Rob Kall: Is that what you were about to say? [laughing]
That ' s what I was about to say.
Rob Kall: Now, we have to get each other a beer then, clearly . [laughing] And do you think Obama faces the same kinds of considerations when he makes decisions, in terms of standing up to the Generals and the Joint Chiefs of Staff ? Even the ones he's appointed?
I asked this question of my seminars for the past three years. And the way I put it is, in December 2009, one December I guess was the day he actually made the decision, I said, I asked my students to say, "Do you think President Obama had any choice about the surge in Afghanistan? ' And my students, you know they sort of puzzle over it for a moment or two, but generally I asked them this question after they've had a few seminars and they understand a little bit about the military industrial complex , the Oval Office, the Pentagon, the military, the National Security State, and so forth and so on . And generally speaking, they pretty much, to a person, come to the conclusion that "No, he didn't have a choice '.
First of all, he sort of walked himself into a corner, painted himself into a corner if you will, by his campaign rhetoric. He said Afghanistan was the right war, and we should be emphasizing Afghanistan. So that, he ' d sort of trapped himself. But once he gets in the Oval Office, he doesn't know squat! The exception would be maybe Dwight Eisenhower, maybe George Washington, and we ' ve had, I can count them on one hand, the Presidents we've had, who were prepared for the office.
So here ' s Obama. He ' s sitting there and the DNIs ' briefing him , the Directors of National Intelligence , the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , maybe even the combined Chiefs of Staff . The CIA Head is briefing him , the Secretary of State is briefing him. All of these people are giving him his decision on a silver platter! So, if you're going to surge in Afghanistan, you're going to surge in Afghanistan! You don't have any choice ! It's frustrating for my students to come to that realization. It's frustrating for Americans, if they sit and think about it, to come to that realization . But let's face it, that's what it ' s all about, and if you believe in our system of government, in the way it works, you say "Well, that's the way it should be ' . Because we cannot elect a man who is all knowing, all proficient, and militarily competent and so forth, all in one. And yet when you think about it, it's scary, because I've seen it work, and I've seen it work to the detriment of this country . And it's not a pretty thing to watch work. The President is trapped . He ( or she , some day) don't have much maneuver space between the eight hundred pound gorillas that occupy the advisory position s to them: Their Ministers, their National Security Advisors, their intel people and so forth, all trap them. And it ' s very difficult to maneuver outside that trap. What do you maneuver with? Your intellect? I'm sorry, no one's intellect matches the complexity of the security and foreign policy challenges that America confronts today. No one's! In fact, I would argue that very seldom do you get a collective intellect in the government that matches these challenges. The best you can hope for is a sixty or a sixty five percent [60-65%] success rate. Recently, we haven't even had that. And that tells you something about the nature of our system.
Rob Kall: Incredible! Yeah. It makes sense. So what is the answer? So what, do you have any ideas for how to fix this ?