The Case Against the Case Against General Petraeus – Lawfare

To reduce his rank, now, is gratuitous.  Justice has already been done.  The actual requirements for reduction are pertinent:

“The legal standard that determines the retirement grade of an officer is “highest grade in which he served on active duty satisfactorily, as determined by the Secretary of the military department concerned, for not less than six months.” Clearly, General Petraeus committed the serious violation of transmitting classified information to a person without valid access and a need to know. But, however salacious the circumstances, that information was never in real jeopardy of compromise to a foreign power. His biographer was – and is – a reserve Army officer and held an active securityclearance at or above the level of the materials she viewed. The issue is only that she lacked the specific access and need to know for the particular classified material that Petraeus shared.”

 

Source: The Case Against the Case Against General Petraeus – Lawfare

Foreseen: “Unforeseen consequences” of US action against Syria…

If there is something to be expected from a military action against the Syrian regime, even one whose design appears to be so symbolic that only minimal direct damage to the regime will result, it is that there is an extreme range of “unforeseen consequences” that may result and one certain consequence.

While US action is being characterized as not aimed at “regime change” which is a shift after saying Assad had to “go” only a few months ago, clearly any military action is much more than a diplomatic “note” protesting the use of chemical weapons.  It increasingly appears to be a “slap on the hand” with minimal consequences to the regime other than the insult of being struck militarily and possibly set back until the physical damage done can be repaired.

Targets discussed have ranged from the chemical weapons storage facilities themselves (quickly seen to be an extremely bad option in which success could do more damage than the regime has been able to do on its own), “command and control” centers which would to an undetermined extent reduce the regime’s military capabilities, at least temporarily, or aircraft and artillery that could carry chemical payloads in the future.

What is foreseen:  Little is being said of the fact that, whatever messages of whatever “strength” are sent by acting on whatever targets are chosen, there is no chance that the Syrian regime (or its allies) will “take this lying down.”

We are putting the regime and its allies in our situation:  we are crossing a “red line” recognized more universally than any right to act against chemical weapon use by acting militarily against them, not in self-defense but without any provocation on their part against us or our allies.

The regime, with the covert and possibly overt support of its allies, will respond against this.  Nothing in its conduct to date suggests otherwise!  Assad is cornered and too deeply wounded not to strike out to defend himself.  His allies are likely to encourage him in this defense.  

What is unforeseen is which of the many actors including the Syrian regime but not limited to it will respond in which places, times and by which means.  Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan are places where the US is vulnerable to one or more of the regime’s allies.  Of course, the “homeland” could also be vulnerable to some “super 9/11” if the forces are in place for it (and you are more confident than I if you’ve read much lately to make you think we are really “connecting the dots” about terrorist attacks on the US).

Syria’s allies have their own reasons for wishing us ill, they do not have to act against our interests only on the basis of some “mutual defense” treaty; what a US military operation against Syria can provide is the reason for striking us “defensively” without initiating an unprovoked action against us.

 

Is it any wonder that sometimes our international relations don’t go well?

The Washington Post today carries a story on the appointment of a replacement for Richard Holbrooke as the person responsible for civilian activity in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  At the mid-point of the article is this paragraph:

“But virtually the entire U.S. civilian and military leadership in Afghanistan is expected to leave in the coming months, including Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and the embassy’s other four most senior officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S.-led international coalition, and Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day-to-day military operations there.”

It doesn’t require a managerial genius to know that changing all the key players at approximately the same time will change things fundamentally and, unpredictably.  Given the new person in Holbrooke’s position and all these changes, don’t expect less than, at best, months of confusion as personalities adjust and learn about each other and the personalities of Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s leaders.  Eventually it may all settle out nicely but it will take time that is at a premium if any significant change in the American commitment in Afghanistan is to take place in August, as previously announced.

All of these key people deserve, and probably crave, relief from their current roles.  They should be given it but most of that relief should come after August’s changes and not before.  There may be some special cases but surely all this turnover at this time is not just risky, it is foolish.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/14/AR2011021405949.html?wpisrc=nl_cuzhead