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October 6, 2009
Should the Afghanistan debate be public or private?

The decision that U.S. President Barack Obama makes in coming weeks about the next phase of the war in Afghanistan will be among the most important of his presidency. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made that observation himself on Monday as the debate over whether to send tens of thousands of additional Americans to Afghanistan goes increasingly public.

Gates took the extraordinary step of saying something else — that those advising the president should keep their views private. This was an implicit criticism of the top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, for publicly lobbying for more troops.

Worldfocus spoke with Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and the implications of troop increases.

Do you agree with Defense Secretary Robert Gates that those advising President Obama on war strategy should keep their opinions private?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below. Please remember to be respectful and on-point in your comments. Malicious or offensive comments will be deleted and repeat offenders will be banned.

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The greatest problems that have come back to haunt this country in recent decades have all been the result of secret policies contrived behind White House closed doors. How often do elitists need to be reminded; By the people, for the people, and of the people! Military operations are one thing but Congress and the People should always be informed on whatever is the game plan. LBJ may have had reason to expand the Presidential War Powers Act but I do think the subject needs revisiting. As for Mr. Robert Gates, I believe the Constitution prohibits the establishment of a nobility which is exactly what his ideas on government and the Presidency seems to aver.


All military personnel should follow the chain of command, however, I don’t really see how he was disrespectful of the President and I don’t see how he was out of the chain of command – I’m sure that the General felt since he was hand picked by the President that what he said would be accepted – any normal person would have done the same thing. Maybe I am missing something here – but I’m sticking up for the General. JIM @ USA


Gen. McCrystal did not follow the chain of command, high on the list of military sins. What we, the public, have to consider is that Gen. McChrystal is looking at just the military aspect of our involvement in Afghanistan. Pres. Obama has to consider all aspects of our involvement.


It is possible for responsible people to differ about broad matters in public without revealing details which would aid the enemy.

I know this particular Administration is hard to truse, and trust we must — but not with all opposition silenced.


I knew McCrystal was one of the first mistakes that Pres. Obama made as soon as he announced it. He should have never kept many of Bushe’s former picks. McCrystal was in charge during the Abugrabe scandal. I smell a backstabbing rat.


I can see why Secty. Gates has the position and strength to be the head of his department. Truth needs a headlight beam, and the position he espou ses about the requirement for top level privacy is entirely sound & accurateaccurate. No need to say more. McKrystal was out of line line,damaging to the military and seeking publicity, I believe.


I can see why Secty. Gates has the position and strength to be the head of his department. Truth needs a headlight beam, and the position he espou ses about the requirement for top level privacy is entirely sound & accurate. No need to say more. McKrystal was out of line,damaging and seeking publicity, I believe.


General McCrystal had absolutely no business publicly advocating a policy position that is being debated by the Administration. He has violated the chain of command. His superior is Gen. Petreus and any position that he takes should be expressed to him.


Here we go again!Vietnam,Iraq,now Afghanistan!Five thousand young men have already died – The military should not publicly undermine the President.He was voted in to do a job with Congress under the Constitution.Expansion seems to be the Military/Industrial solution to every issue.


Vigorous debate is healthy. Al Qaida should be treated like a virus – eradicated or eliminated. So the “how” and “when” are no state secrets; let us ensure that the persons who arewilling to sacrifice their lives to let me walk down the streets freely have the best options available for their missions and that these are well conceived and supported.


I do not think the pentagon should have leaked the report. It only muddies what should be a thoughtful, reasoned discussion by civilian and military officials. The military must offer the best assessment it can, but it does not make overall policy for the country.


You are witness to a repeat of a failed strategy being played out in the news media by the usual suspects; military traditionalist and the dried up,self serving,pontificating politicians that are responsible for dragging our country down to a third world country. If this president takes their advice he will be a one term president and that is just what the republicans want.


The President makes the decisions, and the military carry out his policy!
we need to stop leaking information to the taliban
thru the media!


Secret and classified government documents, especially national security and defense, should be treated as secret and classified and not leaked for public consumption. However. Congress has the right and duty to be advised, in closed session if required, before the executive branch makes a decision on these matters.Of course that means that Senators and Representatives must keep their mouths shut too.Of course this discussion was never held when the CIA and others were leaking highly secret national security information to the New York Times which published them without regard to the damage they were causing our security efforts and the aid they were giving to terrorist organizations.


It’s only a matter of time until we get out. Might just as well do it now. I see no reason to let the generals dictate the exit strategy.


Preparations for war, including strategies considered, should advantageously be kept secret from the opponent and, therefore, should not be made publicly.


Praise in public, criticize in private. The problem is ego and lack of oversight. The Military strategy should be kept secret, therefore no, it should not have been decloared to the media and Gates should have handled the critcism in private as well. If the politicians were really inteerested in doing what they were elected to do, REPRESENT US, then we could have the faith to trust in them, however, they are more interested in getting re-elected or arguing with one another to really serve the public.


The General is guilty of insubordination. Truman fired MacArthur for this, Lincoln McClellan, and we know the trouble Kennedy’s generals gave him.

Elected representatives make policy; military officers carry it out. This is not a general saying he needs more troops to carry out the policy. This general is trying to make policy. He should be fired immediately.


There is a precedent for secrecy that has to be done away with. There have been too many secrets, stretching at least back to Kennedy, that have ended up being atrocities that the leaders of less powerful countries would have been executed for. – Keep an open dialogue


I belive the president should hear all angles of the topic, then should make the decision himself on what to do. My suggestion would be, send 25,000 more troups, and work on two fronts: 1) war on taliban/alquieda 2). work on nation building like what went on in Iraq.


Yes, it should be kept private.
After the president makes a decision, he can then clarify his decision to the public.


debates within the administration should not be leaked. The administration must be able to have frank debates with knowledgeable people and publicize its desicions and the reasoning behind the decision. It can also release the divwerse views that had been debated if it deem it valuable to the public. No participant should try to get the unknolwdge public to lobby for his/her posyion. If he/she disagrees with the final decision, he/she can resign and explain his/her reasoning (without divulging secret information). One should red the Cuaban crisis documents to seee how vigorous ( and secret) were the debates


The moment we respect the natives and ask for their views, and not bring leaders on American tanks to rule other, then we can begin the process of peace and cooperation in many parts of the world. It is necessary also that we do not kill and occupay and then call the natives terrorists and less civilized, for those who kill regardless of the method are the criminals


The war advisers should offer their opinion in private. After all, most of the top level discussions about
war games, or war policy are classified matters. And if one war adviser doesn’t agree with the majority of other advisers, yes, I am talking about General McChrystal here, he cannot go out and launch a public campaign
in the media and in speeches to “push” his view as the best option – against the majority opinion.

But above all, there is a chain of command, and a hierarchy in the military that mandates that “opinions and suggestions COME UP” from regional commanders to the General Staff, and from there, after consultations with the civilian leadership, “orders authorizing or rejecting the requests GO DOWN.” General McChrystal is 6th
in the Chain of Command, with Obama first, Biden -nominally-second, Defense Secetary Robert Gates, third, Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Mullen, 4th, and David Patraeus 5th. McChrysrtal, therefore, reports to General Patraeus, and by-passing all his superior and taking the matter of his recommendation to the media to make it stick by the force of media headlines, is in my opinion insubordination. {Note: I have served in the military myself}.

But McChrystal has been portrayed as a “military genius” by the media after his appointment to the Afghan post, and he certainly thought that he had enough public clout to prevail above all his superiors.
Egotistical attitude? Certainly! Is his 10-year plan for Afghanistan the best? Not really. And for historians who know better, it is actually a copy of General Westmorland’s Vietnam strategy that failed miserably. He might be the “darling of the press” because the press is enamored with his image, but in
the Afghan war that image is worthless because Afghans are 100% different people than we are. And if he is not enamored by the Afghans, his 10-year plan will have no other result than 10-years of more war until the
Vietnam rationality kicks in.

Looking back at the egotistical style of another General, Douglas McCarthur, during the Korean War, one can see how his shortsightedness to push further into North Korea caused China to unleashed 300.000
troops against the U.S. advancing force into North Korea, which then forced the invading American army to scatter in disarray while it retreated hastily. And when McCarthur realized that his plan backfired, and insisted on a plan to nuke North Korea and the large Chinese force there, president Truman told him publicly “You are fired.” Harry Truman was looking for a way to end the war, not to expand it. And that is what Baraq Obama should be looking for – not expand the war, as McChrystal is blathering about.

The Epilogue, and the Moral of the Story: When an army General become a loose canon while on duty, and General McChrystal has become one, it is time for his replacement. In every war in history, with the possible exception of Adolf Hitler, the “do’s” and “don’ts” were never based solely on the ideas or on the capriciousness of ONE person only! Nikos Retsos, retired professor


I agree with Gates, McChrystal reports to The President and his staff. Security for our soldiers fighting over there is the most important thing to consider. When the news people get a hold of something like this they tend to report it only because it boosts their rating, they are not thinking about protecting our soldiers. I was very disappointed when I heard McChrystal did this, I thought he would have more respect for his office and the people he worked for.



Who should have to…see, in the Day:
what only…the Night
should, militarily, “embrace”?

But this depends:
on what kind of War
you intend to be fighting…

And who you hope your Self

…when the Night of War
at some Time…
at some Day…
finally, ends
when the Morning
begins to bring in, again…
The Day’s Earliest Light.


The less privacy the better.

So not only do we not get to decide which war the people fight in, we also aren’t even aloud to know the motives for doing so?

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