The big story today is General Stanley McChrystal and his staff’s interview with Rolling Stone in which they derided and dismissed President Obama and his civilian staff on their handling of Afghanistan. General McChrystal apologized, but the damage has been done. Not the damage to General McChrystal, but to President Obama. The mainstream media may not be making Obama the topic of this discussion, but they should be because this article is all about him.
Since McChrystal apologized, it was reported in the Politico that the general read the quotes from the article before it went to publication and didn’t dispute any of them. He may not have known the context in which they were used, but it nonetheless leads us all to believe he approved.
This requires me to ask the question: why did he do this profile to begin with? I have a hard time imagining it was to satisfy his ego, no matter how arrogant McChrystal is. The Rolling Stone article makes it clear from the first few paragraphs that he was very a private man who deliberately avoided the public spotlight:
Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon’s most secretive black ops.
So, if the interview wasn’t done for a good ego stroking, what were the general and his staff trying to accomplish?
Daniel Foster at The Corner offers an explanation I’ve read in the comments sections of a couple other blogs:
McChrystal is a big boy, and after a tenure that saw the leak of his bleak strategic review and the fallout from his London speech calling for an Afghan troop surge, I have a lot of trouble buying that McChrystal would make another goof of this magnitude.
Which makes me wonder whether we are witnessing McChrystal falling on his sword to get the word out on the Obama administration’s folly in Afghanistan. I’m not 100 percent convinced of it, but it is a real possibility.
My uncle, a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Army, told me once that the military has two missions that it must accomplish no matter what. The first is to complete the mission, which in this scenario is to win the war in Afghanistan. The second is to ensure the well-being of the troops. Unfortunately, with US military deaths in May the highest since the war began, it is becoming clearer that we aren’t completing either mission.
I can’t help but wonder, just as Foster has, that General McChrystal, having found himself in the perilous position of not being able to complete either mission because president and his civilian leaders lack the competence, the leadership, or the political will to do so, is sacrificing his military career for the good of his men. It isn’t outside the realm of possibility when you take into consideration General McChrystal’s comments about the men who serve on his military leadership team:
“All these men,” he tells me. “I’d die for them. And they’d die for me.”
Even assuming McChrystal decided to take the career hit and expose how poorly Obama is handling Afghanistan, he had other options open to him. If McChrystal thought Obama’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan was so dangerous that he felt he had to say something, he should have spoken with the president personally, and if that didn’t get him the results he required, then he should have resigned first and then had a very frank discussion with the Congressional Armed Services Committees.
Foster is of the opinion that Obama can’t afford to lose McChrystal no matter how insubordinate he may have been because, “McChrystal has more credibility on Afghanistan than Obama does. And to the extent that Obama has credibility there at all (and higher approval ratings for his Afghanistan policy than his presidency generally), it is credibility imported from McChrystal.”
This point may be moot because according to Drudge, Joe Klein said on CNN not long ago that unnamed sources told him that McChrystal has submitted his resignation.
While it’s tempting to wag a and say “I told you so” to those who foolishly voted for Obama in 2008, including General McChrystal himself, none of this bodes well for the United States. It’s vital that the rest of the world sees America as a strong and militarily viable nation, and this latest debacle is the last thing we need.
Update: I spoke with my uncle briefly on the phone. He said that my characterization that McChrystal sacrificed his career is not accurate. His career has already been made. The years of service he gave will provide him a generous pension. He’ll probably be asked to serve on a number of companies’ board of directors. The general hasn’t lost anything. America lost.
Update II: After a bit of confusion this evening about whether General McChrystal actually tendered his resignation or just offered to resign, Toby Harndon at the UK Telegraph says a Capitol Hill insider confirmed to him that McChrystal has in fact tendered his resignation. There’s no word whether Obama has accepted it, but in case he does, the administration is working on coming up with a replacement who can be confirmed by the Senate quickly.