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20 September 2014

Obama At War: How Can We Fight And Win A War When Our CinC Is 'Doing Stupid Shit'?

Martha McCallum interviewed General Jack Keane yesterday and, as usual, he spoke authoritatively and frankly.

Here's my transcript of the interview:

Martha McCallum (MM): As Congress signs off on President Obama's mission to train and arm the Syrian rebels, a key aspect of the White House's strategy, but another aspect of the strategy - support for a growing coalition - including Arab States, something that our own Shepard Smith bet the White House would never happen.

(Cuts to clip)

Shepard Smith: 'What are we going to do if and when our airstrikes end up with civilian casualties, that they put on the internet, increase their numbers, and then this gets to something that nobody can handle? I know that’s part of the thinking, what has been decided…'

Josh Earnest: 'Well, there are two things about that Shep. The first is we are going to have Muslim majority countries, Muslim led countries who are part of this coalition. This is not going to be the United States vs. ISIL, this’ll be the international community, including the Muslim world against these extremists.'

Smith: 'Like Saudi Arabia’s going to have boots over there? Or Jordan?'

Earnest: 'Well, I will let the individual members of the coalition announce the commitments that they are prepared to make.'

Smith: 'There will be no commitment from those two. I will bet every penny I will ever make at this network.'

Earnest: 'That’s a substantial bet, Shep.'

Smith: 'It is a substantial bet and it’s a good bet because it’s not going to happen and the whole world knows it. That’s why i wonder sometimes, like when the Bush administration was doing this, these questions were asked from this desk and now that you’re doing it these are fair questions that deserve answers. We have a coalition of the Muslim world, I don’t see it. No one from Saudi Arabia. No one from Jordan who has its own problems. Turkey has its own problems. We are not getting any help from any of those nations and to and to suggest that these people, with great respect, from Syria, who are not organized, and the Pentagon says it’ll take a year to train, and the Iraqi army, which has already folded and given away the weapons, are going to come together and fight ISIS for us and with us seems like, as the president once put it, something of a fantasy.'

Earnest: 'Shep, these individuals will be fighting for their own country. Iraq now faces an existential threat. The president has determined that it is not in the best interest of the United States of America national security for American forces to be on the ground engaged in combat operations against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. What we can do though is we can degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL by implementing a coordinated counter-terrorism strategy with the support of the international community to support local forces who are taking the fight on the ground to ISIL and backing them up with American military.'

MM: So, where are we?  Retired four-star general, Jack Keane, is the Chairman of the Institute for the Study of War, a former Army Vice-Chief-of-Staff, and a Fox military analyst.  General, good morning to you.

General Jack Keane (GJK): Good morning.

MM: You've made it very clear over the past 24 hours, 48 hours, that, as you see things shaping up, you are very concerned that this cannot work.

GJK:  Yeah, we've got some real challenges here.  Clearly, we are playing a very strong hand with the use of air power.  The United States and some coalition powers participated in that and, the fact of the matter is we're using precision-guided munitions.  We've got great pilots and great skill and we'll have an impact as long as the targets are available to us.  

The problem is our ground offensive campaign is a weak hand.  A weak hand in Syria with the FSA, the Free Syrian Army, that's why they need to be armed, equipped, and trained, but more robustly than the President's plan.  And, obviously, we are playing a weak hand in Iraq, as Shepard Smith identified it.  And, that is what the US military wants to do.  They want to strengthen that hand with air-traffic controllers, advisers down at the lowest levels, Special Ops taking down ISIS leadership and a back-up plan, if that fails, with United States combat brigades and coalition brigades.  So, we've got to strengthen that weak hand on the ground, which is the essence of this problem. 

MM:  So, the President declares a goal, which is to degrade and, ultimately, destroy ISIS.  The Pentagon gets together and says, 'Here's what we need to do that, Mr President.'  And, they hand him the plan saying, 'If you want to do that, if you want to accomplish that goal, we the Armed Forces, say, this is what we need.'

So, they give this to the President and the President says, 'No! Sorry, that's not going to work.  I'm only giving you airstrikes and the training of forces on the ground that may take, at least one to two years, maybe three years, to train.'

GJK:  Well, that's a pattern we've had with this President since 2009.  He's rejected every single force-level plan that has ever been presented to him.. About 5 times.  And, this is the last one and he's rejected this one, too.  He has never, ever accepted a single one.  Every time, he has limited our military options to be able to accomplish the mission.

And, the other spot there, talking about the coalition partners.  We're the elephant in the room.  I don't want to make excuses for the Arab Muslim world not getting into this fight because they should get into this fight.  But, one of the problems that they do have is that they all have radical Islamic movements inside their countries trying to push them out of power.  Maybe, not anything on the scale of ISIS, to be sure, but nevertheless, a movement.  So, if they are going to commit to this, they know that they are going to antagonise that movement and probably grow it.

The fact of the matter is that they want us to be serious about this.  They're not certain to this day, Martha, despite the President's speech, despite all of the follow-up comments by Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel.  They are not convinced that this President is serious about actually see this through to the end.  And, that is one of the problems that we have with them and I think that this will take the President's personal leadership despite Secretary Kerry and General Allen, and all of the skills and reputations that they have.  The President has got to get in this game with our coalition partners, if we are going to get them in this fight in any realistic way.

MM:  So, the Administration, as I understand it, looks at the Pentagon's plan and says, 'Well, that's nice.  That's what you think you need.  We've looked at it, as well.  We don't think that is what you need.  We believe that this can be done the way that we have planned it with these airstrikes and with training these forces on the ground.'  Not to mention the fact that they've previously said that these forces on the ground are, basically, untrainable and it wouldn't work!  It does lead to the inescapable conclusion that the will to win may not be there.

GJK:  Well, I think that's true and we said that the night the President made his comments.  One of the concerns we have always had is his indecisiveness and commitment to see the mission through to the end.  And, that means, not just providing the leadership, which we desperately need, but also it means giving the military and others the resources that they need to do the job.  You've GOT to give them the resources and, in this case, he's not doing that.

MM: Let's listen to the former CIA director, James Woolsey, from just moments ago with Bill (Hemmer):

Woolsey:  This is a movement.  A worldwide movement of extreme Islam, violent jihadists, and we need to focus on that and not just on the group of the moment.

MM:  He went on to say that we are, basically, in what he sees as a worldwide war and that we just need to accept that fact.  Now, I understand that many of the countries that we would like to get on board have a lot of conflicted interests in them.  And, you know, it makes it very difficult for them to be very open about their backing of us.  So, is there any way around that for them?

GJK:  Well, first of all, Director Woolsey knows exactly what he is talking about here and you and I have had similar discussions on this subject, as well.

This is radical Islam.  It is a worldwide movement focused primarily in the Middle East and we have never had a comprehensive strategy to deal with it.  President Bush didn't have one and this President doesn't have one either.  He won't even define it as a radical Islamist movement!  He rejects, walks away from religion being part of their core belief system.

You know, we have a model for this and how to deal with it and that is dealing with Communist ideology.  The fact of the matter is that we were successful because we formed political and military alliances for those countries that had vested interests in NATO and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO).  We can do the same thing here, but it takes leadership to do that and to put that political and military alliance together.  Share intelligence.  Share training.  Share technology.  Work towards common objectives.  This can be done.

If we don't do something like that, Martha, we're going to deal with ISIS.  We've eventually get the ground plan right.  We'll eventually defeat them, but someone else is going to pop up.  So, we HAVE to have a much larger and comprehensive strategy to cope with this harsh reality that we have with radical Islam.

MM: History in the making and a lot, a lot, at stake, big decisions to be made, and leadership is desperately needed, as you say.  General Jack Keane, that you so very much.  Always good to see you.

GJK:  Great talking to you, Martha, as always.

Speaking of 'Don't do stupid shit!'...

From National Review Online:

Charles Krauthammer has little confidence in President Obama’s decision to personally approve each American bombing strike in Iraq and Syria.

'Lyndon Johnson, who had a lot more experience, was also the one who directed air strikes in the north of Korea during the Vietnam War,' Krauthammer reminded his fellow panelists on Friday’s Special Report, 'and there was universal agreement that it was a catastrophe. And Obama, with zero experience, having now gone against his secretary of defense and generals on Iraq and on Syria — to a disastrous effect — is going to be in charge of the air campaign? That’s really scary stuff.'

Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane was on The Kelly File to discuss the troops’ frustration with President Barack Obama.