Exit Strategies

The McChrystal Crackup


In a clip from Morning Joe I came across, host Joe Scharborough claims that Washington has been “shaken to its foundations” by the content of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s Rolling Stone interview, which the magazine put online this morning. The general has reportedly been summoned to the White House, and most expect him to be cashiered. Niall Ferguson was on the show as well to give historical context, and compared McChrystal’s insubordination to MacArthur’s criticism of Truman’s “limited war” in Korea in 1951.

Besides a crude “Bite me” pun in reference to the vice president, here are the highlights from “McChrystal Uncensored”:

According to sources familiar with the meeting, "McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass.

It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."

Whatever Rolling Stone’s intentions might be, it’s hard not to sympathize with McChrystal’s exasperation at our elected leaders. Much as his fellow Irishman, MacArthur, took his superiors at their word -- believing that if Communism really was bent on world domination, then its revolutionary arm in Asia should be soundly defeated, even at great cost -- McChrystal has been put in charge of Afghanistan, been told its important, and is determined to win. There’s something admirable about “get ‘er done” types like this, even if their vision is two-dimensional. And such men are often truth-tellers when it comes to the real face of the people who emerge victorious in American democracy…

That said, what’s most revealing about this latest “historical scandal” is that McChrystal will likely get sacked over comments that have little to nothing to do with tactics or strategy. However apt his characterizations might be, this is really all middle-school stuff.

In many ways, this shouldn't be surprising. It’s hard to find anyone who could give you a coherent explanation for what America is actually accomplishing -- or trying to accomplish -- in Afghanistan. If a select Power Elite just wanted to profit from the vast mineral wealth and oil pipeline recently secured in the region, I wish they would have realized their evil ends by arranging for a quick, three-month lighting-strike campaign -- and not generated a war in which American soldiers are given orders to help expand social services and foster a culture of women’s rights in the land of the Afghans.

“AfPak” is meaningless -- and likely endless. In such a situation, it’s hardly surprising that the great internal struggles within the military establishment devolve into disputes over who called whom a poo-poo head.