President’s overly cautious, centralized style irking Pentagon
Key lawmakers from both parties say frustration with the White House among the top military officers is at its highest level in decades, the product of President Obama’s cautious approach to the wars in Syria and Iraq and an indecisive inner circle of White House advisers who, critics say, have iced the Pentagon out of the policymaking process.
“There’s a level of dissatisfaction among the uniformed military that I’ve never seen in my time here,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain in an interview. “For some of us who are a little older, let’s go back and read the Pentagon Papers — what the administration is doing is the kind of incrementalism that defined much of the Vietnam conflict.”
The Arizona Republican is known as a fierce critic of President Obama’s foreign policy, but his complaints were echoed by an unlikely source: Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
“Frustration among the uniformed service is real,” the Washington Democrat said, adding that the administration “does keep things in the White House and has not been more inclusive in the decision-making process.”
But Mr. McCain argued that the frustration on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon stems from the administration’s “complete lack of any kind of coherent strategy, much less a strategy that would have any success on the battlefield” against Islamic State and the Assad regime.
“We’re sending 50 — count them, 50 — special operations soldiers to Syria, and they will have ‘no combat role,’ the president says,” said Mr. McCain. “Well, what are they being sent there for? To be recreation officers? You’re in a combat zone, and to say they’re not in combat is absurd.”
But the White House, he argued, has effectively blinded itself to such absurdities by promoting a system over the past seven years that suppresses dissenting voices. “Compliant and easily led military leaders get promoted,” he said. “People who have spoken truth to power get retired.”
He pointed to the cases of Marine Gen. James Mattis, reportedly dismissed as head of U.S. Central Command in 2013 for pressuring civilian officials in the White House on potential military options against Iran; and Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, allegedly pushed out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency last year amid clashes with the White House over his leadership style.
When it comes to actual policy, Mr. McCain lamented, the administration pursues half-measures and decisions, “when they are made, consistently disregard recommendations from the uniformed military.”
Such recommendations, he argued, often get overridden by National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice and Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett, both of whom are close to the president.
Full article: Obama pushes military frustration to highest level in decades (Washington Post)