Ah, Tony McPeak:

Of course I respect the service of retired Air Force General Tony McPeak, who gave his country thirty-six years of his life. I nevertheless disagree sharply with him on his ideas about warfighting.

Longtime readers of Grim's Hall will remember that we discussed McPeak's vision for war in 2004, when he was for the Kerry campaign what he is now for the Obama campaign.

McPeak was all in favor of bombing Iraq to ruin, and then leaving it as rubble -- in spite of the fact that the majority of the people of Iraq were not part of Saddam's violence; in spite of the fact that failed states are as big a challenge to security, in the age of terrorism, as tyrannies. To replace a tyranny with a failed state is small advantage -- you may cut off a source of funding or diplomatic support to terrorist groups, or weapons, but you give them a haven in which to operate. The failure of Pakistan to control its northern provinces today shows how dangerous this is.

If we "do it right," McPeak said, we'd have to stay for a hundred years (or fifty years -- he seems to have simply meant, 'a really long time'). So he advocated doing it wrong:

The man who headed the U.S. Air Force during Desert Storm will tell you, over black coffee in a Lake Oswego cafe, that the potential attack on Iraq is "the fight you dream about, a wonderful kind of war to have."

The former fighter pilot calls the conflict a "no brainer," pitting the U.S. military machine -- with precision-guided munitions that he conceived -- against a nation whose gross national product is dwarfed by what the Air Force spends each year.

"Everybody's going to get decorated out of this thing," says Tony McPeak, a four-star general who retired to Oregon in 1995. "Everyone comes home. It has a lot of appeal to me."
But what to do when the war is over? The Air Force can't do the work of occupying nations that need rebuilding, but that's OK, as McPeak is against it:
Airstrikes would wipe out Baghdad's communications system again, McPeak says. "If we go in there and occupy the place for 50 years, which is my prediction, we'll have to rebuild it."
Kerry's actual position was different from McPeak's, so it wasn't clear that he was paying any attention to what McPeak was saying -- he just wanted a General Officer on his team, to give him credibility.

In Obama's defense, so to speak, he seems to feel the same way: McPeak's stated positions and preferences are not apparently related to Obama's positions. We've been talking about this at the Politburo. The discussion is too long to reproduce here, but the point is that Obama's "brigade or two a month" position seems to be one that he is presenting as a "moderate, responsible" pace. In fact, a single brigade represents a massive amount of combat power, and geographic control -- and equipment! Pulling out "one or two a month" would be taxing our logistical systems; it would represent the most rapid withdrawal of forces we could actually, physically manage without simply abandoning our equipment and marching to the sea.

I'm not suggesting Obama is being deceptive -- presenting a shocking, sudden withdrawal as a 'relaxed, easy' pace. I'm suggesting he probably lacks the experience to understand just what a Brigade Combat Team is. There's no reason he should be expected to have the experience -- he was never in the military, has spent little time at the Federal level, and mostly has served in minor state or city functions. There's nothing that would suggest he's had occasion to learn what a Commander in Chief would need to know to formulate a plan of the type he's proposing.

That though, is why you have advisors. Nobody has all the experience a potential President might need. So you get people who do on your team. The problem is, Obama's statements on the Quadrenniel Defense Review are at such odds with McPeak's own preferences that I can't take away any sense that McPeak is really a "military advisor." He's a showpiece -- which, given that I disagree with his ideas entirely, is fine with me.

But it makes an issue of Obama's experience. It makes it clear that he's going on his own, and on his own, he really doesn't have a capacity to understand the issue.

The only thing McPeak has ever said that harmonizes with what others in the Obama campaign have said is his position on American Jews and their support for Israel. The piece linked there is a hit piece -- I'm not sure how McPeak's "affinity for alcohol," which is surely no business of the public's so long as he suffers no more DUI arrests, is meant to be linked to his ideas about Israel -- but they're right about his general thinking on what he considers the problem of American Jewish support for Israel, as it affects American defense policy.

Unless Obama either harmonizes his own views with McPeak's, or gets another (and hopefully a wiser) advisor, it will be hard to take him seriously. It's plain he doesn't really know what he's talking about. It's plain he isn't listening to the people he's pulled in because they know more about the subject than he does himself.

That's reason for concern.

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