decision make my superior look good." Passing things up the chain of command was a good way to insulate yourself from criticism and it was a rare superior officer indeed who would give his subordinates grief for not bringing anything non-routine to him.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Actual picture of US Calvary.

NSFW

https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=gXvzmmfP&id=63E4F90799BF609EF5B28D336E328A7E8CBF8F7A&q=Man+Riding+Dinosaur&simid=607987226701136544&selectedindex=16&mode=overlay&first=1&thid=OIP.gXvzmmfPeFdf-BsnI84J0QEsDZ

Henry said...

The flip side is Obama's disinterest in talking to Congress.

I'm somewhat sympathetic -- it's much more satisfying to work on things you have some control over than to talk to crazy people in a snakepit. I personally would rather be hands-on than managing. Even managing responsible, talented people is hard, let alone Congress.

But I didn't run for President either.

Michael K said...

"This seems to be a problem primarily with Democrat Presidents. "

Especially if they have been "law professors."

Carter at least was decisive. The legend is that, when he was in the office the first day, he was told about how the USSS could whisk him away from harm if a nuclear war was about to start. He said, "Show me. Do it now."

The exercise was a fiasco, just like Desert One except nobody got killed.

Bob Boyd said...

"First-rate people hire first-rate people; second-rate people hire third-rate people." - Leo Rosten


So maybe it was better for Obama to make most decisions, under the circumstances.

Ficta said...

Classic "Bicycle Shed Problem", the sort of mistake a man with no management experience could be expected to make.

PETE. said...

Hitler had the same tendency.

Darrell said...

Carter was the one who chose the absolute minimum number of helicopters to rescue the Iran hostages.

glenn said...

This micro management is what little people do when they need to feel important.

AJ Lynch said...

That is because Obama figured he knew so much more about things he had no experience in like the military, economics, science, tire pressure and gas mileage, health insurance, global affairs, taxes, small businesses and corpsmen.

khesanh0802 said...

I think that one of the major difficulties "reporters" are going having with the Trump administration is that Trump outlines goals and expect his subordinates to achieve them. He will not, like Obama, be testing every move against the political winds. Trump is goal, not process, oriented. Really hard to get used to and almost impossible for those who have spent their lives in DC to understand.

The Drill SGT said...

Read "Into the Fire," Dakota Meyer's book about how, when they were in an ambush at a village, they called for artillery support. It took hours before the support would be approved as junior officers passed the decision up to superiors.

To expand. Get the F'ing Army Lawyers (I mean there are actual lawyers) out of the loop in "calls for fire", debating collateral damage and the political implications on A-stan hearts and minds.

If the troops in contact need fires, all I want to hear is "Shot over"

robinintn said...

But, O was better at everything than everyone else. He told us so, and the toadies in the media lapped it up.

My name goes here. said...

"Carter was the one who chose the absolute minimum number of helicopters to rescue the Iran hostages."

When Reagan had the US go into Grenada, he was briefed about the operation. He said he approved, but he wanted the number of helicopters, and thus the number of personnel doubled.

An officer asked him why he wanted to double the number of helicopters?

He told them that if Carter had doubled the number of helicopters that Carter would still be president.

The Drill SGT said...

Ron Winkleheimer said...
Actual picture of US Calvary.


Good pic, but it's Cavalry... :)

The Drill SGT said...

He told them that if Carter had doubled the number of helicopters that Carter would still be president.

a classic military maxim:

"Few operations fail due to too many troops, or demolitions fail due to using too much explosive. When in doubt add more. Stuff happens..."

BADuBois said...

Er, let's not get carried away with Carter's supposed decisiveness. I had always heard that the above alert story was triggered by Zbignew Brezinski (sp) and not Carter.

And don't forget Carter was the President who set the schedule on who got to use the White House tennis courts.

YoungHegelian said...

“The episode that took the cake was toward the end of the administration, when we literally had cabinet secretaries debating the movement of three helicopters from Iraq to Syria.”

Sounds like the Johnson administration all over again. This is what happens when you have too many of the "Smartest Guys in the Room" in the same room.

khesanh0802 said...

Leadership is an extremely difficult concept to execute. There are very few, even at the highest levels of business or government, who are good leaders. I am not going to try to write an essay on leadership other than to agree with those who have said above that top down management, besides being self-defeating, seems to be one of the perpetual faults of the Democrats. ( I have frequently given here my list of most reviled : Johnson, McNamara, Bundy, et al.) If you want a humorous look at the military "leadership" mind in VN read the section titled "Officer in Charge of the Dead" in Philip Caputo's "Rumors of War"

Bob Boyd said...

On paper, they were the smartest guys in the room.

AllenS said...

That Obama was a real smart-pants

AllenS said...

smart-pants = smarty-pants, but you probably knew that.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Of course Obama should micromanage - he was better than everybody else at everything. Valerie said so!!

Sam L. said...

Only a "tendency"?
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Of course Obama should micromanage - he was better than everybody else at everything. Valerie said so!!

3/20/17, 10:31 AM

Exactamente!

Jason said...

I've got experience working as a battle captain in an infantry battalion TOC in combat, in Ramadi.

We didn't have any trouble from JAG over call-for-fire incidents, and no interference during actual fire missions. The tricky thing was clearing the sector.

In a conventional fight, you have a FLOT and clearly defined sectors. If you know where your own troops are, and you know where the concentrations of non-combatants are, you can green light your fire direction centers in seconds.

In the urban nonconventional battlefield, though, you do have to be much more careful, because the reality is you had other units constantly driving through your sector of responsibility (we had downtown Ramadi in our field of responsibility and adjacent units to the south had to drive through our sector constantly to get to Main Supply Route Michigan. Plus, we had a Special Ops unit of SEALs and Delta types located right near us who were constantly doing their own thing and only rarely bothered to inform us. Only when they needed extra firepower, security or logistic support would they coordinate. Otherwise they were doing their own thing all the time based on a much faster Intel pipeline.

Makes their OODA-loop very short in IDing and capturing bad guys via SIGINT, but it slows nearby units up when it comes to calling for fires.

Plus, in downtown Ramadi, EVERYWHERE was a concentration of noncombatants. There were also some historical sites and other vital centers that were in no-fire zones for indirect fires, but we knew where they were and they were plotted.

So calls for fire are delayed by the need to check with neighboring units, and if they're slow on the uptake they'll have to call their subordinates and get back to us. (They should know where their elements are all the time, but things happen).

That was OIF I, though, under Bush. Things got worse, with the JAG types, I understand, after 2006 and became impossible after Obama took over.

But from my point of view, the limiting factor in calling for fires was always legitimate operational concerns and friendly fire precautions, not interference from military lawyers.

Hagar said...

nonanagenebt ?

Now, look that up in your OED!

Sebastian said...

"According to the NYT, which recognizes Trump's return to what is the better approach." This is unpossible. O was a better strategist than his strategizers.

""The episode that took the cake was toward the end of the administration, when we literally had cabinet secretaries debating the movement of three helicopters from Iraq to Syria.”" This is also unpossible. With lightworker O involved, there would have been no need for debate. The "literally" gives it away.

damikesc said...

Carter was the one who chose the absolute minimum number of helicopters to rescue the Iran hostages.

I cut him some slack on that. He was trying to be clandestine. You want the smallest number of actors involves to actually achieve the goal. Sending in 10 copters would only increase the likelihood of being caught early.

Now, "wanting it to be clandestine" is a bit of a concern. He should've gone in, guns blazing, and said "You're holding Americans hostage and that doesn't work for us".

traditionalguy said...

Obama demanded a hands on flow of combat information into the White House Staff so he could save his Muslim Brotherhood from any surprise attacks.

damikesc said...

To expand. Get the F'ing Army Lawyers (I mean there are actual lawyers) out of the loop in "calls for fire", debating collateral damage and the political implications on A-stan hearts and minds.

If the troops in contact need fires, all I want to hear is "Shot over"


I'd still argue that allowing the press to cover the war at all is a huge mistake. Allow the military to release the info. The enemies know how to play to our media awfully well and our media loves being played to.

With tight press coverage, we would've lost World War II.

A lot of people don't seem to realize that war is exceptionally unpleasant and lots of people get hurt during it, even innocent folks.

AReasonableMan said...

The Drill SGT said...
classic military maxim:
"Few operations fail due to too many troops, or demolitions fail due to using too much explosive. When in doubt add more. Stuff happens..."


Fortunately it is the rare surgeon that takes this maxim to heart.

damikesc said...

ARM, war ain't surgery.

Michael K said...

"Get the F'ing Army Lawyers (I mean there are actual lawyers) out of the loop"

There were 10,000 lawyers in DoD when Rumsfeld was Sec. I can only imagine now.

As for Desert One, there is a very good book about that operation called, "The Guts to Try" which points out that the services each had to have a piece of the action and they did not train together. It was a clusterfuck from day one.

Michael K said...

"Fortunately it is the rare surgeon that takes this maxim to heart."

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

Gahrie said...

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

I think he was trying to make a joke based on the use of the word "operation".

Kyzernick said...

Neither does ARM, but it sure sounds good right?

There's a book called "When Thunder Rolled" by Ed Rasimus, who was a "Thud" driver in the Air Force during the early years of Vietnam, flying out of Royal Thai air bases. The F-105 Thunderchief was a lead sled of a plane and excelled only at high speed dive bombing and nuclear toss-bombing, hence it's nickname. It's usefulness as a dive bomber led to it's deployment to SE Asia, with multiple squadrons at four or five airbases throughout Thailand. Operation Rolling Thunder, the first major air campaign against the NVA, consisted of a slow-burn, slow-roll type bombing strategy. Fleets of bombers, aerial tankers, escorting fighters, Wild Weasel SEAD forces, and post-strike photorecon planes would often be sent after inconsequential targets in the middle of the jungle that had been uncovered by dubious or laughable intelligence, and casually hand-picked by the President and the Nat'l Security Advisor over lunch at the White House. Rasimus described it as trying to win a war via 1000 pinpricks instead of just getting it over with, and implies that the only clear mission was the pain being inflicted on the Air Force personnel due to all the senseless losses. In fact, the F-105 was the first fighter of the jet age to be withdrawn from service mainly because so many had been shot down.

Political micromanagement leads to lost wars.

Oso Negro said...

Blogger Jason said...
Plus, in downtown Ramadi, EVERYWHERE was a concentration of noncombatants.


This was a matter of choice. We chose not to kill people. As a result, we get:

Battle of Ramadi (2004) – sometimes referred to as the "First Battle of Ramadi"
Battle of Ramadi (2006) – sometimes referred to as the "Second Battle of Ramadi"
Battle of Ramadi (2014–15) – Battle in which ISIL forces captured the city from the Iraqi government.
Battle of Ramadi (2015–16) – Battle in which Iraqi forces recaptured the city from ISIL.

And I won't be surprised to see a Battle of Ramadi again in the near future.

Contrast this to the number of Battles of Berlin or Battles of Tokyo that took place between December 7th, 1941 and August 14th, 1945.

My son did three deployments with the USMC in his eight years in your theater and I bitterly resent the outcome. I cannot see that it has all been worth the sacrifices you folks made. Our national leadership has failed us.

n.n said...

Micromanage, huh. There was a prevailing narrative that sought to disown Obama as President and Commander-in-Chief for purposes of legal liability and to secure Democratic legacy. It seems that the press's war with Trump (and Americans) is going worse than we imagined. Perhaps this news is the first indication of positive progress to realizing an armistice.

Jason said...

As it happens, we were on the side trying to save cities, not destroy them.

Go figure.

dbp said...

"“In defense of the Obama administration, every single time we went to the president and asked for something more, we eventually got it, though we often had to jump through a lot of hoops,”"

This may be intended as a "defense" but it is really very damning.

Achilles said...

Our 3rd deployment we watched taliban fighters dig holes and put artillery shells into walls and houses in a compound for days and watched them dig the wire to a nearby compound.

We were never allowed to drop that compound. We had to leave a strip map on the wall of the TOC when we left saying "DONT GO HERE" as they were constantly putting bait in there to get us to come. Our only option was to go clear it out ourselves.

I have a bunch of stories from my 3rd ad 4th deployment like that. They were in 2010 and 2011. The first 2 deployments in 2008/9 were not like that for some reason.

Michael K said...

"There's a book called "When Thunder Rolled" by Ed Rasimus, "

Great book. There is a F 105 group on Facebook.

rightguy2 said...

I already thought that Obama's decision making was horrible, and here is the proof (if we needed it) that his execution of his decisions was just as shitty. My question is : "how many of our guys were killed because of this incompetent micro-management, 2009-2016 ? GI lives should matter, too.

SukieTawdry said...

Well, Obama was a better speechwriter than his speechwriters, a better political director than his political director and knew more about policy than his policy directors so it stands to reason he'd be a better military commander than his military commanders.

"I have a gift, Harry."

The Drill SGT said...

Now, "wanting it to be clandestine" is a bit of a concern. He should've gone in, guns blazing, and said "You're holding Americans hostage and that doesn't work for us".


Something like:

"Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead!"

- T Roosevelt

damikesc said...

Well, Obama was a better speechwriter than his speechwriters, a better political director than his political director and knew more about policy than his policy directors so it stands to reason he'd be a better military commander than his military commanders.

He might have been a better speechwriter. I've seen less fluffing on the set of a porn movie than in a typical Obama speech.

For all of the talk of his soaring rhetoric, can anybody remember a speech he gave?