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Gen. John Batiste (Ret.)
Military/Corporate leader

Gen. John Batiste (Ret.)

A retired U.S. Army Major General, John Batiste is president of Klein Steel Services, Inc, based in Rochester, New York.

Our broken strategy-making process

Q: In confronting the issue of Gen. McChrystal's apparent insubordination, did President Obama have any choice but to remove him? Going forward, what can Gen. Petraeus do to overcome this dramatic shakeup and keep his troops reassured and on mission?

Stan McChrystal crossed the line and President Obama did the right thing to accept his resignation. Civilian control of our military is fundamental to our system of government. That said, Stan's action is a symptom of a root cause of significant magnitude.
That root cause is the systemic failure in our government to produce a synchronized, comprehensive strategy with all 18 US government departments and agencies singing off the same sheet of music.

Do not confuse a well-developed Department of Defense military strategy with a comprehensive U.S. government interagency strategy. Hear me out.

Because we have no interagency strategic planning process, there is no comprehensive strategy to deal with world-wide Islamic extremism. The White House staff may have a strategy, but it is produced in isolation without the involvement of the entire interagency community. As a direct result, the plan is not complete and there is no buy-in.

Departments and agencies of our government are not focused on one common mission, vision, and endstate. There is no document that lays out the ends, ways, and means with specified tasks assigned to each department and agency to make it all happen. No one is holding every department and agency to account. As I have often said, until all departments and agencies of our government have the same skin in the game as the Department of Defense, we can not properly judge the relevancy of the work we are doing in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

People often ask me, "Should we be in Iraq and Afghanistan?" My answer today is, "I don't know"--without a comprehensive strategy to put the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan into the context of a clear endstate, how could one answer this question? A great planner once told me that if you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there. Are we on "the road to Abilene?"

Strategic planning under the best of circumstances is very difficult. There is nothing more deliberate or rigorous. Strategic planning requires a process, discipline, and well-trained planners. The U.S. government interagency does not have a defined planning process, it lacks organizational discipline, and outside the Department of Defense, trained planners do not exist.

As a consequence, the efforts of the U.S. government's 18 departments and agencies to this day are not synchronized or capable of developing or executing the kind of strategy American's expect and deserve. There is little teamwork or cooperation. Each department and agency has its own agenda. There is little to no crosstalk. There are multiple cooks in the kitchen. No one is in charge. Generals and ambassadors argue and undermine each others' efforts. All the while, our troops are dying while our government ineptly deals with the confusion. It is all about a leader taking charge.

The solution is a Goldwater-Nichols-like act designed to define roles and responsibilities of the U.S. government's interagency, define the interagency strategic planning process, and assign responsibilities with a timeline to implement the process. Prior to 1986 when Goldwater-Nichols came into being, the military services behaved in much the same way that the interagency does today.

It took congressional legislation to make the necessary change to create a Joint Staff and the position of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It took congressional legislation to bring our military services together to leverage the strengths of each service. It took congressional legislation to force our military services to develop a planning process that dominates the Washington DC scene today. It took congressional legislation to mandate teamwork in the world's finest military. It will take executive leadership, congressional legislation, or both to achieve synergy and teamwork within the departments and agencies of the U.S. government required in these extraordinary times.

Unless this happens soon, we will continue to struggle with a broken U.S. government interagency process. Without change, our government will continue to be disorganized and fractious. We will continue to lack the elements of leadership, focus, and teamwork that define success. We will never be postured to resolve the tough issues like the economy, peak oil, and Islamic extremism. We will probably remain incapable of planning our way out of less complicated disasters like Katrina and the Gulf oil spill.

Stan was wrong and the president did what he had to do. However, unless and until we address the root cause, we will continue to lack strategic focus on the road to bankruptcy and failure.
It is all about leadership. If the executive branch fails to address the root cause, will the Congress step up to the plate? America needs to demand more out of our government.

By Gen. John Batiste (Ret.)

 |  June 24, 2010; 11:25 AM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The burden on Petraeus | Next: Salvaging the mission


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Thank you for your reply. You make some very interesting points that I would like to think through.

As for the Obama administration understanding the relation between development and security, I don't know that "understanding" is the issue so much as operationalizing.

I discussed Patreus and McNamara, as I mentioned with my WB friend, who is now in Washington dealing with such problems up close and personal.

One agency provides you with a stapler, and six years later staples are approved by another. The stapler is no longer functional or the staples don't fit, etc.

The culprits? Bureaucratic inertia, departmentalism, careerism, lack of vision and leadership operate on every level in this society--I speak from (a different kind of) experience.

Friend did say, though, that thus far McNamara's tenure at the WB marked the enterprise's period of greatest accomplishment.

Is there such a one in the government, at present? Who will support Petraeus?

Posted by: farnaz_mansouri2 | June 28, 2010 10:17 PM
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This is what you get when you elect a "community organizer" with zero leadership skills.

Obama and Lyndon Johnson share, in addition to very large ears, some type of fascinaiton in waging undeclared wars with no clear-cut strategy or end-state.

Remember, Obama said we would leave Afghanistan in July, 2011 and now he is looking at another five years...

Posted by: JCM-51 | June 27, 2010 11:29 PM
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Who would the leader of this all encompassing interagency fellowship of the rings be?

How long before this interagency leadership takes over the country making the president and any other elected official little more than puppets and figure heads?

Anyone who says it can't happen need only look to south america where military leaders "run for office" through coup de'tat all the time.

Posted by: ProfessorWrightBSU | June 27, 2010 10:46 PM
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I found it very telling about his state of mind that, after McNamara made that speech in 1966 in which the 'e=mc2 of the way the US should deal with 3d World insurgencies was "Security is Development' he left the White House to head up the World Bank - the preeminent organization committed to 'Economic Development' in the 3d world.

I even found it ironic later that Wolfowitz, #2 to Rumsfeld did the same thing when he quit to head the World Bank.

While many critics of our motivation for intervening in the 3d world try to reduce it to the simplistic matter of us just trying to secure oil, or exploit the resources of those nations, the fact is that Western form of market economy Economic Development - capitalism - can ALSO be a major preventive of armed Insurgencies arising in the first place. Or, bluntly, it is cheaper to prevent uprisings than fight them.

To that end, I find the recent announcement by the Pentagon of the geological mapping trillions of dollars worth of develop-able minerals in Afghanistan is encouraging. If we, the allies we still have, and the Afghan government will not only extend reasonable 'security' to the mining regions and induce large expert mining companies to undertake capitalization and development of those real economic resources, in the long run - 20-40 years that economy sector alone could insure an independent, non theocratic Muslim state employing hundreds of thousands of Afghans far beyond its still backward agricultural (poppy growing included) economy.

So somebody in the Pentagon is doing their homework about the long term future of Afghanistan. And my listening at night (over World BBC) to the Afghanistan Minerals Manager, its clear that he gets it too.

Do you suppose anyone close to Obama's Administration in the White House understands that strategic fact? I am sure Petreaus
HE understands the relationship of development to security.

Posted by: dave19 | June 27, 2010 10:43 PM
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McChrystal had a strategic plan. The trouble is that it wasn't working. The setbacks in Marja and the delays in getting troops to Kandahar shows the problems with McChrystal's plan. I personally think they were looking for an excuse to get rid of the general, and the Rolling Stone article provided what they needed. I've heard worst observations from those in the military, who you know tend to be Republicans.
The central problem is that State Department diplomats like Richard Holbrooke are getting too involved in military issues. Isn't it interesting that both Karzai and his brother were so strongly behind McChrystal in this dispute?
No military plan works with outside interference. That was a lesson from Vietnam when Lyndon Johnson interfered with Pentagon decisions. The political aspects need to be dealt with as the plan is put together, but once everyone signs off on it, then it has to be left to the military to carry out with no or minimal interference. Otherwise lives are going to be lost unnecessarily.
I disagree with you that any legislation is going to solve this. Goldwater-Nichols only results in new layers of bureaucracy and rules that get in the way. The solution is to slim down the bureacratic entanglements which make a smooth military operation impossible and only result in generals having to add colonels to their staff to answer the stream of emails and messages.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | June 27, 2010 10:11 PM
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I agree with the General, our military strategy is broken. We are bogged down with a cold war mentality. The terrorist have no capital to attack. The Taliban will always shoot and scoot if the force is superior like ours. We cannot win in Afghanistan or Iraq. Both wars are shaping up like another one I remember, Vietnam. We cannot prevent another attack even if we eliminated the Taliban and Bin Laden and his group. The terrorist are already in America waiting for the big one. They want the next attack to be the final blow. We simply have to change with the times and that includes looking closely at some of our so called interests to determine if they are indeed beneficial to the country.

Posted by: Moley2 | June 27, 2010 9:49 PM
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Just got off the phone with someone who holds a high position at the World Bank. We talked for a moment about McNamara. My friend says McNamara was the best head of the WB in history. I wish I could tell you who my friend is since if I could, you would know that this is very high praise, indeed.

Posted by: farnaz_mansouri2 | June 27, 2010 9:31 PM
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fzdybel wrote "Yes, but adopting those weapons, they wouldn't stand a chance against us. We must stop fighting the war on their terms, and their turf. If they want to fight war on our terms, so much the worse for them. As for Islamic fundamentalism, that is Muslim's problem to solve, just as Christian fundamentalism is a problem for Christians to solve."

That's not the point.The point is the damage they could do with those weapons. If they die, it's no problem as they have proven with their human bombs, and because they are doing it in "god's" name and they will reap the rewards in the afterlife.

"As for Islamic fundamentalism, that is Muslim's problem" So you say that these muslim fundementalists can attack us around the world and kill thousands but it's a muslim problem? You are joking surely!

Posted by: hawkeye7 | June 27, 2010 9:31 PM
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In other words a massive trillion dollar bureaucracy in service to itself. What else could explain after nine years, a trillion dollars spent, a military machine apparently incapable of tracking down and killing a six-foot four inch cave dwelling Arab, quite possibly hooked to a dialysis machine still being on the lam?

Posted by: slim2 | June 27, 2010 8:04 PM
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Well, gee , General, you had me right up until that last sentence there. Unspecifically spelled out in your piece was that you've got a whole lot of agencies here and the right hand doesn't know what it's purpose is. Also unsaid was that maybe the Progressive Movement LIKES IT THAT WAY. Butin the final analysis, Americans have demanded SO MUCH MORE out of their government that it cannot fight a war.....even if it wanted to.

Posted by: chatard | June 27, 2010 7:19 PM
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the military isn't broken...
they are led by politicians in the whitehouse...
they are the ones that are broken...
because they don't care how many Americans die because of their politics...

Posted by: DwightCollins | June 27, 2010 6:15 PM
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The General McChrystal affair was not a result of interagency strategy but rather a crisis of leadership in the nation.

The affair of General Chrystal is not simply a matter of the Rolling Stone article, but more importantly the leak last year of the proposed strategy of General McChrystal. It is difficult to speak of interagency strategy when leaders allow the leaking of documents to the public to win acceptance of their plans or ideas. In an environment of leaked plans and strategy, analysis quickly takes a back seat to the popularity contest created by leaked documents, where any plan or strategy is accepted no matter how invalid the arguments if it appeals to the whims of the public.

Recently supporters of General McChrystal claimed that the President was responsible for the high casualties in Afghanistan because of the President's rules of engagements. None of these supporters of General McChrystal are aware that the rules of engagement that caused increased casualties were specifically part of the strategy of General McChrystal and in the document that was leaked last year.

It is not surprising that we are not doing well with the strategy of General McChrystal in Afghanistan when the acceptance of this strategy was dependent upon popularity and not analysis.

Our greatness as a nation has been from leaders that would put the country before their own self interests and ambitions.

For quite awhile we have seen both military and political leaders in this nation putting their interests above the nation.

Posted by: bsallamack | June 27, 2010 6:03 PM
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Greater inter-agency harmony is not the right answer, and Afghanistan is not the right question.

Posted by: fzdybel | June 27, 2010 4:37 PM
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"Pakistan now has somewhere between 50 - 100 nuclear weapons, long range missiles, and a fleet of hi tech French designed Agosta stealth submarines with second-strike capability and with a range close to 12,000 miles . Each Agosta 90B is able to carry sixteen Harpoon Stand-Off Land Attack cruise missiles and represent a very serious threat to every western country including Australia. And these religious physcopath Taliban who would cut the throats of their own wives or daughters if provoked, or hang anybody who plays music or flies a kite have already stated that they will use these weapons on the west as soon as they acquire them.So I would say to you that - yes we should be in Afghanistan."

Yes, but adopting those weapons, they wouldn't stand a chance against us. We must stop fighting the war on their terms, and their turf. If they want to fight war on our terms, so much the worse for them. As for Islamic fundamentalism, that is Muslim's problem to solve, just as Christian fundamentalism is a problem for Christians to solve.

Posted by: fzdybel | June 27, 2010 4:29 PM
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General McChrystal did one thing wrong: he did not keep his views or that of his staff quiet. Have another drink. When you basically have peaceniks running the show, you are bound to have friction with the military. But rationality favors the military in today's dangerous world. And it is a dangerous world. We lost a good General who did not think when he and his staff opened up in front of a snitch reporter. General McCrystal forgot there was a Judas at the table with him and his men. Judas is alive. He is working at the Rolling Stone. Lesson: If you want to drink, let your hair down, and speak your mind: do not have a reporter listening in.

Posted by: fiveman3 | June 27, 2010 4:21 PM
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Retired Marine Corps General Tony Zinni expressed similar concerns in Battle Ready, the book he co-wrote with Tom Clancy. He mentioned that the Goldwater-Nichols Act was intended to apply to various Commanders-in Chiefs (CINCs) in their respective areas of responsibility (AOR) primarily as war fighters. He recommended that the various responsible government entities and agencies in specific AOR's coordinate their activities and work together on common goals.
He further stated, "The Washington bureaucracy was too disjointed to make the vision of all the strategies, from the President's to the CINC's a reality." Without the support of the Service Chiefs and the State Department along with other agencies the job of the CINC's is all that more difficult.

Posted by: rlg007 | June 27, 2010 3:13 PM
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Two questions:

1. The military is an authoritarian, socialist structure. I've been there and loved it but basically am not an institutional person. Most of America is to the right of me. How do you expect to put that much power in the hands of an authoritarian civilian structure and survive as a Democracy?

2. The other side is the total opposite of what you advocate and they are winning. Is the answer to dig a bigger hole or to stop digging?

PS I found the military to be filled with wonderful individuals. Intelligent and caring for the nation. They were also very single minded in the direction of their intent and the complexity of their responsibility, (as to authority) was almost zero. I believe most of America likes the same structure of free movement and thought as does most of the enemy. The Oath Keepers make this point with an oath to refuse orders that they don't agree with. America suffers not from a lack of drive but from a lack of vision and that can only be formed by education, awareness of how America is different from the other political structures and self discipline. All qualities that demand a great deal more intrinsic motivation than the military has and the American right desires. We are in a double bind and until it is resolved we will neither go forward or succeed but we most surely will fail.

Posted by: Digoweli | June 27, 2010 2:26 PM
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Good article general.

Posted by: mike85 | June 27, 2010 2:25 PM
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Addendum to previous post

Just want to be clear that I'm not attacking McNamara, whom you obviously respect. He was a complicated man, and 2011 is not 1964.

I have older friends, colleagues, among those people who did support the war and people who did not. A lot of things we know now, we, the public, did not know then, and not only about Vietnam.

The more things change....

Posted by: farnaz_mansouri2 | June 27, 2010 2:24 PM
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Thank you very much for your reply. I have the declassified documents bookmarked somewhere and will post them when I find them.

IN the meantime, I thought you might be interested in this from Wikipedia.

Main article: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara failed to inform US President Lyndon B. Johnson that the U.S. naval task group commander in the Tonkin Gulf, Captain John J. Herrick, had changed his mind about the alleged North Vietnamese torpedo attack on U.S. warships he had reported earlier that day.

By early afternoon of 4 August, Washington time, Herrick had reported to the Commander in Chief Pacific in Honolulu that "freak weather effects" on the ship’s radar had made such an attack questionable. In fact, Herrick was now saying, in a message sent at 1:27 pm Washington time, that no North Vietnamese patrol boats had actually been sighted. Herrick now proposed a "complete evaluation before any further action taken."

McNamara later testified that he had read the message after his return to the Pentagon that afternoon. But he did not immediately call Johnson to tell him that the whole premise of his decision at lunch to approve McNamara’s recommendation for retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam was now highly questionable. Had Johnson been accurately informed about the Herrick message, he might have demanded fuller information before proceeding with a broadening of the war. Johnson had fended off proposals from McNamara and other advisers for a policy of bombing the North on four separate occasions since becoming President.[28]

President Johnson, who was up for election that year, ordered retaliatory air strikes and went on national television on August 4. Although Maddox had been involved in providing intelligence support for South Vietnamese attacks at Hon Me and Hon Ngu, Johnson denied, in his testimony before Congress, that the U.S. Navy had supported South Vietnamese military operations in the Gulf. He thus characterized the attack as "unprovoked" since the ship had been in international waters.

As a result of his testimony, on August 7, Congress passed a joint resolution (H.J. RES 1145), titled the Southeast Asia Resolution, which granted President Johnson the authority to conduct military operations in Southeast Asia without the benefit of a declaration of war. The Resolution gave President Johnson approval "to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom."
[edit] Later statements about the incident

In 1965, President Johnson commented privately: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."[29]


Posted by: farnaz_mansouri2 | June 27, 2010 2:20 PM
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Military goals and political goals many times conflict. Military goals can be cut and dry. Political goals are many times murky. If our goal is to defeat the Taliban and alqaeda with our military it can be done provided our military does not have to fight with one foot in a bucket and one hand tied behind it's back. The best way for our military to be defeated is by using the political definition of a goal.

Posted by: bobbo2 | June 27, 2010 1:38 PM
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Fornaz asks me "The consensus seems to be that [McNamara] did not inform Johnson, that no one did--hence, the Tonkin Resolution.

At a later date, however, Johnson did express doubts.

Do you have any knowledge of or opinion on any of this?"

Yes McNamara had doubts whether there had been an attack. But that was another case of the "Fog of War" NOBODY, including the actual sonar operators on Navy ships knew for *sure* - they were interpreting the always ambiguous underwater signals.

'Intelligence' whether it was over Vietnam, or 9/11, or even the most recent 'terrorist threat' on the flight to the US is always subject to interpretation and uncertainty. And once a decision is made in secret by CIA/DIA specialists but is released into the public - especially into the hands of media, with ITS tendency to spin as it pursues (competitively I might add) 'news' and 'the smoking gun' the public AND Congress can leap to absolute solutions on every uncertain 'facts.'

That is one reason that the instantaneous 'Red Phone' - direct from the President wherever he may be direct to the Soviet Premier was created. The nuclear war was too risky to leave to 'interpretations'

So what is Osama Bin Laden's state of mind right now? And intentions. Anybody in the White House trying to reach him?

Posted by: dave19 | June 27, 2010 12:37 PM
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The can never be a military soluction, so the entire thesis of the writer is spurious.

However, far more dangerous are the comments of someone like kiler who suggests a "final solution" for people who actually live in Afghanastan.

This attitude is the root cause of our foreign adventures. No nothing yahoos whose world view comes from comic books, Christian propaganda and TV wresting.

Posted by: inplants | June 27, 2010 11:30 AM
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The same government disconnect is occurring in health care. Divisions within the same deparment, HHS, are competing for funds and have different objectives. CMS focuses on payment rates and accountability of individual practitioners to meeting cost objectives. AHRQ and ONC are working towards systems of care with longitudinal quality objectives. The measurements being imposed on health care providers by the different organizations are often in conflict. It is looking like health care "reform" is simply creating more government bureaucracy and pulling resources away from patients.

We need more smart managers and less politicians running both the defense/foreign affairs and health care efforts. We also need a CIC to make up his mind and clearly state the objectives, holding ALL of his appointments accountable.

Posted by: mellwood1 | June 27, 2010 10:20 AM
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i'm not a racist nut...we have failed a large percentage of our people miserably...think of Afghanistan as a post apocalyptic Appalachia...banjos and all..a la Deliverance...build them museums...cultural arts centers...have Sara Palin sponsor them...quantum physics..they will grasp it.....get the picture?

Posted by: kiler616 | June 27, 2010 8:59 AM
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how to do it??...gas the mountains...gas the villages..assasinate Karzai...machine gun the villages...then march in some Kansas and Arkansas people and farm the place.

Posted by: kiler616 | June 27, 2010 8:45 AM
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there is nothing to win...it's all barren territorie with an ancient culture of villages and tribal elders...no government to take over...no army to defeat..no infrastructure..and a population incapable of sustaining an infrastructure...it's the graveyard of empires because it has NOTHING to offer...only way to win..is to kill the population and replace it..then..take all the natural resources and build a new southwest U.S.,,,first..kill the people

Posted by: kiler616 | June 27, 2010 8:42 AM
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I do not believe you can fight an unconventional war with conventional resources or wisdom.

I believe understanding religious beliefs and ideologies is the beginning point of developing the unconventional wisdom necessary to win the 'Long War' for both our country and our troops.

Dialog, an essential ingredient to unconventional wisdom, should be performed by professionals, just as soldiering is performed by professionals. Most soldiers are not experts at dialog, but at what they are taught in 'War College,' and dialog is not one of the topics covered.

A partnership of civilian and military leadership is needed and not a coalition, while respect; for both individuals and chain of command; must remain at the center of the process if America is going to 'Win' the 'Long War.'


Posted by: patmatthews | June 27, 2010 8:14 AM
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"People often ask me, "Should we be in Iraq and Afghanistan?" My answer today is, "I don't know"--without a comprehensive strategy to put the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan into the context of a clear endstate, how could one answer this question?"

When the US invaded Afghanistan they closed the 15 training camps that have provided training for some 20,000 plus potential terrorists. The British security services estimate that some 600 people trained in the Afghan camps now live in the UK, according to one Whitehall source. The al Qaeda training camps are an integral part of the terrorist organization. All 19 of the 9/11 hijackers, as well as the operatives in the USS Cole attacks and the Bali bombing which killed 88 Australians attended Afghan training camps.

If the allies pull out of Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban will then be free to move their forces in to help the Pakistani Taliban overthrow the government there, and as the Pakistani Government is barely holding on now, it would be over very quickly.
Pakistan now has somewhere between 50 - 100 nuclear weapons, long range missiles, and a fleet of hi tech French designed Agosta stealth submarines with second-strike capability and with a range close to 12,000 miles . Each Agosta 90B is able to carry sixteen Harpoon Stand-Off Land Attack cruise missiles and represent a very serious threat to every western country including Australia. And these religious physcopath Taliban who would cut the throats of their own wives or daughters if provoked, or hang anybody who plays music or flies a kite have already stated that they will use these weapons on the west as soon as they acquire them.So I would say to you that - yes we should be in Afghanistan.

Posted by: hawkeye7 | June 27, 2010 2:28 AM
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Re: Your post

Thank you very much for the link. I read the speech and was much impressed. McNamara said much the same thing throughout his lengthy career(s).

I have some thoughts on the substance of your post, but given your work with McNamara, I wonder if I might digress.

I became interested in McNamara some years ago after listening to a broadcast interview in which he impressed me as brilliant. I soon found myself reading up on the man whenever I could scrape together a moment.

A very complicated fellow. Whether or not we will ever definitively know the truth of who knew what about August 2, and August 4, 1964, I do not know. However, McNamara seems to have known very soon after the incidents of August 4th were reported that there had been no attack. The consensus seems to be that he did not inform Johnson, that no one did--hence, the Tonkin Resolution.

At a later date, however, Johnson did express doubts.

Do you have any knowledge of or opinion on any of this?

Posted by: farnaz_mansouri2 | June 27, 2010 1:48 AM
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You cant afford to confront terrorism through full scale war. Its bankrupting the country and killing the military.

Its a failed stategy started by Bush cause he wanted to act tough ater 9-11 and continued by Obama. But at least Obama recognizes that this cant go on forever.

Posted by: Chops2 | June 26, 2010 11:48 PM
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How do you spell Afghanistan? V-i-e-t-n-a-m.

"We just need more troops. We just need more time."

Posted by: drlatham22 | June 25, 2010 1:48 PM
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Yes Stan was a part of the problem, the biggest part of the problem however remains with the employment of Admiral Mullins.

Posted by: GordonShumway | June 25, 2010 1:32 PM
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It seems to me that all departments were pretty well synchronized in developing and carrying out the Vietnam strategy. It didn't turn out so well.

Posted by: brombonz | June 25, 2010 1:23 PM
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It seems to me that all departments were pretty well synchronized in developing and carrying out the Vietnam strategy. It didn't turn out so well.

Posted by: brombonz | June 25, 2010 1:22 PM
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Bomeing Afghanistan for 9/11 yes but this sending of troops was wrong from day one. What are the troops dying for? U.S.S.R. correctly left and who was the U.S.A. backing at that time? This crusade will fail like Bush Jr. other crusade Iraq that his dad had sewed up. What a waste. The problem always has been in the country next door. I feel sorry for all the troops.

Posted by: usapdx | June 25, 2010 1:02 PM
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Despite all the reforms, stovepiping of govt is the law of the day. Go to an Embassy...rather than integrating all the different govt departments there to execute a national plan for the country the embassy is in, you have a dozen clamoring agencies/dept all doing their own thing. No single, integrated strategy.

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | June 25, 2010 12:50 PM
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The problem of having no unified command structure to coordinate different agencies is not something new.

This same issue was one of the primary reasons the Nazi's lost WWII. Hear me out.

See, they didn't have a unified General Staff made up of senior representatives from each branch of the military. As such they had no long term mission or goals to drive the development of a cooperative, unified strategy. They had no idea where they were going because they continuously changed gears in response to events outside their control. It was all knee-jerk reaction. They didn't know where they wanted to go, let alone how to get there. Sound familiar?

I marvel at how history repeats itself. We have a government that is fractured into 18 agencies, each with their own mission, goals, and strategies.

There is no singular, overall authoritative entity to coordinate the actions of these agencies. If there was one, such things as a unified mission and the sharing of intelligence to drive the development of short-term and long-term cooperative missions would have long been established.

Posted by: cgteddy911 | June 25, 2010 11:57 AM
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I did not like McChyrstal after learning he covered up the Pat Tillman incident... what kind of military leader is so dishonest? How can they be trusted? It was a mistake to keep the guy in the Army after Tillman.

Posted by: kkrimmer | June 25, 2010 11:21 AM
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Interagency miscommunication, leadership, the two parties' differences--in my opinion are not the base of the problem. The base of the problem is Americans' acceptance of unending war, their acceptance of the chimera of "world-wide Islamic extremism," and of the most powerful aspect of our economy being the MIC.

Join the War Resisters League. It has worked out an absolutely effective comprehensive strategy to deal with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and how to solve the energy problem as well.

Posted by: dwyerj1 | June 25, 2010 11:21 AM
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McCHrystal and his staff involved broke the military law with their comments on more than one occasion and he at least paid the price. Likewise the essential need for the 18 govt. agencies to sign off on the same sheet of music - as a team with one in charge and the decision maker has not occurred; this is not the fault of the President but leaders within the agencies playing with two operating manuals in all likelihood and the one used daily by them unbeknown to the others including the President and to a degree Congress. For example that the CIA would turn around and offer the multimillion dollar security account to the new Black water off spring after such Iraqi and State Dept charges were filed and held against them is a joke.
However, to call the President a liar for not upholding the ending of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is absolutely wrong. Much was accomplished in Iraq over the past year or perhaps two in the area of eradication of the terrorist organizations. But will this country truly change - not if you look at the current unstable government and leadership amongst a still fractionalized peoples. One cannot even compare Afghanistan and the current war there with Iraq. As many have written the Russians attempted unsuccessfully to defeat the corrupt govt and local tribal leaders to no avail as the U.S. supported the locals including Bin Laden. As with VN the infrastructure of corruption and control is too deeply entrenched along with the more rigid Muslim religious elements to allow any sig change to occur. But for a writer to comment and say the President lied in saying he would end the war is plain naive and wrong. Obama as well as the DOD and other agencies truly did not nor does it currently know and understand which way the winds are blowing in Afghanistan. He, Sec. Gates and many within the DOD chain of command have committed the withdrawal of American and Allied troops within a short time period of this year and early into the next. That is not dishonesty but appreciating the reality of troop withdrawal or stand down has to occur in a controlled manner.
I actually am increasingly tired of Republican and Religious fundamentalists accusing Obama of being a liar, coward, in capable, inept, etc. This president stepped into a situation of which we have not been since the great depression and sadly may never fully recover. Obama did not do this but rather the President and staff and congress preceding him largely did but above all to a large degree also did the American people who partake in the various schemes and said yes to all of the above who are also to blame.

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | June 25, 2010 11:15 AM
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If congressional action is necessary to make military strategists, strategize and co-ordinate- then we are in real trouble. The military, of all things, should be able to define the mission, value the components and implement with consideration for vector changes. The military administration needs to do it's job for the men and women in harm's way and for the American people. General, your notions would add to the bureaucracy- when it needs to be distilled and defined.

Posted by: poppysue85 | June 25, 2010 11:12 AM
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Congressional legislation will do this to make 18 agencies work perfectly, Congressional legislation will do that to make 18 agencies work perfectly. Seriously? That's your perfect solution?

You pine for a Goldwater-Nichols plan and put forth no evidence that the original plan produced any successful results. Congress is not perfect, but you cannot blame everything on Congressional action or inaction. Military leaders have incredible influence and impact on strategies and plans. When was the last time you stepped out of your CEO buzz-word glass bubble and picked up a history book?

You want one document, one vision, one plan- all created and enforced by one government that affects millions of people all over the world. Good luck with that.

This article offers nothing of merit.

Posted by: WarriorJames1 | June 25, 2010 10:58 AM
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The problem is very simple. The country elected Obama believing his promise to end all senseless wars. The country chose that way fully unknown man over well known military hero McCain. But Obama lied, and my opinion that he never intended to deliver his promise. As the result, the country stacked with fully unskillful military (as well as in all other mast important areas of the statehood) person. It is the tragedy, of course. And McCrystall career is simply the casualty of this tragedy.

Posted by: aepelbaum | June 25, 2010 10:39 AM
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A very convincing argument for systemic change. But, to turn your planners analogy around, even with perfect inter-agency integration and cooperation, a commander using the Great Santini model of diplomacy depicted in the RS article is doomed to failure.

Posted by: JustinCC9 | June 25, 2010 10:27 AM
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It IS all about Leadership. We demand more from our Generals.

If a war is doomed, they need to say it, to the appropriate person. If there are too many people meddling in it or you can't work with them, you need to tell the appropriate person. If you are tired of it all and want relief, you should tell the appropriate person. They had a perfect opportunity with this President NOT to perpetuate this thing. They asked to escalate it. They got it. Now that we have made a committment to Pakistan to help them clean out terrorists, we have to deliver. One more year....he couldn't shut up long enough. I expect at least that from the General.

Posted by: nana4 | June 25, 2010 10:24 AM
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It's not the war strategy which McCrystal and Petraeus designed.

It's McCrystal's drinking and carousing with a reporter from a magazine, his lost inhibitions, his loose mouth, and his ego and his hubris, and his poor judgement.

If he knew his strategy was not working, he also knew he had one more year left to start drawing down and no one expected a resolved situation next year. If he knew it wasn't working, he could have accessed the President or CentCom.

No matter how you spin it, he did it. Not the first time his behavior is controversial. Something causing his erratic behavior.....

Posted by: nana4 | June 25, 2010 10:18 AM
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Let's come up with a new war strategy, what a great idea. Lets find another poor third world country that has no tanks, no planes, no bombs, no submarines, no missilies and definely no nuclear weapons where the people live in caves and mud huts and lets attack them in the name of terrorism. We can kill their civilians with drones and whatever else we wish to use and keep sending troops and generals and spending billions. What a novel and great concept. And then lets give the nobel peace prize to the leaders and pat ourselves on the back. Wonderful.

Posted by: tahirn | June 25, 2010 10:13 AM
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How can you have a comprehensive war strategy when you are not fighting a country or a people or even a specific group of people, instead we have basically decided that we will label people and then fight them based on their adherence to or use of a tactic.

The current descriptions of the war in Afghanistan is as close to the war in Vietnam as I have seen since Vietnam and the operation that we are supposedly instituting in Afghanistan is just a polished version of "Vietnamization." This idea didn't work then and it isn't working now. Nor will it!

The main reason it didn't work in Vietnam is because the Vietnamese hated us and wanted us out of their country. They didn't necessarily want the North Vietnamese either but at least the North Vietnamese were Vietnamese. In addition we were responsible for imposing a corrupt government on them that only made matters worse.

If all this sounds like what we now have in Afghanistan, it is because it is so similar. And don't get all wrapped up in those elections that gave us Karzai, they were as rigged as the elections in America that gave us two terms of the Bush administration.

We should have never invaded Afghanistan and the sooner we leave the better. The way to fight people who commit crimes is by arresting them and jailing them, not declaring wars on whoever we think needs to be removed for our latest geopolitical goals.

Posted by: Prakosh | June 25, 2010 10:00 AM
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I mamet General B in Bosnia when he was BDE commander...and one of the few who took issue with the Bush people over the war in Iraq..the war of choice.

That said, General McC made a mistake..and as such the mission in Afghanistan and those wo directly prosecute the war..the 11B´s and the Marines will pay a price. And, this is the legacy General McC will leave behind..unfortunately. He has done more to empower our enemy than at anytime during the last 9 years. The historical context of this action..and reaction will be with us for sometime to come.


Posted by: LTC11A | June 25, 2010 9:55 AM
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For the first time I that can remember in my lifetime the American strategy is clear, lucid and unambiguous. Degrade the enemy, kill as many of the SOBS as we can find. Reduce the Taliban and Al Qiada to street gang status and give Pakistanis and Afghans and moderate Muslims a chance to a to assert control on their own terms. Makes sense to me.

Posted by: lcarey | June 25, 2010 9:51 AM
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I have to agree with the writer in that the government from and intra/iteragency standpoint lacks a solid strategic plan or process capable of creating one. However, I strongly disagree with his assertion that the DoD is the preeminent strategic planner. Yes, there are some departments or organizations within the DoD that are best in class strategic planners. But, the DoD as a whole just as bad off as the rest of the other 18 agencies. The most overlooked concept here is the will to execute the plan and to hold accountable those responsible for executing it.

This is the fundamental failure everywhere and anywhere in the entire US government.

Posted by: sprtdive | June 25, 2010 9:50 AM
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What I don't understand is all of YOUR comments. How can anyone disagree that inter-agency cooperation and collaboration is a bad thing? It would be great to see if our two-party system would do the same. Special interests have been destroying our way of life for 40 years now. All of US let that happen by voting parties over PEOPLE. The General is right here, the context may be off, but his rhetoric is not. Remember that warm and fuzzy feeling we all get after each election when the "chosen" candidate tells US that WE'RE going to "WORK TOGETHER". Ah, that's utopia. However we live in a world of special interests whose dollars matter more than our lives.

Posted by: Bryce_Navy | June 25, 2010 9:48 AM
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I agree with the General that unity of purpose , good communication and sharing the burden , would improve the formation and implementation of strategy.

The civilian sector of American society is straining since the civil/gender/human rights eras; groups are balkanized and discourse struggles to be civil.

One reason for the Islamic hatred of the West generally , and America particularly, is (as Michaer Sheurer indicates) our unconditional support of Israeli policies , and military action against Muslim states. Another justification for 'the narrative' of extremist opponents is non-military meddling in Muslim affairs , the chaos characteristic of democracy , and the dominant presence of activity (commercial and cultural) associated with the West.

Allow me to suggest that such exports as Steven Spielberg's 'Amistad' have created a sense of justice that resonates between our cultures; this , like the goodwill that military involvement in the 2004 BoxingDay tsunami engendered , provide a baseline for progress and a metric of community value. If the West's activities (that is , civilian Cultural/Commercial ,and Governmental civilian/military) attempted to conform with such 'best practices' , the military's burden might be mitigated.

Cost-benefit analysis of military involvement in Afganistan versus an expansion of Greg Mortenson's involvement , might be instructive.

Lastly , democracy's strength derives from the dynamic cooperation of different people ; the U.S. military has profited by its' somewhat decentralised initiatives , and consequent appraisals of efforts. Ambassador Eikenberry's disclosures of the inept/corrupt governance in Afganistan were both informative and prophetic , and indicative that the administration had access to broad background .

The demands placed on our soldiers and Marines by COIN strategy , particularly the Rules of Engagement , are extreme; the concentrated burden borne by the professional military on their extended tours warrants a better act on the home front.

Posted by: tbhpmci | June 25, 2010 9:48 AM
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I can't for the life of me recall why the US is in Afgan. We went into Iraq because we were lied to by the president and his men. Somehow we lapped over into afgan. Could someone pls remind me of the reason we are even in afgan that is so important that troops are being killed every day? Thanks..

Posted by: tbrown17 | June 25, 2010 9:29 AM
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Why is it that "experts" like Frmr. Gen. Batiste blame lack of "interagency stategery" for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Our greatest failing is not that the State Dept., intelligemce agencies, the military, the executive branch and Congress don't have a coherent plan to work together. In fact, they do -- at least under the Obama administration.

But our greatest failing has been a stategy of flawed diplomatic and foreign policy. We have had a host of "frenemies" and an ever-shrinking list of true friends. President Obama is steadily trying to change that. We have had "strategic interests" that only focused on commodities and resources (like oil) instead of humans. Our greatest failing has been believing that we have license to invade and occupy in perpetuity foreign lands to take their oil.

Blame Dick Cheney for believing what worked in 60s, 70s and 80s works today. Blame him for getting us mired in two wars.

Changing how the CIA and DIA and NSA and DNI and FBI and DOS and DOJ and DOD play together isn't the problem and doesn't solve anything except to fiddle with egos.

What we need to change is our role as the leader in a global village.

Gen. McChrystal knew full well what he (and his staff) was (were) doing, and with whom. This wasn't "15 minutes in heaven" like some breathy teenagers making out in a basement party room. They met with, spoke with, and "embedded" this reporter for more than 30 days. He shared his draft with them to verify and validate quotes he used.

It's not the process that's broken. It's policy. It's us.

Posted by: jade_7243 | June 25, 2010 9:16 AM
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The US is not in Afghanistan and Iraq to "win" anything.

The US is in Afghanistan and Iraq to prevent a Muslim theocratic hegemony.

What Bin Laden and the rest want is a pan-Arabic empire ala the Ottoman Empire that will first secure the Middle East for Islam, wipe Israel of the map, and then advance Islam throughout the world.

So far our strategy is working if only to deny the Bin Ladens their dream of an Islamic super state.

Posted by: krankyman | June 25, 2010 9:15 AM
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Keep talking about "war" you morons. When was the last time the US fought a real war? For the historically challenged, ignorant and gullible masses of idiots, the answer is WWII. In that conflict, the US strategy was wipe out enemy resistance at all costs and at all levels. That included so-called "innocent civilians" or "non-combatants". check every war since then and you'll see that the US has NOT used the full military power at its disposal to pummel the enemy into either submission or annihilation. That is why we are not winning against the radical islamist pigs who seek to take over the world, and whose strategy includes long term infiltration of your societies. Wake up you morons!

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | June 25, 2010 8:57 AM
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Our politicians have no war strategy for America. They only react to the companies that make the billions of dollars from wars, period! Politicians serve their financial masters who operate from behind the curtain. Our political system has been broken for decades and only gets worse with each election. The middle class of America keeps sliding backwards and the GOP makes sure this happens. The DEMS are lousy at managing projects, so we as a Nation have unfortunately seen our best days!

Posted by: billdollar | June 25, 2010 8:12 AM
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I get yer point about civilian agencies not supporting the war. When I worked for the USGS, part of Interior, I volunteered for a detail to support the Army in Iraq. The top personnel officer at USGS said "it ain't our war, it's DOD's war," and disapproved my request.

I git yer point about the Interagency. Ambassador Oakley must have yer ear.

What I kan't unnerstand is yer mythology about a "well-developed Department of Defense military strategy." There ain't no such thang.
We are in Afghanistan today because we were there yesterday. Inertia.
ISAF HQs is treading water, as they have for 7 years, awaiting further guidance.

Lemme tell ya what a real LEADER would have done in Stan's position: he would go on live TV and ask the President what we were in A'stan for, what his Mission wuz.
c.f., John K. Singlaub.
A real LEADER would not go along to get along, letting soldiers get ground up while DC politicians put that phone call, the one asking what the military was supposed to accomplish, on hold for 7 years.
That's the path for an aspiring politician.

Posted by: BrianX9 | June 25, 2010 7:55 AM
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As soon as I read the word that it wasn't "Stan's" fault, I wondered what the personal agenda of the writer was. If it was unbiased, Stan would have been referred to as General McChrystal. The point may be correct but the messenger's agena is too clear. Don't blame "Stan".

Posted by: mitlen | June 25, 2010 7:20 AM
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Retired General Baptiste is exactly right that there is NO real 'interagency' strategy - much less even commitment by various Administration Agencies to pull their weight in fighting the war we have. Our military commands in Afghanistan have been FORCED to do the job of MANY agencies, not just their own.

That is a very old story too. I wrote Secretary of Defense McNamara's final overview speech delivered to all the Newspaper Editors of north America on May 18th, 1966, in which the core idea was the need for MORE than just US Military forces to fight such wars, but economic, political, social, DEVELOPMENT along side military and police action.

Did any President since 'get it?' No. Obama has NOT 'commanded' all the agencies in his Administration to contribute to our overall war effort, in a highly coordinated and integrated fashion.

Read McNamara's speech of 44 years ago and while the rhetoric was right - neither Johnson, Nixon, Carter, or Clinton did it right even in the lesser 'wars' we have been fighting. Petreaus understands that, but HE cannot tell other agencies what they should be doing.


Posted by: dave19 | June 24, 2010 8:39 PM
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People often ask me, "Should we be in Iraq and Afghanistan?" My answer today is, "I don't know"--without a comprehensive strategy to put the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan into the context of a clear endstate, how could one answer this question?
General - the politicians first justified the war(s) by claiming we were going after OBL. Last I heard, he was reported to be in Pakistan. Then, we were threatened by those pesky WMDs in Iraq. Still haven't found 'em. Then "nation-building" or "exporting democracy" was the mantra. Of course, these wars have NOTHING to do with oil or no-bid military contracts to insiders for financial considerations.

As a civilian, I have an opinion about these wars and the politicians who started them by choice - but I fear it would violate the WaPos' standards of decency.

Posted by: shadowmagician | June 24, 2010 7:13 PM
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I have great respect for Batiste, Fallon, Eaton, and Neubold, and others who did not drink the NeoCon koolaid.......but, to the point. STRATEGY......"ain't" no stinkin' strategy. America will NOT conduct its foreign policy or military operations in the interests of AMERICA unless the citizenry WAKES UP and puts America FIRST. It is NOT first today, and has not been for at least 43 years.

Posted by: usnr02 | June 24, 2010 6:42 PM
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