Thursday, December 17, 2015

Men of Retroaction

Drawing by Ted Rall.

Everybody's on this one from Fiorina just because it's hilarious, but I don't think all the juice has been squeezed out of it yet; there are a few details that haven't been adequately mocked, and a large point of particular significance to the Rectification audience:
to wage war, we need a commander in chief who has made tough calls in tough times and stood up to be held accountable over and over, not first-term senators who've never made an executive decision in their life.
One of the things I would immediately do, in addition to defeating them here at home, is bring back the warrior class -- Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn. Every single one of these generals I know. Every one was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn't want to hear.
A lot of people out there are reporting that General Petraeus retired from the Army because of his conviction (reduced to misdemeanor from felony charges when he copped a plea) for passing classified information to his girlfriend-biographer, but this is incorrect; he retired in 2011 to take up Obama's offer of a job as Director of Central Intelligence (that's the job he was fired from for the security-violating hanky-panky). So what he told President Obama that President Obama didn't want to hear must have been, "Sure, I'll take the job." Oh, and Obama still does listen to Petraeus, sadly.

Obama didn't much like Stanley McChrystal's military advice in the fall of 2009, according to that famous Rolling Stone profile, but he took it anyway:
In the end, however, McChrystal got almost exactly what he wanted. On December 1st, in a speech at West Point, the president laid out all the reasons why fighting the war in Afghanistan is a bad idea: It's expensive; we're in an economic crisis; a decade-long commitment would sap American power; Al Qaeda has shifted its base of operations to Pakistan. Then, without ever using the words "victory" or "win," Obama announced that he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, almost as many as McChrystal had requested. The president had thrown his weight, however hesitantly, behind the counterinsurgency crowd.
What got McChrystal canned was his and his staff's childish remarks about Joe Biden, General Jim Jones, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and others, and lack of discretion in allowing journalist Michael Hastings to hear them, showing him unwilling to enjoy that victory and sniping against all the members of the team. Except one of them, whom he continued to respect, Carly:
Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal's inner circle. "Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review," says an adviser. "She said, 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.' "
Since the retirement, he has often spoken in support of Obama's military policy, too, Carly, whether on the Afghanistan strategy or on the subject of ISIS. If President Fiorina wants to consult him, by all means, but I hope she's prepared to hear something she doesn't want to hear.

CentCom head Marine General James "Mad Dog" Mattis and Defense Intelligence Agency head Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn both apparently were having difficulties with the civilian command when they were relieved of their respective positions—Mattis perhaps because he just couldn't get along, as the official reports had it, but more likely I think because he kept taking his opposition to the administration's Iran policy public. Flynn too may have gone too far publicizing his disagreements with the administration.

What you have to say about both of them, though, is that they certainly did start disagreeing with Obama very actively after they retired, and the same goes for General Jack Keane, who now works for Fox News, among some choice board chairmanships and the like (his annual salary from General Dynamics alone was $256,008 last year, when Mad Dog Mattis earned $241,820 plus a lot of stock in the same company) since he retired from the military in 2003.

Which would be an awfully odd time to get fired for your opposition to Obama, as everybody has been pointing out, since Obama was at the time a state senator in Springfield, Illinois and not a person with a lot of power over the Pentagon.

But as we know when the press asked Fiorina about this, she didn't seem to understand what was wrong:
“No, I didn’t misspeak,” Fiorina told reporters today. “[Keane] has been someone of great experience who has been highly critical of the way this administration has not taken threats seriously and unfortunately he hasn't been listened to and I would listen to him.”
Well, but, you say, that doesn't sound at all like "was retired because he told President Obama things he didn't want to hear," and if that's what she was saying she certainly didn't pronounce it correctly.

But there is a perspective in which it all makes sense: If Fiorina is taking that retroactionary approach (in which conservatives go beyond the reactionary desire to have things like they were 60 years ago to that of literally believing that our perception of time is backwards, and we are in reality headed toward the past).

Since Keane, Flynn, and Mattis all began badmouthing administration policy after they were dismissed from their jobs (in Keane's case long after), there's an arguable causal relationship in the real world—
the generals criticize Obama because they retired early
—and the retroactionary move is to invert that:
the generals retired early because they criticized Obama
and there you have Fiorina's claim. Time-traveling Obama sacked Mattis and Flynn because of their future misbehavior, after which they have splendid military careers, go to college, and eventually are born. And the same goes for Carly, I guess: if only we can work through this phase of whatever it is she thinks she's doing, we'll be sending her back in time to Hewlett Packard, splitting the ridiculous company into two more manageable units and ultimately working her way down to secretary and the sense that she's the smartest person in the office, which I'll bet she was. Alas, her success (in forward time) required her to dumb herself down to the CEO level and then a little farther, and that's where we'll have to leave her now.

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