24 June 2010

McChrystal clear? Not so much.

You've been hearing about it for a few days, but if you haven't read the article for yourself, you should. A lot of folks have made a lot of comments - here are just a few quick thoughts of mine:

  1. Some are defending McChrystal on the basis of the fact that the most derogatory comments in the article are not direct quotes; they are quotes from aides, often un-named. This is absurd. Those close aides travel throughout the theater and beyond with the CG, and when they speak, they speak for him. That's why they were in the room with the general and the reporter. He is just as responsible for their statements as his own in this context.
  2. I think there is a tendency among conservatives to hail all the generals we hear about as the new Patton or MacArthur. At least ninety percent of these commentators don't know anything at all about these guys. Neither do I. I've read some good things about McChrystal (even in this article,) but that doesn't make him a towering historical figure. The one indisputable fact I know is that agreeing to this Rolling Stone profile, and the interview format employed, was plainly idiotic. I can't imagine what he was thinking, or why he was unable to see it would not end well.*
  3. To continue from above, I am certain there are other commanders equal to the mission - and not only Petraeus. If there were not, that would be a sad and dangerous commentary on the state of the Armed Forces. Stanley McChrystal is known to accompany troops on dangerous patrols on a fairly regular basis, a habit which put his life in jeopardy regularly. He clearly does not view himself as indispensable. If he is indispensable, then those patrols would be properly viewed as acts of utter recklessness, rather than as the acts of courage and leadership that they are.
  4. McChrystal clearly had to go, but that doesn't mean the points he and his staff made should be ignored. Thomas Sowell makes this point better than I can. What McChrystal said matters - to us and to our enemies, and how this affects the culture of leadership in the Army matters, as well. I don't think it will be as devastating as Sowell suggests, but it's a point worth pondering.
  5. Finally, and most importantly, President Obama must remember that loyalty and commitment run on a two-way street. We trust the armed forces to execute a mission, and they trust the civilian leadership to remain committed to that same mission. Obama has exhibited a pronounced finger-pointing tendency, and a detachment from world affairs. That, not guerilla tactics or difficult terrain, is what can turn Afghanistan into Vietnam. As General Westmoreland put it, "No nation should put the burden of war on its military forces alone."
We wish General Stanley McChrystal well in his continuing career of service to our country, and wish our nation victory in Afghanistan.

* UPDATE: Marc Ambinder's notes suggest one reason McChrystal thought the interview was a good idea: "He is a political liberal. He is a social liberal. He banned Fox News from the television sets in his headquarters. Yes, really. " I'm curious to see how many of his defenders drop their cases now.

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