There’s a saying in the Army: Only do what your rank can handle. It’s safe to say that if 4-Stars can’t handle something, nothing can.
When I first caught wind of the article in Rolling Stone, my first thought was: Why are Soldiers allowed to talk to journalists from Rolling Stone? I was absolutely astounded when I found that General McChrystal gave “unprecedented access” to Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings.
Reading the article, I immediately catch a whiff of burnt cannabis in the air, and a tone that can’t wait to rile up some muck. It reminds me to some extent of the works of another Rolling Stone journalist named Evan Wright of Generation Kill fame. The style is slightly raunchy, almost in the Beat Poet genre. In revels in pointing out the basest aspects of human nature. The style feels obligated to quote only when the language is profane. And let’s consider the title:
The Runaway General
Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House
Seems obvious that Hastings wanted to stir some people up. And he succeeded.
This is not to say that it is not true and an excellent piece of journalism. Afterall, even McChrystal has not denied the truth of the article’s content. And I must also commend Michael Hastings’ conclusions in regards counterinsurgency and the fact that he quotes highly regarded critics of CI, such as Douglas Macgregor.
But aside from the journalistic qualities of the piece, let’s think about the “outrage” that’s flowed from many in the press and resulted in McChrystal’s resignation.
First, the accusations of McChrystal being insubordinate are overblown. I can find nothing in the article that points to McChrystal making contemptuous remarks toward the President. On one occasion McChrystal does tell a subordinate that he found President Obama to be unprepared for a meeting and intimidated by the military. Few can doubt that President Obama may find the military slighty intimidating. Many people in the military find the military intimidating. If it was McChrystal’s opinion that the President was unprepared for a meeting, can he not say so to a subordinate when asked how the meeting went?
If people in the upper ranks of our military want to know what people really think in the military ranks, they should visit a bathroom stall on a military installation; the only place a Private doesn’t have to kiss ass is while he’s wiping his own.
But as the great line in ” A few Good Men” goes: “You can’t handle the truth!”
I’ve always been intrigued by Stanley McChrystal. I see a bit of him in myself; someone who’s a bit impolitic at times, but greatly values personal toughness. But I never thought that McChrystal was the right man for the job. We need someone a bit more intellectual, and Petraeus fits the bill perfectly. Actually, I can’t think of a military bill that Patraeus wouldn’t fit. If Patraeus is the wizard in the high tower, McChrystal is Conan with a bloody sword. Two completely different styles, but both effective in their own way. McChrystal seemed better suited for the black art of hunter–killer missions and as commander of JSOC in Iraq, he helped shatter the leadership of al-Qaeda In Iraq.
I support President Obama’s decision. He has the right to pull McChrystal for any reason, not just this. And when the President said: “I welcome debate but not division”, I thought he was spot on. McChrystal should have known better. Regardless of the motives of Rolling Stone, McChrystal gave them access and Hastings managed to find people who wanted to show off. No doubt McChrystal’s underlings thought they had a confidant in Hastings. But they’re still dumb.
So now the show is handed to the Master. The man who against so much doubt turned the tide in a collapsing Iraq. If anyone can turn Afghanistan around, Patraeus can.