Streetwise Professor

October 25, 2012

Modern Day McClellans: Profiles in Cowardice

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 4:21 pm

The administration’s efforts to escape accountability for the clusterf*ck in Benghazi on September 11 grow more disgusting by the day.  These efforts betray a nauseating combination of cowardice, dissimulation, and projection.

Yesterday, Hillary responded to revelations that within hours of the commencement of the assault, that the State Department, Pentagon, FBI, Intel agencies-and yes, the White House-had received an email stating that an Al Qaeda-linked group had claimed responsibility for the attack.  Hillary’s response?  How dare you-DARE YOU-“cherry pick” intelligence.

How’s that for projection, eh? What.  Fixating on the MoVid wasn’t cherry picking?  Really?  Look at all the revelations that have come out demonstrating that the State Department and the White House had numerous reports to the effect that this was a planned terrorist assault.  Yes, the evidence was conflicting.  But they decided to run with the MoVid story-even going to the extreme of recording a sick-making apology vid.  They picked the most rotten cherry from the bunch and went with that.  And they excoriate others for cherry picking-even when those others pick far better ones, plural.

Insofar as the intel agencies are concerned, consider this report they delivered to Congress in the aftermath:

One U.S. intelligence official said that during the first classified briefing about Benghazi given to members of Congress, officials “carefully laid out the full range of sparsely available information, relying on the best analysis available at the time.”

The official added, however, that the initial analysis of the attack that was presented to legislators was mixed.

“Briefers said extremists were involved in attacks that appeared spontaneous, there may have been a variety of motivating factors, and possible links to groups such as (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al-Sharia) were being looked at closely,” the official said.

Wow.  Way to take a stand there.  It seems that the only thing they ruled out is that the attack was carried out by Ninjas or space aliens.

Further proof we should rename the CIA the CYA.   And we should definitely-definitely-depend on the CIA to know the instant Iran will be ready to go nuclear. Totally.

This is also rich:

Intelligence experts caution that initial reports from the scene of any attack or disaster are often inaccurate.

1. No sh*t. 2. If that’s true, why did the administration rush out, with virtual metaphysical certainty, and pin the blame on a spontaneous riot that was a response to the MoVid?  They hide behind the fog of war now, but acted like it didn’t exist for weeks.

But bad as that all is, that’s not what is really setting me off.  (SWP?  Set off?  Go on!)  It’s this statement by Panetta:

In his most extensive comments to date on the unfolding controversy surrounding the attack in Benghazi, Panetta said U.S. forces were on heightened alert because of the anniversary of 9/11 and prepared to respond. But, he said, the attack happened over a few hours and was over before the U.S. had the chance to know what was really happening.

“(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” Panetta told Pentagon reporters. “And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

An answer that would make George McClellan proud.

Fact: commanders never-NEVER-know what’s going on.  What separates real commanders from the McClellans of the world is the moral courage to “deploy forces into harm’s way” when you DON’T know WTF is going on.  You can always-always-find excuses not to act.  You can always say: “I don’t know exactly what is going on, so I’ll wait until I do.”  McClellan did.

War is chaos.  War is radical uncertainty.  Anybody who says “basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on” doesn’t know sh*t about war and has no business making command decisions.  None.  That’s not a principle at all.  It is an anti-principle.

You NEVER know what’s going on. If you wait to “know what’s going on” you never do jack.  And you lose.

And in this case, that meant losing four people in Benghazi.

Real commanders-real leaders-don’t use risk and uncertainty as an excuse for inaction.  They weigh the risks, accept the inevitable uncertainty, and act.

Another point.  The military signs up to go in harm’s way.  That’s their job.  State Department people take some risks, sure, but there’s a huge difference.  The military is there to risk their lives to protect the lives of civilians.  That’s what they sign up for.

Stevens and his people in Benghazi were at risk.  Obviously.  The choice wasn’t between lives at risk and no lives at risk.  It was between putting military lives at risk or State Department lives at risk.  Panetta chose the latter, and those lives were risked-and lost.  (And maybe it wasn’t even necessary to put lives at risk.  A high speed, low altitude pass by F/A-18s or F-16s could have been very effective: it’s worked frequently in Afghanistan.  First pass, just lay a sonic boom on them.  If they don’t get the hint, second pass, open up the M61A2 and lay some 20mm at 4k RPM on them.  And why couldn’t The Lord of the Drones used one of them?)

Given the human stakes-and the national security stakes-to hide behind uncertainty is unconscionable.  War is hell-and war is uncertain.  If you don’t get that, you have no business making the hard calls.

I am not a big Madelaine Albright fan, but she did have it right when she told Colin Powell (a modern day McClellan if there ever was one): “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Why not, Leon?

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