Wed. Jun 23, 2010
Runaway General Gets Emergency Brakes
When you read the article, The Runaway General, you can’t help but wonder, “what was he thinking?” Well, the article makes that fairly clear, but it does not explain why Gen. McChrystal (and his staff) would bare his soul to a reporter from Rolling Stone.
Some would argue that this is no surprise, because he did it before, just last October:
According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.
The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago’s unsuccessful Olympic bid.
Some commentators regarded the general’s London comments as verging on insubordination.Telegraph: White House angry at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan
In other words, he’d already been given a second chance, and told to keep his critique within channels. That’s why the Rolling Stone article had me so flabbergasted. Did he learn nothing from his first slap down a mere nine months ago?
He seems to have eventually figured it out, as he told an administration official “I’ve compromised the mission.” Indeed, when you and your staff have publicly rebuked and insulted the Vice President, Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, the President’s Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, and National Security Advisor Jim Jones … you’ve shown you are incapable of working with your civilian leaders on the task at hand. A task that has over 100,000 men and women at risk every day.
And now he’s gone.
But it’s more than just one man at the top, as Eliot Cohen notes: “The quotes from Gen. McChrystal’s underlings bespeak a staff so clueless, swaggering and out of control that a wholesale purge looks to be indicated.”
As is true for those in leadership positions, McChrystal set the tone for his staff … but in a very bad way. Ugly things don’t get said in an environment that is not permissive of such statements. In fact, they were so incredibly loose with such talk they didn’t even think it wise to clam up around a Rolling Stone reporter.
I imagine Gen. Petraus will bring that to a quick end, given this fine working example of “How To Ruin Your Military Career.” And I truly hope he can turn things around with regards to the “surge” and its strategy.
However, I think it’s time we reconsider our efforts in Afghanistan. Obama said this change in personnel will not change the policies to which they’ve committed. But I’m hoping Petraus will get a new perspective on the ground. And pass it up … through channels, in private.
Because it seems clear, the Marjah campaign was not a success, the Kandahar campaign has been postponed until fall, we have a weak and vacillating partner in Karzai, and the Taliban is not “on the run.” One might even question whether the idea of an 18 month counter-insurgency campaign is a farce on conception, or if we have any remaining national security interest in Afghanistan, since Al Qaeda [a] isn’t there, and [b] seems increasingly incompetent.
These are things our leaders, civilian and military, should discuss. But not in Rolling Stone. That just gets you sent home. And rightfully so.