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25 June 2010

McChrystal's Exit Strategy for Afghanistan

You’d have to be living in a cave to have missed the fiasco involving General Stanley McChrystal the other day. And I’ll bet that even our favorite cave-dweller, Osama Bin Laden has heard as well.

But for those who don’t have kidney dialysis machines and big-screen TV’s in their "cave," let me recap: A reporter for Rolling Stone Magazine spent some time hanging around with U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal and his staff. McChrystal is...was...the commander of all of the military in our war in and on Afghanistan. He is known to be blunt and outspoken.

The Rolling Stone reporter captured McChrystal and his men in…shall we say, “rare form,” mouthing off on everything and everyone in their path. Hoo-boy, did they mouth off! Anyway, upon publication of the article, McChrystal was summoned to Washington D.C. where he was - to the surprise of no one with even half a brain - relieved of his command.

Wait…was it even “rare form?” Stan McChrystal has made it a habit to spout off like that. He’d already been called on the carpet of a certain blue and white Boeing 747 by President Obama once before, at which time he was basically told to shut the hell up and be a good little soldier like that General Patraeus over there.

Career soldiers know a couple of things.

1) They know not to criticize the Commander In Chief, or any other superior, whether or not they consider that person a superior. It’s career-suicide. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (Subchapter X, Sec. 888 Art 88) even specifies that you will not publically ridicule certain people – and then it lists them. It is an offense punishable by court-martial.

2) Career military men certainly know that anything you say to a reporter – especially a reporter for a left-wing hippie rag like Rolling Stone Magazine is going to get printed. No matter how drunk you are (on beer or power or both), you don’t make fun of the President or Vice President of the United States.

Not if you like your job.

Hmm. Not if you like your job?

So here’s the thing. McChrystal is not a dumb man. Far from it. I think he wanted to get fired. I think he was tired of the job, tired of not being able to fight the war his own way, tired of Obama…just tired of the whole deal. The article mentioned that he only got home to see his wife maybe 30 days out of the year. Some life. Personally, I think he was just tired of it.

Quitting might have seemed like an obvious move to you or me, but not to guys like McChrystal; they’re not quitters. (Plus, it’s not like McChrystal could have said, “Mr. President? I really don’t want to do this job anymore. Can you replace me, please?”) For McChrystal, quitting would have been out of the question – a sign of weakness. It’d be tantamount to him saying, “I give up! I can’t do it. The war can’t be won…by me or anyone. We’re fighting the Taliban, but the Taliban IS the Afghan people, and they don’t want us there in the first place.” Which is kind of the case.

We’re trying this “counter-intelligence” deal in Afghanistan. But that only works if the people we’re fighting are outsiders who have infiltrated a society. In the case of the Afghans, in many towns the Taliban live among them as family members. And we’re trying to get family members to give up their husbands and fathers and sons? Not bloody likely!

It is an impossible job. The Russians figured out after nine years. Finally, they said, “To hell with this – we’re going broke!” and bugged-out. Now the U.S. has stepped into a war in a country that has been at war more or less continuously since the time of...well, I was going to say "since the time of Genghis Khan." But given that the Mongols didn't even conquer Afghanistan until 1219, Ghengis was just a Khanny-come-lately in a country that been constantly at war since the 7th Century! And we arrogantly think we’re going to “win” it? And what constitutes “winning?” Even Obama doesn’t use the term.

I think McChrystal realized the futility of what we’re trying to accomplish. We’re not merely trying to route out and crush some Al Queda terrorists before they can hatch their plans and come over here to perpetuate them. We’re throwing billions and billions of dollars to fight an enemy who is apparently as well-funded, well-armed and motivated as we are – because we sure ain’t “winning!”

But getting fired! Ahh, now there was something McChrystal could get behind. Especially being fired by President Obama, a man who is truly hated by some percentage of the world’s population. It would make the general a martyr. If McChrystal could get himself fired, he could leave with his head held high and his reputation intact. I can just see him stomping away, half-turning back to give Obama the finger. He’d tell the press, “By God, I said what I meant…what I believed. Screw ‘em! I'm sorry I ever voted for Obama.”

And yes, he did.

Getting fired by Obama is not exactly a bad thing. The Conservative Right adored McChrystal to begin with. He’s been elevated to God-like status now. If he ever wants a career in politics (because you know that all military men think they’re such experts at politics), the Republicans will champion him like the second coming of one R. Reagan (the actor who sat out WWII making propaganda films, not the gay son with the same name).

But even if McChrystal just wants to go home to the wife he only gets to see one month out of twelve, kick his feet up, crack open a cold Bud Light Lime and watch the new season MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” "Glee," and “So You Think You Can Dance,” he can do that. Hell, the man deserves that! He will not face a court-martial. Fox News will undoubtedly snap him up as one of those paid anti-Obama commentator/consultants. Hell, he could be the next Ollie North!

No, getting fired was not exactly a bad thing at all for Stanley McChrystal. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s what he really wanted all along.

Want to read the actual Rolling Stone article?
The Runaway General by Michael Hastings


Bob said...

Good analysis but I can't agree that he wanted to get fired. As you said, he had a habit of mouthing off and he just did it again, big time, but this time he went too far. The Prez had no choice but to let him go. It probably won't work out badly for McChrystal and he'll probably look back and say, you know, it was for the best. But I have a hard time believing he did it on purpose.

I saw an interview with the guy who wrote the article and he said either McChrystal or some of his "people" (can't remember exactly how it played out) had contacted him and asked him not to print some of the stuff. Too late for that, of course.

Bob Barbanes said...

You may be right, Bob. But looooong ago, I stopped trying to figure out why people do the nutty things they do. It doesn't make sense to me why McChrystal would say such things with a reporter present. He's been around long enough to know better. It's just hard for me to believe that it was some awful "accident" on the general's part.

Perhaps McChrystal had a subconscious need to get outta Dodge. Dr. Wayne Dyer could probably explain it better than me.