By Larry Johnson, NoQuarter May 8, 2010
Posted By Bridgette
Readers of NoQuarter know that when it comes to my assessment of Barack Obama’s support of the military in the so-called “war” on terrorism I have given him high marks and credited him with being aggressive in going after terrorist cells. Well, the worm has turned. The military’s ability to confront terrorists, which already was limited because the terrorists don’t normally organize in ways that make them easy to hit with military assets, is now being further hindered by a combination of Obama actions and military caution. In essence the brakes are being applied and we are likely to see fewer results in the future. Why? Because the military no longer trusts Barack Obama.
Under George W. Bush a number of Top Secret orders were signed that gave the military permission to do a variety of things. I can’t go into the specifics because it would compromise classified info. During Barack’s first year in office most of those authorities remained in place and, as I noted in previous postings, the number of capture/kill operations actually increased under Obama.
That was then. Two things have happened over the last five months. First, many of those original authorities have been rescinded. So our military forces will not be acting against targets that they had permission to hit even one year ago. Second, and more troubling, the military commanders are forcing Obama to sign off on every operation. Why? They don’t trust him. Evidence of this comes, surprisingly, from an Obama worshipper, Jonathan Alter: “A presidential dressing down unlike any in the United States in more than half a century,” is how Alter describes the October 2009 eruption.
The background: Gen. Stanley McChrystal had just given a speech in London in which he publicly rejected proposals to turn the tide in Afghanistan with more drone missiles and special forces, a strategy backed mainly by Vice President Biden. The President viewed McChrystal’s comments as a bald attempt to back him into a Pentagon-backed plan more reliant on troop buildups – and he soon ripped into top commanders for what he considered insubordination.
In an Oval Office showdown, Obama told Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus that he was “exceedingly unhappy” with the Pentagon’s conduct, Alter reported, adding that its leaks to the press were “disrespectful of the process.”
“This was a cold and bracing meeting,” an attendee said of the encounter, where Obama demanded to know “here and now” if the Pentagon would be onboard with any presidential strategy. It apparently worked: Petraeus later described himself as “chagrined,” and both he and Gates “swore loyalty” to the president. They have seen how this arrogant ass operates and understand that he is loyal only to himself.
Accordingly, no one will take any risk or pursue any objective unless Barack puts his name to it. I do not blame them. These guys, like McChrystal, are no fools and understand that they can go from hero to goat in a heartbeat.
Obama eventually supported a troop buildup. Since then the military will not carry out certain types of sensitive operations unless Barack Obama signs off on them personally.
Unfortunately, with this super cautious mentality comes a dramatic slowdown in the counter terrorism operations. The men and women who are on the frontlines now understand that their so-called commander-in-chief is a coward and a self-serving toady. He is no Harry Truman. The buck does not stop with him. He is a buck passer.
I was planning to write this even before I saw the leak of the Jonathan Alter book. The White House decision to use the military as a foil to portray their smiling boy as a tough guy telling the military to fuck off convinces me even more that we have reached a watershed moment. The military is not going to take this lying down and, I suspect, will start leaking unsavory material that will cast Obama in the harsh light of reality.
What a shame. Barack had a chance to actually act like a leader and build on the early success of going after terrorists overseas. Not now. Key military leaders realize they can’t trust him and will take no action and no initiative unless Barack signs up first. No officers worth their salt are willing to become a sacrificial lamb for this clown in the White House.
The Author: Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, anti-terrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics.