McChrystal to Petraeus: Unexpectedly changing horses in the middle of the raging stream
I have mixed feelings about the removal of Gen. Stan McChrystal. I have been known to have a bit of a conspiratorial mind at times, and at first blush I wondered if the General was so frustrated by the way Obama as "Commander in Chief" (CinC) has been apparently removed and disconnected from the Afghanistan war that he felt he needed to throw himself on a grenade, if you will, in order to gain better attention for the mission.
Hence, the Rolling Stone magazine kerfuffle. McChrystal, by training and instinct, is a "special-ops" man. It's not completely out of the realm of possibility. In just two and a half years as CinC Obama has provided enough ammo for the General heading our longest war to make political fodder. But whose political move was McChrystal's removal ... really?
General McChrystal: the fall guy for the president's failure?
Before he fired him, President Barack Obama had just two conversations of any significance with General Stanley A. McChrystal, the man he appointed to win the war in Afghanistan.
The first was last October when Mr. Obama summoned Gen. McChrystal to an awkward face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One to reprimand him for a speech he gave at a prestigious London think-tank in which he openly called on the president to back his plans for a military surge in Afghanistan.
The meeting lasted 25 minutes, during which the president made it abundantly clear to his commander that if he had anything useful to contribute to the prosecution of the Afghan campaign, he should address his comments directly to his commander-in-chief, rather than to the public at large.
The next time Mr. Obama spoke to Gen. McChrystal was at 10am on Wednesday morning in the Oval Office, when the president informed the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan that he was being dismissed for gross insubordination.
The sacking of Gen. McChrystal says more about the way Mr. Obama fulfils his obligations as the country’s commander-in-chief than the general’s lamentable error of judgement in allowing a Rolling Stone journalist access to the inner sanctum of his campaign headquarters. [...] (Telegraph UK)
More likely it is what it appears to be, an interview giving way too much face-time during the nasty belching of Eyjafjallajokull. Being grounded in Europe, tipping back 'spirits', and venting dispirited frustrations while the volcano kicked ash into the flight lanes seems to have contributed to this General's downfall. It's a pity, really. Although I have disagreed with McChrystal's military policies concerning Afghanistan, most especially the new Rules of Engagement (ROEs) that stupidly endanger our troops on the ground, I do ponder how much of that military policy was his, and not directly influenced by others. I honor and admire McChrystal's long service to this country, in spite of missteps such as the fudging of the Pat Tillman report. But it's our ROEs while the enemy uses civilians as human shields that are just unacceptable. No, "unsustainable". What's that old saying about a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest? I am sure Gen. McChrystal's frustrations aren't eased any more since he's been relieved of command. I hope two things for the man: That his experience is not wasted and he finds a place teaching at a military academy ... and that he writes a "tell-all" book outlining his experiences with this poser of a CinC. Just like the growing majority of the people who voted the man into office, I'm certain the General has buyer's remorse.
Unfortunately, while being an extreme solution to a chain-of-command issue, the 'reproach' Gen. McChrystal is guilty of justified his removal. McChrystal's crime? A possibly slurred slip of the tongue (mostly by his staff) to a reporter agreeing to "off-the-record" rules (with his grimy fingers crossed under the bar). For me "gross insubordination" would have been Gen. McChrystal decking the CinC in the Oval Office last Wednesday ... but that's just me. Go figure, the one thing Obama finally does right during his year and a half on the job and it's just too damn pathetic his show of "leadership" had to come at the expense of a real proven leader who knew when to admit he was wrong and to do the right thing in the end. Let's hope Obama sees this as one of those "teachable moments" he's so fond of pushing off on others.
Thankfully Gen. McChrystal has been replaced by Gen. David Petraeus. He's a brilliant tactician, and has been studying the differences between Afghanistan and Iraq (where he had a highly successful surge and victory) over the last few years, especially since heading Central Command. Taking over command in Afghanistan is a bit of a step down for him personally. However, Petraeus strikes me as a leader that would sacrifice his stars if it meant seeing a successful mission and bringing out his men with as little losses as possible. I don't see Petraeus changing too much in the Afghanistan campaign, but already talk is that he will be reviewing and modifying the ROEs and the supposed "courageous restraint" mentality our troops have had to fight under in this war. I'm not looking for scorched earth in Afghanistan ... Well, not yet, anyway. I just want our military to be able to do what they have done for generations, lead the way to victory and success ... before we lose our NATO allies to their own countries' politics and budget cutbacks.
A little side-note here: Please recall how just three years ago two certain Senators treated Petraeus concerning his leadership in the Iraq War, and now they have to call on him to rescue one (or both) of their arse(s) in this mess.
As for Rolling Stone Magazine, while they celebrate taking down the top U.S. General leading and running a messy war just before an anticipated 'surge' is getting ready to commence I hope they realize the damage they've done in the relationship between the US military and the media. As "scorched earth" goes, I'm not sure there will be much re-growth in that relationship. I don't even want to speculate on whatever damage they have done to us militarily or even diplomatically in Afghanistan. Hell, it's pretty damn bad when a liberal publication ticks-off ultra liberal journalist Geraldo Rivera to the point of his comparing the reporter to Al Qaeda. Ouch ...
Hard to believe a rock and roll magazine and a volcano whose name nobody can pronounce could take down a highly decorated four star general in the middle of one of our toughest wars. However, Gen. McChrystal forgot a golden rule in the military: "Loose lips sink ships". But these are the times we are living in. Here's "hoping" an oily mess in the Gulf of Mexico, among other things, will have the same "changing" effect on the CinC. President David Petraeus in 2012, anyone?
Footnote: General David Petraeus is only one piece of the puzzle to turning things around in Afghanistan. A few more suggestions/ideas are in a Washington Post piece.