Another Write-wing Conspirator

Commentary, observations, musing, and ranting from the middle of the road (or just to the right of center. Usually.) featuring The Curmudgeon

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  • Welcome to The Curmudgeon’s lair

    Welcome to my curmudgeondom. As you’ll soon learn, your reactions to my missives here are likely to range from fear to loathing to tears to outright rage—and I just might even evoke from you an occasional sober nod or two.

    If you see a posting you like and wish to share it with others, by all means feel free to do so. I'd prefer that you send the link to your friends, but you're also welcome to reproduce anything here—as long as you retain my identity on the document. If you have a web site of your own and wish to post a link to this blog (or to a specific post), again, feel free to do so.

    The purpose of this blog is simple: to provide me a vehicle for sounding-off on whatever topic suits me at the moment. While there’s sure to be no shortage of politically-oriented palaver here, it is by no means all (nor necessarily even most) of what will be proffered to your discerning mind. You’ll also find that my personal politics, ethics, morals, and standards are pretty much “all over the map” (according to my mother-in-law)—so, don’t be surprised to see rants regarding, say, the interference of churches in politics, politically-correct anything, “nanny” laws, taxes, the United Nations, Congress, the Commissioner of Baseball, the State of Ohio’s speed limits, steroids, Jesse Jackson, the “mainstream” media, ultra-liberals, ultra-conservatives, the price of cigarettes, Obamarxism, regulating sales of alcohol, gasoline price manipulation, Muslim foot baths, illegal immigration, laws banning the sale of adult sex toys, cell phones, heavy-handed cops, meddlesome politicians, Hillary, Billary, our all-but-self-proclaimed uncrowned Queen Nancy, “W”, eminent domain, freedom of speech, and the designated hitter all in succession. It is, as I said, my curmudgeondom — and I have the credentials and bona fides to lay claim to the title of The Curmudgeon. So, there.

    Some of the postings you'll encounter may seem familiar—especially to those who know me personally. By way of explanation… I once had an ongoing relationship with a local newspaper, and had a number of published opinion pieces—some of which may be posted here. My arrangement was for a feature entitled An Opposing View; given that the editorial staff had a generally liberal, left-of-center view, it stands to reason that my "opposing" view would generally be perceived as coming from the right (in more ways than one, in my own humble opinion). These posts will be annotated as having been previously published.

    Comments, of course, are always welcome. You may agree or disagree with me. Doesn’t matter. Of course, I reserve the right to completely ignore you — but, feel free to let your feelings be known, anyway. And if you don't want to comment directly here, my e-mail address is: .

    Oh, and…yes, I can spell. That "Write-wing" is only a play on words. So, there. Again.

    Welcome, once again. Strap in and hang on.

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    Armchair philosopher, politically-incorrect political commentator, raconteur, retired air traffic controller, dilettante truck driver, US Army veteran, recluse, sometime-writer, redneck convert neè Buckeye, ne'er-do-well, bon vivant, unrepentant libertine, unapologetic libertarian, and (of course) curmudgeon…

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Archive for December, 2009

The Importance of "How" and "Why"

Posted by The Curmudgeon on December 27, 2009

Amid the ongoing battle over health care reform, key issues are being overlooked—and one remains paramount.

We all know about the oft-mentioned “spiraling cost of health care;” one need only examine a few pay stubs to confirm its significance (for those who subscribe to health care insurance through their employers)—or simply get sick (for those who are uninsured). We’ve endured a steady stream of spin and counter-spin from both sides of the conflict. We’re well-acquainted with the issues of pre-existing conditions, “rationed care,” and prescription drug plans. We’ve seen highlights of the sometimes bitter exchanges in Congress. And we’ve been bombarded with contradictory data, numbers so massaged and manipulated that no one knows now quite what to believe.

One key piece is missing from this massive puzzle, and it’s resulted in the classic mistake of treating only the symptoms of the problem—but completely ignoring the causes. We know the cost of care is high—and rising. But…do we know why? Can anyone recall even hearing the question raised?

Is it because doctors are paid too much? Is it the result of paying-off massive malpractice suits? Is it because of the burdens placed on the system by illegal immigrants? Are we spending too much on expensive and (arguably) unnecessary tests? Should we blame the practice of “defensive medicine”?

Throughout the protracted political battles and the dizzying sums being spent, the focus has been (ostensibly) on providing affordable health care—but no one has explained why it isn’t already available. Placing the emphasis on making coverage affordable now leaves unanswered two questions: how did the cost get out of hand in the first place—and what’s to prevent it happening again in the future? Failure to identify and correct the root causes of the deficiency virtually assures a recurrence.

Suppose you have a headache. Taking aspirin alleviates the headache—temporarily. The headache returns. You take more aspirin. The problem with this approach is that (unbeknownst to you) your headaches are actually being caused by a brain tumor. Take all the aspirin you want; it may provide temporary relief from your headache—but it isn’t addressing the root cause. So, the untreated tumor continues to cause you discomfort; moreover, it’s still growing.

Congress and the Obama regime are, unfortunately, bent on throwing a 12 trillion dollar aspirin at a symptom—but failing to identify or treat its cause.

And that cause won’t be going away of its own accord.



Posted in deficit, health care reform, obama | 6 Comments »

Eminent Tyranny?

Posted by The Curmudgeon on December 22, 2009

What’s yours is yours, and what’s mine is mine—until the government wants it.

Let’s say that you’ve invented a new computer system, several times faster than anything currently on the market, impervious to hackers, and more powerful than anything else available. You’re biding your time, searching for the right manufacturing facility and distribution outlet. Then, you’re informed that the Megabucks Corporation wants to manufacture and market your computer; they’re planning an assembly complex, ramping-up their distribution channels, and expect to hire several hundred people to staff their new facility—and you must surrender all your material to them in furtherance of that effort (for which you’ll be compensated). You’re out of the manufacturing business before you even start.
Or let’s say that you’re the third-generation owner of a small factory producing specialty furniture items; not a huge operation, but you have a couple dozen or so employees, have never recorded a business loss, and earn a comfortable living—as did your father and his father before him, keeping costs down by operating out of that same aging building in an older part of town. One day you open your morning newspaper to learn that your factory has been condemned and earmarked for demolition, and the land it sits on will be transferred to an investment group intending to establish a high-end automobile dealership on the site (you will receive “just compensation”—though your employees will be pretty much out of luck). This action is being taken in the interest of spurring “economic development” in the community.
Sound a bit far-fetched? Guess again.
Most of us had a passing acquaintance with the phrase “eminent domain” sometime back around the eighth grade. We were taught that it was a good thing—an essential tool employed in the completion of numerous projects for the public good (e.g., the interstate highway system)—and that its application was judicious, fair and relatively benign…used somewhat rarely, and only when absolutely necessary. For example: Imagine that the government wants to build a road from a rapidly-growing metropolitan area to an outlying bedroom community to accommodate the growing workforce, expediting the commute from home to work and back again. The planned route for this road cuts across a parcel of land that you own. You’d be approached with an offer to acquire a part of your property—for which you will receive just compensation (required by law—though it’s highly subjective what constitutes the “just” part of that clause). Should you refuse to work a deal, the matter goes to court. At this point, two things become clear: First, you’ll almost certainly lose. Second, the court will determine your just compensation. End of conversation.
The foregoing example embodies the crucial original intent of the Founding Fathers. The newly-formed republic was putting into place the framework of government, and realized the need for that government to be able to judiciously exercise its sovereignty in matters of compelling public need; however, the author of that clause within the Fifth Amendment (James Madison) clearly wrangled over the issue, endeavoring also to both preserve the rights of the property owner and to insure just compensation for property taken by the government. An excellent explanation can be found in a research paper authored by Amanda Williams (Amanda Williams: Examining the Current Abuse of the Doctrine of Eminent Domain. Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal. 2009. Volume 3 Number 2.), an excerpt of which follows:


Whenever considering whether or not an abuse of power is taking place concerning the application of any law, it is crucial to consider the original intent of the legislative authors. Considering original intent is important because it encourages consistency with respect to how a law or amendment is applied. If the judicial branch did not take the legislative authors’ intent into  consideration, interpretation of the Constitution would be malleable and subject to the personal opinion of whomever sat on the bench at the time. Founded on a belief in state and individual rights, the United States Constitution serves as a covenant to its people that it will consistently protect the rights of the individual, not the personal opinion of government officials at any given time.

Transitioning from British rule, the thirteen original colonies sought to ratify a Constitution that would limit the power of the government. Therefore, no matter how vague an amendment may appear, the mindset of early America must be considered when interpreting the law. Evidence of this mindset is clear in early documents like the Federalist Papers as well as other historical discourse. Consequently, clauses like the eminent domain clause of the Fifth Amendment are clearly in place to limit the power of the government to seize property unfairly and without just cause. According to a speech given by Madison in 1792,


“As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected.”


Madison also recognized that an amendment would prove fruitless if it were too complicated, so he intentionally constructed the Fifth Amendment to be relatively vague to benefit and protect the individual. He wrote in the Federalist No. 62,

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow.”


This statement reinforces the advantage of deferring to original intent for matters of consistency, for if the judicial branch did not take the legislative authors’ original intent into  consideration, “no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow” (Madison). It has become a sad irony that the ambiguity of these laws is working against the greater public, when in fact these laws were intentionally vague, not to leave room for the government to interpret for its own advantage, but to accommodate the needs of the people in a developing society. These accommodations would include the construction of critical infrastructures to sustain the basic needs of an American populace that is maturing and requiring technological advances. For example, accommodations like the creation of highways and railroads for the transportation of both people and commerce, in addition to technology like the need for a 20th Century Kennedy Space Center; advancements that clearly benefit the United States, its people and the world, but that were not likely predicted as a need by our founding fathers.


In general, these principles were followed—until 1954. Beginning that year with Berman v. Parker, the Supreme Court began a perilous and fateful journey down the road of government intrusion into the realm of property rights that has rapidly gained momentum. With the widening of the scope of what constitutes “public good” to what is now perceived as “public purpose,” an avalanche of cases of government taking of private property has ensued. Property is now routinely condemned and essentially redistributed sometimes on the basis of largely speculative and nebulous grounds of improved tax revenue, higher tax base within a designated area, or pretty much whatever the governing authority deems as “public purpose”—with little to restrain their ardor. (It’s also important to note that “property” to be seized is not limited to real estate; it might, for example, be extended to include patents, copyrights, trade secrets—and more.)
In the recently publicized case of Kelo v. City of New London, the scheme backfired. Badly. After forcing many people from their homes in a deal to attract investment by the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer, New London is now left holding the bag in the wake of Pfizer’s withdrawal from the area without so much as breaking ground on the planned facility—after the expenditure of some $80 million in public funds and the uprooting of several longtime residents.
On an encouraging note, some states have introduced legislation aimed at narrowing government’s authority; however, this has proved the exception rather than the rule. It seems to many observers that The Great Land Grab is on—and escalating. Ironically, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly–including the United States–in 1948) renders eminent domain seizures without due process illegal under international law—at a time when “human rights” and “international law” are frequently cited.

Notwithstanding the UN’s adoption of a human rights declaration (and even that only calls for due process in seizures), the government must retain in its toolbox the judicious invocation of eminent domain. One of the government’s most fundamental responsibilities, after all, remains the obligation to serve the public good—though it should stick to building roads and dams.
Some would maintain that the current manifestation of eminent domain doctrine merely represents the natural evolution of law—and that today’s world bears faint resemblance to that of Madison’s time. Compelling, logical cases can be presented to support the various tax-base arguments and similar claims, and they are both thought-provoking and entertaining as intellectual exercises. As noted by Ms Williams above, though, one must return to the original intent of the Founding Fathers for guidance; absent a constitutional amendment to the contrary, that original intent must still be applied. It’s clear that a need was identified for the provision of eminent domain; it’s equally clear, however, that this realization was balanced by remarkable concern for protecting the rights of the individual. The provision that resulted was intentionally left vague with a mind toward preserving individual rights—not to foster government encroachment.
Turning away from our original principles is certainly not a step in the right direction.




Posted in eminent domain, Federalist Papers, Fifth Amendment, property rights, seizure | 2 Comments »

From Borking to Palinizing

Posted by The Curmudgeon on December 16, 2009

What is it about Sarah Palin that whips liberals into a frenzy?

Several months ago, the incessant flogging of Sarah Palin by legions of pundits, comics, talking heads, and entertainment celebrities (seemingly the true arbiters of liberals’ core values—and not coincidentally an important source of financial support) set me to wondering: what exactly is it about this woman that gives rise to such intense condemnation and vilification?

The answer wasn’t immediately clear, as there appeared little explanation for the overwhelming fusillade of criticism and ridicule seemingly beyond any reasonable semblance of proportionality—directed at a two-term mayor of the bustling megalopolis of Wasilla, Alaska (population 6300) and half-term governor of the most sparsely-populated state in the nation; it defied logic especially for this rabid spittle-spraying vitriol to be hurled at a failed vice-presidential candidate from a race many believe was never even a serious contest.

Then it dawned on me.

They’re scared to death of this woman.

The diminutive former governor who currently holds no political office poses a threat never before seen: a woman with strong conservative credentials who appeals to a broad base.

Conservatives (Republican and otherwise) have produced a few credible female figures, but none considered capable of pursuing serious political aims on the national stage—and the non-conservative female vote has long been seen as lying within the exclusive domain of Democrats. To be sure, established groups claiming to advance women’s causes remain pretty solidly in the liberal camp; however, that politically moderate segment of the female population not well-represented by such groups has long been considered almost an afterthought, grudgingly tolerated for the sake of securing their votes—but generally shunted aside afterward for their having embraced traditional beliefs not espoused by “enlightened” women (e.g., “stay-at-home moms,” conservative Christians, and the all-important pro-life voters).

These women now have in their midst a viable champion—and one who happens to appeal to an extensive array of male voters, as well.

And that’s what scares the liberal left; they see their bank of female voters as being at risk—and a very ripe target, indeed. To a party that has carefully positioned itself to capture female voters, this is a clear threat; many women who have reluctantly gone along with the Democrats’ platforms as “the next best thing” now see a more welcoming face toward the other end of the spectrum—in political territory more to their liking. Moreover, Palin has demonstrated the ability to also draw significant numbers of moderate-to-conservative male voters (gotta like a woman who’s comfortable with guns, deer eyeballs and fish guts) at a time when an increasingly leftist government has sent them reeling. Where others see flaws, some have clearly taken a liking to her—warts and all. Her feisty nature resonates well with the independent-minded. She seems like a “real person” sort, with family issues that the mainstream can relate to. She carries a message of fiscal conservatism (she even slashed her own pay by 10% while mayor of Wasilla) at a time when drunken sailors have taken hold of the nation’s purse-strings, and her solid pro-life stance garners immediate support among a large voting block. And she’s clearly loath to back down from a fight.

In a decidedly politically-incorrect moment, I’ll submit that many blacks voted for Barack Obama for no other reason than because he presented himself as having emerged from their ranks as the first serious black candidate for the White House—one of their own (though nothing could be further from the truth). Many saw him as the fruition of a long-standing dream: a black candidate who shows that things have finally changed. Similarly, many women long for a female candidate to likewise validate them—and might be expected to vote accordingly. It has long been widely presumed that both groups would likely be eventually represented by a Democrat (and Obama proved one-half of this presumption—while Hillary Clinton earnestly sought to prove the other); the GOP has been generally perceived as being too resistant to change to permit such barrier-breaking.

In an unprecedented onslaught, one assailant after another has taken an endless series of cheap shots at Palin. Ironically, they seem to have accomplished only three things: they’ve taken a relatively obscure political figure virtually unknown outside Alaska little more than a year ago and made her a household name, they’ve probably boosted her popularity by practically making her into a martyr (we still prefer fair play in this country—and recoil from the sort of character assassination we’ve observed), and they’ve revealed many so-called “women’s rights” advocates to be infinitely hypocritical by virtue of their silence. (One can only imagine the result had a leading liberal female candidate been similarly savaged by the right—and the self-appointed guarantors of women’s rights have clearly established that they defend only the rights of that subgroup of women who embrace the liberal agenda.)

Oh, and they’ve made Palin a lot of money; as of this writing, her recently-released book Going Rogue has already sold more than three million copies—and it seems reasonable to speculate that her book sales might have been fueled by the very sniping campaign that’s been directed against her. (So…maybe there really is justice in the world.)

What are Palin’s future plans? For the moment, she seems content to appear at book-signings (mainly in the heartland—where her support is likely to be strongest) and to stump for other like-minded candidates (where she’s been well-received). There’s been no mention of seeking office of any sort in the future. Yet.

Democrats, however, have not relaxed.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The Lesser of Two Feebles

Posted by The Curmudgeon on December 10, 2009

How we condemn ourselves to mediocre representation

How many registered voters in the United States have never cast a ballot for a single candidate?

More than one might initially think—including a goodly number who’d protest vociferously that they vote in every election.

But they probably never voted for anyone; rather, they voted against a lot of people.

It is a simple reality that there is only one perfect candidate for every elected office—and we come face-to-face with that person every time we look in a mirror. Given that very few of us will ever seek election to public office, we instead cast about for a surrogate to represent us—one whose philosophy and convictions (political and otherwise) mirror our own. Another simple reality is that it’s highly unlikely that any candidate on any given ballot thinks precisely as we do on every conceivable issue; rather, we’re presented with a number of candidates (usually two or three—though there may be more) from whom we may choose.

At this point, three things take place:

First, we prioritize the issues of the day, determining what’s most near and dear to us—those issues that compel us to take a firm stand. Some are of such import that we decide whether to vote for a specific candidate based entirely on his/her views regarding that one hot-button topic. More often, though, we probably have a handful of key issues that we place above all others–perhaps three or four–and seek a candidate who thinks alike within that milieu, subjugating our other interests as secondary issues.

Second…we compromise. (More on this in a moment.)

Third (and most important), while determining which candidate comes closer to our ideal (“closer” being a very relative term) we axiomatically identify the candidate we least desire—and vote (usually) for the one most likely to prevent the scoundrel from assuming office. (More on this in another moment—much more.)

Thus, though we set out to vote for the candidate we deem most qualified or who most closely represents our own views, we soon determine that no such candidate is in the race; we ultimately vote for a candidate not because he or she is the best, but because that candidate is less odious or has the best chance of stopping the candidate we’ve conversely likened to the devil incarnate. Neither is all that attractive—but one is less detestable than the other. We generally settle, then, on the candidate we’ve determined to be the lesser of two evils.

My wife refers to this choice as “the lesser of two feebles.” (I don’t know whether she coined the phrase; she was, however, the first to utter such sentiments to me—so, I’ll give her the credit for it.)

When we compromise, we sometimes do so along lines that range from the sensible and practical to the downright silly. But, compromise we do—and we somehow decide on “our guy.” He isn’t all that we’d like to see in a candidate, but he’s as close as we figure we’ll be able to get. A liberal might look at a candidate and dislike that candidate’s pro-life beliefs—but, he supports gun control, so he’ll get the liberal’s vote. A conservative might be livid about a candidate’s pro-choice voting record—but, he’s also a staunch Second Amendment guy, so he’ll get the vote.

Now, we’re faced with another matter: our desired (compromise) candidate is palatable on all the major issues—but, he’s widely perceived as unelectable. Whether he’s a poor public speaker, has been caught in a series of marital indiscretions, or exhibits any of a multitude of damning qualities, polls suggest that he’ll never get elected. So, we compromise a little more and seek a candidate with a better chance of winning–moving us even further from our core views–as long as he isn’t as loathsome as the opposition’s candidate…the guy we don’t want to win, because he scares us. Or because he’s a Republican. Or a Democrat. (You get the idea; straight-party tickets.)

We eventually arrive at supporting some guy whose views only faintly resemble our own—but, he’s not as bad as the other guy, and (most importantly) has the best chance of keeping the other guy from winning.

The lesser of two feebles.

Occasionally, we toy with the concept of a third-party candidate; when we do, we should also wish that someone would deliver a swift kick to our backsides.

In one election many years ago, I was only lukewarm in my support of Candidate A; in fact, I didn’t much like him. I really despised Candidate B, however, and had resigned myself to supporting Mr. A. Then, along came Candidate C; a third-party candidate, he was more appealing than A or B—so, I voted for him.

I’m still wishing that someone might’ve delivered the aforementioned kick on my way to the voting booth.

It seems that Candidate C drew most of his support from Candidate A’s camp; not enough to win—but enough so that it insured the election of the despised Candidate B.

Won’t make that mistake again.

Having thusly winnowed-out all the best candidates, we grimly mark our ballots for the guy we hope is the lesser of two feebles. (Remember those subjugated “secondary issues” mentioned above? This is where they tend to become less “secondary”; if our compromise candidate prevails, we begin to learn how much we didn’t know about him—and the blind-siding begins.)

Let’s say that a recently-elected member of Congress won with less than fifty per cent of the vote (a simple plurality; very common—particularly where more than two candidates appeared on the ballot). It’s safe to say that the forty-or-so-per cent of the voters who supported him weren’t in complete agreement with his views (remember that he was a compromise selection, after all—even within his own party, as he probably had to defeat at least one rival in the primary campaign); it is therefore manifest that more than half of his constituency didn’t want him to have the job in the first place—and it goes without saying that they have an even less favorable view of him than those who voted for him.

Is it any wonder, then, that an incumbent congressional representative might have only a 30% or 35% approval rating—or that he inspires talk of tar and feathers and a hangman’s rope?

And the odds are in his favor that he’ll be re-elected.

We elected him, after all, for no better reason than because he was the lesser of two feebles.

Posted in ballot, election, politics, vote | 4 Comments »

Salvaging a War

Posted by The Curmudgeon on December 2, 2009

Will it be enough?

Digging deeply into the brain cells for memories of my Army days (it has been a few years, after all), I seem to recall the standard approach for dealing with the supply system (and supply clerks) thusly: figure out how much you need, then double that amount and submit your requisition reflecting the inflated figure—and hope that you’ll receive at least half of what you originally sought. It was an accepted truism about military life that we’d never have everything we needed; we saluted smartly and cobbled-together what we could, made do with what we had, and did the best we could with what was available (the true impetus behind that “GI ingenuity” for which soldiers are renowned)—and hoped it’d be enough to get the job done.

We also figured that life got easier the further up the food chain one progressed. Just as it was a given that we’d have to connive and cajole to get what we needed, a few stars on one’s shoulders (that would be general-officer rank) supplanted a lot of begging with some real influence—and what The General wants, The General will get.

Against this backdrop, it’s important to note that Gen. Stanley McChrystal–Barack Obama’s hand-picked commander in Afghanistan–requested forty thousand troops…not the thirty thousand Obama announced he’s sending. (Eventually, that is; it’s going to take several months to start bringing these reinforcements into action—in addition to the three-month delay incurred while Obama dithered and dawdled, trying to make up his mind what to do.) We’re also told now that both McChrystal and his boss Gen. David Petraeus agree that the job can be done with 30,000; while that may be (they’re both soldiers, too; notwithstanding their lofty positions, they also know that padding requests has long precedent), they might also be merely biting the bullet in the wake of a Presidential decision that offers no alternatives. Whatever the case, the resulting situation raises some troubling questions.

Does the commander-in-chief really believe that the additional 10,000 troops aren’t needed—or did he make a political calculation, betting that the smaller force would be more palatable to the left? It’s no secret that ever-louder murmurs are emanating from his liberal base, upset that he hasn’t moved more quickly to end U.S. involvement in the region. It’s an uncharacteristic risk on Obama’s part, though, to slash McChrystal’s request. There’s a very real possibility that under-staffing the coming “surge” will serve only to create a bigger mess—and if the whole operation goes sour, the first question will be: What if he’d given McChrystal those extra 10,000 troops? Conversely, any attempt to blame the military leadership for future shortcomings will yield one guaranteed response from the Pentagon: “We told you so.”

Obama’s delay in announcing this decision has given rise to predictable doubts about our resolve as a nation—and seriously calls into question the President’s own level of commitment to a war that Obama himself deemed necessary…one from which he (again uncharacteristically) left himself no clear line of retreat. While he seems to have not (yet) adversely affected operations directly, the mere appearance of a commander-in-chief seeming so indecisive and risk-averse is disturbing. Is he really going to see this thing through? If so…then, to what end? How will success–or failure–be measured in the coming months? Moreover, he’s now also set a timeline for beginning the withdrawal of forces—potentially setting the stage for a waiting game with a clearly determined foe.

The Obama regime telegraphed a part of its message well in advance of his address: there’s deep concern in the White House about having a credible exit strategy. While it’s become common practice to think in such terms (and it admittedly makes some sense to establish an end-point rather than allowing operations to go on indefinitely), it’s unclear whether the true aim is to identify and accomplish a mission, then withdraw—or if it’s to determine a point at which a graceful and politically-acceptable retreat can be effected. By establishing an arbitrary date to begin withdrawing troops, Obama may well have painted himself into yet another corner should his timetable be upset—ultimately facing a hard choice between reneging on his withdrawal scheme (and further alienating his base) or throwing in the towel and exiting the region with the mission not completed.

And what of the troops assigned to the Afghanistan operation? Have they been consigned to failure, inadequately equipped for an impossible task? It’s a safe bet that there’s growing concern at the sharp end of the stick; seeing the President cut the legs from underneath the very commander he put in place–their commander–is certain to get the attention of soldiers already in harm’s way.

Stanley McChrystal has served this nation well for more than three decades. His credentials are substantial, and his word carries a great deal of weight—though not enough, apparently, for his commander-in-chief. Frankly, a part of me wishes that his answer to Obama would’ve gone something like this: “Look. You specifically hired me for this job. You asked me what was needed—and I answered you promptly. Had I thought the mission could be accomplished with an additional 30,000 troops, I’d have requested that number. I didn’t. I told you that 40,000 were needed. I also told you very explicitly that doing less than I recommended risks failure. So, if you–with your zero experience in military operations–think you can get the job done with those 30,000 troops, then knock yourself out. It’s obvious that my professional assessment backed by thirty-plus years’ experience means nothing to you, so it’s time for me to retire. Good luck, pal; I’m going fishing. Have a nice war.”

Instead, what will now play out is the time-honored practice of soldiers saluting smartly and setting about the business of cobbling-together what they can, making do with what they have, and doing the best they can with what’s available—and hoping it’ll be enough to get the job done.

Posted in Afghanistan, McChrystal, obama, surge, terrorism, war | 7 Comments »