President Obama picked General Joseph Votel, the current commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), to succeed General Lloyd Austin as the new head of US Central Command (CENTCOM) pending Senate approval. This was a genuine opportunity for Obama to change the strategic trajectory of US failures in the Middle East. However, after hearing Gen. Votel’s comments, I can say without any doubt the man is an incompetent commander that was politically chosen as a policy “yes man.” In short, Gen. Votel does not have a viable strategy to achieve victory and therefore should be fired as a commander, not promoted. Gen. Votel will not be the man to defeat ISIL unless he takes credit for the good work the Russians, Kurds, and Syrians are doing. Even then, I have full faith and confidence that the White House will manage to scuttle Russia’s successes too for the time being. What it means if Gen. Votel is confirmed by the Senate is that you can expect more of the same series of failures and continued perpetual indecisive wars across the globe. I urge every one of you to make it clear to your senators that Gen. Votel is NOT the man for the job or he will be confirmed and you will see another one of my predictions come to pass. Tell your senators we need a CENTCOM commander that will break from the failed strategies of the last 15 years. Congress must know Gen. Votel is incapable of charting a strategy for decisive victory, which our nation requires.
I am sure that some of my readers, which are well meaning, but loyal brainwashed company men of the military establishment, are cussing me for my blasphemy against such a vaunted general. However, I can say that anyone that places stock in military commanders that fail to achieve victory against a force as inept as the Taliban is a qualified idiot. Further, if they are currently serving in the military and support these professed students of what I refer to as a defeatist military strategy, they are suicidal. How weak minded must someone be to buy into the rhetoric that the Taliban are a super human force that would require a generation to defeat? Only by choosing to lose could that be a reality for the US military. This is strategic dereliction and I will not accept it even if the best Army post graduate students are too institutionalized to see the truth. At times, it is far more effective to be tactful in commentary; however, this is a case where blunt honesty is needed because lives will be lost because of this mockery of a commander. Incompetence left to its own devices is forgivable, but I will give no quarter to incompetence that seeks the power to sign the death certificate of a single life.
Gen. Votel was in charge of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) before taking over SOCOM and should know that our current strategy of training rebels isn’t working unless you are taking into account the number of ISIL and Taliban fighters we armed, trained, and equipped. Gen. Votel’s professional pedigree sounds superb until you consider “brilliant” losers like General McChrystal came from JSOC as well. Don’t get me wrong, I love the superbly professional organization JSOC has become and can say from working with their phenomenal operators around the globe that they are “tactically” the best in the business. However, the special operations cult worship has to end on Capitol Hill. Special operators regularly do take on missions of vital strategic importance, but they do not decisively operate at the strategic level. The distinction is crucial. Special operators are an extremely valuable warfighting tool, but have become the defacto tool for supporting the flawed notion that you can fight a war on the cheap and win decisively with a handful of special operators training foreign armies and rebels. Part of this comes from the fact many special operators trace their roots to traditional Army Special Forces units where their primary “special” mission is training and advising indigenous forces to support COIN and Foreign Internal Defense (FID) missions even if the historical data now overwhelmingly shows the COIN and FID tactics and techniques don’t work. The bottom line is unless said special operators are launching a strategic nuclear strike, the strategy simply isn’t working at a strategic level and over 15 years of failed war attest to this fact. Neither JSCOC nor SOCOM is designed or capable of giving us a decisive strategic victory against ISIL. Only, a through a true total war of attrition will you finally turn back and utterly defeat the Islamic Holy War against the West.
Specific to Gen. Votel’s demonstrated incompetence, in testimony Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Votel told lawmakers that he supports moving forward with a revised effort to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels battling Islamic State militants. Gen. Votel described the “new” approach as a “thickening effort” as opposed to just raising a large force. What that exactly means is anyone’s guess, but this much is clear. This is the same “old” counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy the US has been peddling since Vietnam, which has never led to anything but total strategic failure. This is repeating a failed and completely discredited strategy and expecting a different result, which is insanity. Gen. Votel should know that there are no “moderate” rebels that will effectively challenge ISIL. He should also know that the only effective fighting force has been the Kurds and Washington is about to double cross them again on behalf of the Turks, which will blow back horribly on our anti-ISIL efforts. How, after billions of dollars were spent overtly and covertly on the failed strategy to arm, train, and equip rebels to fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria, can Gen. Votel honestly believe it will be different this time? Even Gen. Austin, the retiring CENTCOM commander, admitted in Congressional testimony the entire plan only trained four of five fighters! Not even Gen. Votel can be this naïve. Only someone that has sacrificed their integrity at the gates of politics would continuing such a ridiculous policy be possible.
Gen. Votel’s testimony did not improve. He went on to testify, “But I do think it is helpful to have people who have been trained by us, who have the techniques, who have the communications capability, and the resources to link back into our firepower.” The trained fighters, Votel explained, present the Islamic State with added “dilemmas.” This is a very disturbing conclusion by the general considering the historical record shows that US trained forces repeatedly failed when tested in battle and also defected in most cases without even a fight. Worse yet, these indigenous forces took all of our training, techniques, communications, and firepower to the enemy when they defected. In fact, based on the US track record, it would be more accurate to say that it is only helpful to our enemies.
Gen. Votel’s lack of integrity and or lack of good sense will rightfully earn him the blame for the failure of US strategy (or lack thereof) in the Middle East against ISIL. Mark my words, Obama has never accepted responsibility for his growing list of strategic failures and isn’t going to start now. Gen. Votel is signing on to a disastrous strategy that cannot work. Obama will hang this around Gen. Votel’s neck just like he has done with nearly every other commander. If Gen. Votel is even a bit savvy as a strategic thinker, he should clearly see that he is being set up as bad as the disgraced General Petraeus and run for the door or get a new strategy right now.
As with most articles I write, I try not to just criticize and point out flaws, but offer solutions. This article is no different. The links at the bottom of this article are a short list of key articles I have written that accurately predicted the progression to the state of affairs as it stands now in the Middle East with regards to ISIL. A key part of those predictions has been to repeatedly warn that President Obama’s strategy was never a “strategy” and would ultimately fail in a very predictable fashion, which has played out exactly as I predicted over two years ago. This should serve as my bona fides for correctly assessing and accurately predicting events years in advance. Second, I have also included an outline of what a real strategy for a decisive strategic victory would look like. I hope that these articles end up in the right hands of individuals that actually have power over policy, but it suffices for now that the public is being educated about the military’s lies. Whether or not Gen. Votel is confirmed, I will continue to extend the offer to step up and advise anyone actually serious about defeating ISIL going as far as staking my reputation to a winning strategy, which to date, no one has had the courage to do. It is time for our senior policy makers to show real courage and leadership by breaking away from the old caste of establishment beltway characters and seek some fresh, independent perspectives because to date, nothing the snake oil salesmen have provided has worked and it never will. Until then, in the least, call your senators and explain that we need a real military commander in charge of CENTCOM and that Gen. Votel should not be confirmed.
By Guiles Hendrik
March 10, 2016