The Cost of Patience

29 Oct

President Obama has a reputation as a deliberate thinker. He considers all sides of the issue. He asks a lot of questions, and encourages debate. These all seem like more admirable qualities after a President who had a reputation for rash, and incorrect, judgments.

But lets be clear. There is a cost for deliberation. It is not free.

One hundred dead in Peshawar, Pakistan yesterdayTwenty four Americans dead in Afghanistan in the last two days, and eight dead in an attack on a UN guest house in Kabul. Bombings in Baghdad kill 147 and wound 700, the worst car bombing in over two years. By the time this is posted, there will surely be another example.

As this is going on, President Obama is playing golf. Twenty four rounds in nine months. More than GWB in nearly three years, who fancied himself a golfer but gave it up because he thought it would look bad. Let’s see, does it?

 Perception is Reality

Obama also made a speech in Florida a couple days ago where he said he would not be rushed to judgment in adjusting his war plans.

“I won’t risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary.”

Too late. Already risked because we’re already there. This is not an academic exercise. You may wish we never went into Iraq, or that Afghanistan is not a hard slog, but we did and it is. It has to be dealt with. You fired one general and promoted another, the right one. He reviewed the situation and made a recommendation. If you don’t trust his recommendation, why did you ask for the review? Why do another White House review on top of the field general’s? I don’t think you want a reputation of picking bombing targets in the WH, a la LBJ.

McChrystal, Petraus and Odierno are as good of a leadership team as the US military has ever constructed. They all learned lessons the hard way on the battlefield, changed course, and found success. You’ve gathered information for nine months – it is time to make a decision. Be the CinC, not the ivory tower professor. While you dweedle, you aren’t inconveniencing  students waiting outside your door for office hours.  We’re losing soldiers being shot out of the sky.

You said a President should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Do it.

29 Responses to “The Cost of Patience”

  1. Ethan October 29, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    While the “dithering” charge is pure RNC/Limbaugh talking-point, it is true that the sooner we pull the hell out of there, the fewer American & Afghani dead there will be.

  2. Brian Castner October 29, 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    You are good at making a habit of identifying talking points when you think you spot them. I don’t listen to Rush and I don’t read the RNC’s website, so I’ll have to trust you if that’s true – you must spend more time with them than I do. I use the term dweedle – Cheney said “dither” – but all of that doesn’t make this point less true. Whether you are pro-more intervention (like me) or pro-pullout (like you), Obama’s inability to make a decision helps no one.

  3. realbuff October 29, 2009 at 5:01 pm #

    Well, “Fuck the troops” anyway, right?

  4. STEEL October 30, 2009 at 12:15 am #

    Stupid post.

    Chenney/Bush dithered for 8 years. They squandered the momentum and left Obama with a steaming pile. Try again. It is good to finally have someone actually asking the questions it takes to make a plan for Afghanistan.

  5. The Humanist October 30, 2009 at 8:36 am #

    Seriously? A comparison of Obama and GW Bush? You remember, the vacationer-in-chief who spent 42% of his first year in office on vacation? Including the entire month of August 2001? Good Lord, this is nonsensical.

  6. Brian Castner October 30, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    @ STEEL: Stupid post or too close to home? This isn’t about Bush or Cheney – its Obama’s decision time . Obama asked questions, got answers, asked again, got answers, and still can’t make a decision. He announced a strategy, and now that its implementation time, he’s not following through. The limbo is worse than whatever decision he needs to make.

    @ Humanist: I wasn’t talking about vacation, I was talking about golf. Obama has also managed to get in a couple “working” vacations. But anytime you’d like to address the substance of my post, which is that Obama is dweedling while soliders get killed, let me know. And see if you can make your response about the current President, not the former one.

    • Alan Bedenko October 30, 2009 at 9:49 am #

      I hardly think that a careful contemplation of what to do next in Afghanistan is “dweedling”. Last time we had military commanders saying “I’m going to win, I just need more troops” bad things happened. It’s not as simple as that, and I don’t want there to be any hurry on this. We had 8 years of knee-jerk reactions and poorly thought out tactics and strategies. I’m happy to be past that.

  7. Brian Castner October 30, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    @ Alan – The war in Afghanistan is 8 years old. Did he spend any time thinking about what to do next as a Senator? When he ran for President for 2 years? He had a new plan for Afghanistan on his platform. He even announced a change in strategy officially in March. Now its almost Nov. What’s the hold up? And the last time we had a commander say “I’m going to win, I just need for troops” it was Petraus, and the Surge, and it worked. I think its easy to not want to be “in a hurry” when you’re back in the states, but its a little more immediate when you’re the one being shot at.

    • Alan Bedenko October 30, 2009 at 10:14 am #

      The war in Afghanistan is 8 years old, but it hardly resembles today even what it was 2 months ago. You also can’t compare Iraq to Afghanistan, not even a little. Afghanistan has been a failed state for what, two generations? Say what you want about Iraq, but it was a totalitarian dictatorship just 6 years ago. Not a nice place to live, but not a failed state.

  8. STEEL October 30, 2009 at 10:12 am #


    You brought up the Bush Obama comparison!
    “As this is going on, President Obama is playing golf. Twenty four rounds in nine months. More than GWB in nearly three years, who fancied himself a golfer but gave it up because he thought it would look bad. Let’s see, does it?”

    GW took more vacation time than ANY other president. Obama has been described as a workaholic GW the opposite. Trying to paint Obama as a lazy disengaged golfing elitists is silly and disingenuous. Beyond that you can’t talk about Afghanistan without talking about Cheney Bush and the mess they created through 8 years of war mismanagement. I know right wingers think everything has a simple answer with black and white solutions but that is just not the case. Bringing a successful ending the the Bush Cheney war messes is not that simple. Thank God we no longer have a president with a one dimensional understanding of the world.

  9. STEEL October 30, 2009 at 10:15 am #

    Of course the “surge” was not just a surge. It was a complete change of strategy that was developed over several years and required the participation of the people of Iraq. But lets just pretend it wasn’t that complicated.

  10. Ethan October 30, 2009 at 10:24 am #

    There is no “successful” ending to the “war” in “Afghanistan.”

    There will be no success because we can’t even define it, so how can we achieve it?

    It’s not really a war- it is undeclared by Congress, and the opposition is not a credible state. This is a police effort led by our military.

    And “Afghanistan” is a fiction, see Gabe’s post.

    We don’t need protection from the Taliban, and we can protect ourselves from Al Qaeda without killing nearly as many Americans or “Afghanis” through myriad other tactics- once we have a real strategy.

    The only reason we’re in Af-Pak is because there is money to be made in it- not for the US, but for individuals with plenty of power and influence.

    You think the Bush family isn’t still fucking shit up behind the scenes? Guess again, look into the insidious Carlyle Group &c.

  11. Mike In WNY October 30, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    LOL @ Steel, it’s all Bush’s fault. Bush made Obama more than double the troops in Afghanistan. Bush made Obama bomb civilians in Pakistan. Bush made Obama keep the troops in Iraq. It sounds to me like you are trying to resurrect Ronald Reagan, and he didn’t even have that much Teflon.

  12. Brian Castner October 30, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    @ STEEL: I never said Obama was lazy, or disengaged, or an elitist. I said he can’t make a decision now that its time. I never said it was simple either, or black and white. But you install a new boss, he gives you a recommendation, and now you start over again on a review? I’m hardly the only one that has a problem with this – here’s black and white ultra-right wing David Ignatius saying about the same thing:

    @ Alan: We had a saying when I was still in the military: “The only thing similar between Iraq and Afghanistan is its hot in the summer.” I’m not saying the same strategy will work for both. But to use your example, the last time a general called for more troops, it worked. Same general, same basic counter-insurgency principles, different recommendation. Why ask if you don’t like the answer?

    • Alan Bedenko October 30, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

      And my point is that Obama is right to take his time and consider all of these differences of situation and opinion before throwing more young men and women into a very volatile situation. Maybe a surge in Afghanistan is exactly what’s needed. But it might not be. But once Obama figuratively pulls the trigger on his decision, it’ll be irreversible – possibly irreparable.

  13. Brian Castner October 30, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    @ STEEL: I teach counter-insurgency principles and the change in strategy of the Surge to the US Military for a living. Would you like a primer on its complications?

  14. STEEL October 30, 2009 at 10:49 am #

    Well when you accuse him of playing too much golf what are you saying then? And how do you know he can’t make decisions? Are you in his meetings? Do you know what is being discussed? Do you know all the options being presented to him? As to your second point then you must have been very upset that Cheney Bush took 8 years to deploy these strategies, being that a few months of deliberation by Obama is getting you in a lather

    Yes it is Cheney Bush’s fault. Have you been under a rock for 8 years? Are you actually trying to say that Cheney Bush had nothing to do with Afghanistan? Huh???

  15. Brian Castner October 30, 2009 at 11:04 am #

    I’m accusing Obama of having a tin ear and an uncharacteristic bad sense of the power of perception. If he played golf and was moving ahead on a variety of policy initiatives, that would be one thing. But obviously its not.

    And one great thing about our open American democracy is I don’t have to sit in on his meetings to know he hasn’t made a decision. There is this wonderful guy called a White House Spokesman, and he tells you what the President is doing or not doing. For nearly two months he’s said Obama’s decision on Afghanistan would come in a couple weeks, after a “new strategy” was announced in March.

    And I was quite upset at the former President when we’re stuck in the mud and I’m losing buddies for no apparant reason. I was in Iraq on a couple tours in 2005 and 2006. As Ethan pointed out, we didn’t know what winning looked like, and we didn’t know how to get there. The Surge, in late 2006 – 2007, changed all that. Its amazing how your outlook gets better when you have a strategy. Which is all I’m asking Obama for. Or don’t you think he can do better than Bush in this regard?

  16. STEEL October 30, 2009 at 11:33 am #

    I think he can do better. Just the fact that he is not making knee jerk decisions is proof of that. Also get off the “Obama is not doing anything band” wagon. In his short time in office he has:

    Killed the stupid politically motivated F22 boondoggle
    Made major repairs to our massively damaged foreign relations
    Killed the stupid and unworkable eastern European missile defense system
    Has Iran actually talking about its nuke plans
    Has initiated debate and action on reform ofour ridiculous health insurance system
    Has determined that we need a new plan in Afghanistan as is developing that new plan
    Has passed major economic stimulus that many credit with stabilizing the economy
    Dealt with dysfunctional American auto makers
    appointed a new SC judge

    All this in a short 9 months while trying to get a staff together and learn the ropes of the most complex job on the face of the earth made even more difficult by the the mess left by the Cheney Bush disaster.

  17. Brian Castner October 30, 2009 at 11:59 am #

    I’m glad you brought up the F22 – its the perfect example of the over-hype and misunderstanding that comes with Obama’s “accomplishments.” Obama did not the kill the F22. We are flying F22’s at Nellis and Langley and Eglin and lots of other places, and will be for decades. What Obama did was cap production at 187, and killed 7 (seven!!!) more that Sen Chambliss (R-GA) wanted to sneak in. But when the F22 was designed, we were supposed to buy 1200, then Bush cut it to 750, then 360, then 331. Obama gets credit for 331 to 187. Will you give Bush credit for 1200 to 331? I didn’t think so.

  18. STEEL October 30, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    Obama has not allowed funding of any new F22 in his 9 months. How many waste of resources planes did Bush fund over his 8 years? I suppose Obama could have traded those F22s for some health care votes or perhaps his Hate Crime bill but he didn’t. That was an over 2B pork chop that he killed.

  19. Ethan October 30, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    btw, your point that “I don’t listen to Rush and I don’t read the RNC’s website” while nonetheless spouting their talking points and with their timing merely indicates that whatever your inspirational news and/or opinion sources, they too are keyed in to the RNC/Limbaugh meme-machine. Perhaps you need to read more widely still to escape it.

  20. Brian Castner October 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm #

    @ STEEL: Well, if you don’t think we should have any aircraft, that’s another story. And if Obama didn’t trade the F22 kill for some healthcare votes, that just makes him an idiot. That’s how the sausage gets made in Washington, a process he was either bored by, or uninspired about, and it shows in his legislative blunders. How’s that Aug deadline for the healthcare bill going?

    @ Ethan: I didn’t realize MSNBC, the Economist and RealClearPolitics were under the sway of Rush! Perhaps its my choice of columnists, though as I pointed out, everyone from Ignatius to Krauthammer have been commenting on this, and Will, my normal inspiration, thinks we should be out of Afghanistan completely. But Obama has been taking so long on this decision – if I had written anything about in the last two months, you could have called it timely.

    @ Alan: And I guess my point is he’s had his time, and has crossed the line from deliberate to indecisive. But the bigger issue is that he’s not considering new action, where he has all the time in the world. People are dying every day right now – the dithering has a cost. But you are right that once we do go, it’ll be irreversible. But he owns this phase of the war either way – thus the cost of being president.

  21. Ethan October 30, 2009 at 1:15 pm #

    “if I had written anything about in the last two months, you could have called it timely.”

    If you had, it might have been; but that you were moved to write about it now suggests to me at least that this line of criticism is spreading like a little thought-virus: a meme.

  22. STEEL October 30, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    I did not say we did not need ANY planes. We have many weapon systems that are extremely valuable to our defense. We don’t need planes that don’t work,have no strategic purpose and which are only kept alive by political manipulation. The fact that he stood up for his beliefs on this issue says a lot about him.

    Legislative blunders? exactly what would those be?

  23. Brian Castner October 30, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

    @ STEEL: The only aircraft funded during Bush’s tenure were the F22, F35 and C-17. We are using the last daily. The F35 is a bad compromise with too many cooks in the kitchen – everyone got none of what they wanted. But its now our next gen fighter, for good or for bad. The F22 will be useful for China, Russia, N Korea. I think in the long run we’ll be glad we have it (unfortunately). The F22 wasn’t kept alive by political manipulation – its just been fielded, and never deployed. But that’s because its brand new. So I’m not sure what beliefs he stood up to – cut waste at the Pentagon? Cutting edge. Bush’s removal of the Future Combat System for the Army was a much bigger piece of the pie. And anyway, wasn’t that McCain’s platform? And the legislative blunder would be the mess of a healthcare bill, that by the time its watered down enough, will be all sound and fury. I’m not happy about that, but he waffled for so long on what he wanted, he’s about to get a mess on his desk, ready for signature.

    @ Ethan: I had been thinking this for a while, but the two events that put me over the edge were Obama’s speech in FL, and the 24 Americans we lost in 48 hours in Afghanistan. So that’s why I wrote it NOW. So, in criticizing Obama on the deadliest day of the war in years, I happened to coincide my comments with others that also criticized Obama? That also referenced the 24 killed? Its the news of the day – you caught me red handed.

  24. STEEL October 30, 2009 at 4:04 pm #

    My understanding is the F22 is was designed for the cold war ,that it is for air to air combat against “Soviet” fighters, that it has huge maintenance problems requiring major repairs after every flight, that at 300M per is on the extreme end of cost which means the pentagon has to forgo other needs such as proper armor on HVs or good hospitals for troops (see bush cheney), that it its high tech skin can be damaged easily even by rain, that it is too lightly armored to fly low over combat, that is is inappropriate for the types of wars we are likely to be fighting. they spread the manufacture of the white elephant around to as many congressional districts and states as possible to keep it from being killed. Pretent if you like but it has not been used yet becasue it in not useful

    Scary to think that you right wingers are planning your next war in Russia and China. You have not seen an unwinnable war until you have picked a fight in those two places. Very very scary

  25. Brian Castner October 30, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    You got the very last part right – it was spread over every state in the nation so it would have a constituency in Congress. But I’m not sure where you got the rest of it. It was designed after the Cold War, and does air-to-air as well as air-to-ground. It was designed to have “black boxes” to speed the maintenance on the battlefied – plug in the aircraft to a computer, it tells you whats broke, old box comes out, new box goes back in. Now, in practice, I’ve heard its tough for Lockheed to do all the backshop maintenance on the black boxes, but I can’t speak enough to that. Its a nice liberal fantasy that spending money are airplanes takes money away from hospitals or armor (I assume you meant for HMMWV’s?), but the Air Force doesn’t run Walter Reed or buy HMMWV’s for the Army, so that’s a falacy.

    But to your last point about “inappropriate for the war we’re fighting.” The pentagon needs to simultaneously fight a current war, and plan for the next. Anything else is irresponsible, and only “fighting the last war.” Historically, we have been caught before. And if you’re scared, here’s an Inconvenient Truth, to borrow a phrase: Russia and China are planning to fight us. China has the most advanced water landing craft in the world, and thousands of drone aircraft designed to fight us. Russia is selling aircraft carriers and other advanced gear to China whose sole use is to fight us. Is it picking a fight to prepare for that? I don’t want to fight, but being unprepared is worse. Fortunately, you design buildings and aren’t doing realpolitk in the DoD or State Dept.

  26. STEEL October 30, 2009 at 11:17 pm #

    An I am not an apologist for an unnecessary military boondoggle. By the way both republicans and Democrats have pointed out the problems with this bloated aircraft and if we end up fighting the Russians and or Chinese the lack of F22’s is going to be the least of our problems.

    A few tidbits

    “The administration’s position is supported by military reform groups that have long criticized what they consider to be poor procurement practices surrounding the F-22, and by former senior Pentagon officials such as Thomas Christie, the top weapons testing expert from 2001 to 2005. Christie says that because of the plane’s huge costs, the Air Force lacks money to modernize its other forces adequately and has “embarked on what we used to call unilateral disarmament.”

    “Designed during the early 1980s to ensure long-term American military dominance of the skies, the F-22 was conceived to win dogfights with advanced Soviet fighters that Russia is still trying to develop.”

    “Its troubles have been detailed in dozens of Government Accountability Office reports and Pentagon audits. But Pierre Sprey, a key designer in the 1970s and 1980s of the F-16 and A-10 warplanes, said that from the beginning, the Air Force designed it to be “too big to fail, that is, to be cancellation-proof.”

    “There have been other legal complications. In late 2005, Boeing learned of defects in titanium booms connecting the wings to the plane, which the company, in a subsequent lawsuit against its supplier, said posed the risk of “catastrophic loss of the aircraft.” But rather than shut down the production line — an act that would have incurred large Air Force penalties — Boeing reached an accord with the Air Force to resolve the problem through increased inspections over the life of the fleet, with expenses to be mostly paid by the Air Force.

    “When Gates decided this spring to spend $785 million on four more planes and then end production of the F-22, he also kept alive an $8 billion improvement effort. It will, among other things, give F-22 pilots the ability to communicate with other types of warplanes; it currently is the only such warplane to lack that capability.”

    “Several sources said the flight was part of a bid to make the F-22 relevant to current conflicts by giving it a capability to conduct precision bombing raids, not just aerial dogfights. The Air Force is still probing who should be held accountable for the accident.”

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