Reshuffling the Neocon Chairs in the Obama Military and Intelligence Apparatus
On April 26, 2011, it was reported that there would be a major reshuffling of the neocon deck chairs in the Obama Administration's military and intelligence apparatus. Leon Panetta will be nominated to replace Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Panetta is currently CIA director. As DCI, Panetta did nothing to reform the CIA. Indeed he was a strong proponent of covering up Bush era illegalities there. As the current revolts in the Arab world show the CIA under Panetta's leadership continues to do an awful job predicting future events or being ready to react to them when they happen. In fact, the CIA has played a not insignficant role in poisoning relations with the people in that part of the world by its support for the dictatorships that oppressed them. It has been doing much the same with its drone programs in Pakistan. Somehow people don't like the idea of the CIA bombing their country at will. Go figure.
David Petraeus is slated to be named to Panetta's position at CIA. Petraeus originally made his reputation training the Iraqi army. He actually failed miserably at this, but Petraeus has always been an opportunist and known to move on to another position before the shit hits the fan. Bush chose him to lead the "surge" in Iraq. Petraeus had just written the book on counterinsurgency. It never seemed to matter to anyone, especially Bush, that the surge was never going to come close to meeting the conditions which Petraeus had himself laid down for a successful COIN strategy. Sectarian violence did decrease during Petraeus' stewardship in Iraq, but it had nothing to do with him. His big sweeps, in fact, tended to inflame the situation and increase US casualties. What saved him was a split between the traditional Sunni power structure and more radical jihadist elements. The traditionalists sought him out and he was able to buy them off for a couple hundred million a year, a nominal sum considering the $140 billion or so that it was costing us to keep an army in the country. Sectarian violence also decreased because, by that time, the Shiites had been largely successful in their ethnic cleansing campaigns in Baghdad and elsewhere and were quite content to sit on and consolidate their winnings. It should be remembered that the actual rationale for the surge was not to decrease sectarian violence but to achieve the conditions for a political settlement between the Iraq's Kurds, Shia, and Sunnis. The surge failed to even come close accomplishing this.
After McChrystal's implosion in June 2010, Petraeus was sent to take charge in Afghanistan. As then CENTCOM commander, he already oversaw both Iraq and Afghanistan. This move simply put him in charge of daily operations. In the 10 months he has been there, the downward spiral has only continued. The timetable for even the hope for the beginning of a withdrawal was pushed back to 2014 under his watch but the decision was in the works well before his taking over there. He merely helped legitimize it.
Ryan Crocker will be named to replace Karl Eikenberry as our ambassador in Afghanistan. Eikenberry lost favor for criticizing the notoriouly corrupt and ineffective government of our resident puppet Hamid Karzai. Crocker, on the other hand, was Bush's ambassador to Iraq during the surge and one of its most vociferous and dishonest cheerleaders. Seeing as the Obama Administration is in every significant way a continuation of the Bush Administration, it is completely unsurprising that Obama would choose a Bush neocon for this position.
Finally, a Marine Lieutenant General John Allen will be the new commander in Afghanistan. The choice of a Marine as commander is an indication that the Obama Administration will continue to doubledown and push for, despite any talk to the contrary, for a military solution there. And of course, being more of an unknown, it will be easier to blame Allen and dump him later on.
This is all set against the backdrop of an April 25, 2011 Washington Post-ABC poll which showed that more Americans now disapprove of Obama's handling of the war than approve it (49% to 44%). Their poll for March showed that overall 64% of Americans do not think the war is worth fighting.
(This is item 256 of my Obama's scandals list.)