The late Sen. John McCain, former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, famously stated, “I have never seen a hearing that is as divorced from the insight of every outside expert” in 2015 while questioning General Lloyd Austin over American involvement in Syria and his recommendation for the thousands of refugees who were being slaughtered.
McCain asked, “would you support a buffer zone which would then protect some of these refugees who are being barrel bombed and slaughtered by Bashar al-Assad” to which Austin replied, “I don’t see the force available to be able to protect them currently, sir, so I would not recommend it at this point in time.”
McCain went on to ask, “so we wouldn’t be able to shoot down Bashar Assad’s aircraft as they barrel bomb and slaughter innocent men, women and children? Is that correct? We don’t have the capability to protect them?” Austin responded by saying, “we clearly have the capability, yes sir, we do.” McCain again asked, “but you wouldn’t recommend such action?” Austin emphatically stated, “I would not recommend a buffer zone at this time, sir.”
I point this exchange out for a couple of reasons. First, the former general and now Secretary of Defense was unsure, and seemingly unaware, of a decisive course of action even though he was in charge of CENTCOM at the time. He often hesitated, stammered in befuddlement, and his back and forth was met by alarm from Sen. McCain who was incredulous that the general was so disconnected from the reality of the situation.
Second, after McCain walked the dog with Austin and led him through the facts and thought processes regarding Syrian refugees being slaughtered, Austin doubled down by restating that he would not recommend a buffer zone to quell the bloodshed.
The reason this is significant is due to the current situation in Afghanistan. When the dust settles, politicians on both sides of the aisle will take part in the classic, D.C. past time of “pin the blame on the ass,” and they’ll steer the information all over the spectrum.
You’ll probably get a rendition of “it was Trump’s fault” from the left with a lot of “Trump never would have let it go down like this” from the right. Depending on who needs to deflect, one side will blame the intelligence community while the other will defend it. Armchair quarterbacks will come out of the woodworks to break down the events, or lack thereof, that led to the unparalleled disaster currently being observed in Afghanistan.
No matter what happens, it’s safe to say that SECDEF Austin was a dangerously ineffectual leader in uniform and an even more dangerous leader as SECDEF due to his disassociation with reality and ground truth.
Austin made it very clear that his number one priority was weeding out extremism within the ranks. According to Austin, extremists are climbing out of every nook and cranny of our armed forces, and he’s going to put an end to it. Never mind that zero evidence exists to support this conclusion, but when has that mattered? When presented with information and intelligence on a subject, such as the overwhelmingly agreed upon assessment in the intel community that the Taliban would take over as soon as we leave, he led the Biden Administration’s disaster of a withdrawal from the front while banging his extremist drum the whole way.
Saying “he needs to resign” is like saying water is wet at this point. What Congress should do is open an investigation into GEN Milley, Austin, and many of the other officers with stars who lied to them with glowing assessments for years. They won’t though. They won’t because they’d expose themselves in the process. The lack of accountability goes up and down the chain of command, to include the civilians in congress who continue to plague our foreign policy with one mess after another. The events unfolding before us in Afghanistan are too powerful to ignore. There will likely be a few casualties from the fallout of events, but not nearly as many as there should be.
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