Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Trouble In Paradise, If Afghanistan Was A Paradise

Most of the time, honesty is the best policy in life. If you lie to your parents and do something behind their back, chances are that you’ll escape a much harder punishment if you confront them and admit your mistakes. And in the court of law, if you are suspected, charged, and tried of murder, you will probably end up with a much better sentence if you simply admit the crime to the judge rather than wasting taxpayer money on a drawn out trial.

But wars are extenuating circumstances. Killing people in mass quantities can hardly be considered a normal part of everyday life. So perhaps this is why General Stanley McChrystal’s remarks yesterday about President Obama and his staff are so disturbing and dangerous; they reveal a thought process that not only hurts the war effort and divides the upper echelons of the U.S. command, but embarrass the entire civil-military establishment.

The story I’m obviously referring to is a new piece by Rolling Stone Magazine that will be hitting shelves this Friday, in which the top U.S/NATO Commander in Afghanistan directs some pointed insults to his superiors in the White House. Some of these comments could be contained if they focused on a single individual. But this article is going to pretty difficult to contain and sweep under the rug, especially when every major Obama official- including President Obama himself- involved in Afghan policy was mentioned in a negative light.

The article in Rolling Stone is pretty long, and I suspect that most people won’t have time to read the entire thing…although it is a page-turner. But here are the quotes that really distinguish the controversy from the jargon, and get the General in some real trouble (courtesy of Politico):

_______________________________________

“The article, titled “The Runaway General,” appears in the magazine later this week. It contains a number of jabs by McChrystal and his staff aimed not only at the president but also at Vice President Joe Biden, special envoy Richard Holbrooke, Karl Eikenberry, the ambassador to Afghanistan, and others.

McChrystal described his first meeting with Obama as disappointing and said that Obama was unprepared for the meeting.

National Security Adviser Jim Jones is described by a McChrystal aide as a “clown” stuck in 1985.

Others aides joked about Biden’s last name as sounding like “Bite me” since Biden opposed the surge.”

And from FP.com: “Some of the harshest criticism was reserved for Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, whose leaked memos cast doubt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s trustworthiness as an ally. McChrystal said he felt “betrayed” by the ambassador, and that the leaked memos “covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so.”

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Keep in mind that this isn’t the first time the top General has gotten himself in hot water with the White House. Last September, when President Obama was determining a new policy for the war, McChrystal publicly stated that he would not accept a plan to reduce U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan…a plan that VP Biden endorsed. During that time, the President recalled the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen to show his displeasure, and to basically tell him to keep a lid on McChrystal.

This time, however, the President has recalled McChrystal directly, ordering him to fly from Afghanistan to Washington for a meeting today. Is the U.S. about to see a change of command in Afghanistan? Tom Ricks seems to think so.

My bet is that McChyrstal will offer his resignation, but the President will refuse to take it…you know, for the sake of the mission.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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**Comments courtesy of David Kenner, Blake HounshellPeter Feaver, and Kori Schake**

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8 Responses

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  1. Kunino said, on June 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    What the general deserves at the moment is his name spelled properly in the headline on this story. Leave the mistypings to your readers.
    What McChrystal does NOT deserve is a second chance, and this is because he’s already had several chances, and has already survived several displays of insubordination and failure in command. He couldn’t get this air arm to stop dropping 500-pound bombs on civilian targets and he seems not to have punished subordinates who defied that command. He does not seems to have achieved much with the ballyhooed Marja campaign, other than a grounding for a possible Marja II. He seems to have recognized that his ballyhooed plans for an invasion of Kandahar are unlikely ever to bear fruit. His main achievement, and it is an honorable one, has been to make the Coalition forces less likely to kill civilians in wholesale lots and get away with the lie that all those civilians were really evildoing terrorists or insurgents. Bravo.
    I take strong issue with Kori Schrake’s opening line here, that “General Stanley McChrystal is in hot water for a profile of him in the coming issue of Rolling Stone.” No, what he’s in hot water for, what he is and SHOULD be in hot water for, is what he and close members of his cohort were happy to tell a Rolling Stone reporter. How surprising that it’s only a civilian around the general who has honorably resigned.
    Lots of folks will be urging us to gratitude for General McChrystal’s years of military service. Fine. Let’s also reflect on the value to the United States of that Rolling Stone article, which uncovers a nest of disaffection at high levels of the military command at the idea there could be any sort of civilian interest or intrusion in what generals feel like doing. That’s the idea embedded in the Constitution, and evidently, quite a lot of generals don’t approve of it.
    McChrystal is a military leader with strong political interests. He doesn’t seem to have played the political part of his interests all that well in the past few weeks. It’s notable is that he’s not saying the reporter misrepresented him. The reporter got it right, and all McChrystal offers is apologies. We’ll soon see what they’re valued at. We’ll also see whether Gates and Mullen, the men who approved the McChrystal appointment, will keep their jobs. All they could say when they announced the appointment that the man got the job because he then had “new eyes”. Huh.

  2. Jamaican Writer said, on June 23, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    The criticism of Obama is amazing, considering it comes on the heels of eight years of George W. Bush. Even people who voted for Bush (twice) cannot argue that many his decisions and statements were not the born out of brilliance. And yet still, this type of vitriol was never leveled at him or his administration. Nor was it leveled at Clinton, Bush the 1st, Reagan or Carter.
    The General has by all accounts done a very good job in an unwinnable war. That is not the issue. The comments attributed to him and his ‘inner circle’ reflects a disdain for authority as well as the one thing the military is built on-the chain of command. Whether he directly made any of the comments himself is hardly the point; he has fostered, cultivated an environment where disparaging remarks about their superiors is acceptable and worth repeating privately and publicly with no fear of reprisals.
    In this case, those superiors are the President, Vice President and Cabinet people. That cannot be accepted. It cannot be solved with an apology. The General and his inner circle have to be removed. The Office of President carries with it a certain amount of authority, gravitas even. People routinely joke about the phrase ‘the most powerful man in the world,’ but guess what? That’s exactly what it is. The world. And that world includes the US military where the POTUS is the “Commander in Chief.” So any negative comments made about the Commander in Chief by a subordinate are akin to treason.
    There are defenders of General McChrystal who want him to be excused, forgiven, etc., The arguments ive heard say he is vitally important to the war. Really? Seriously? That’s what our vaunted military has come to, one man is so important that he can’t be replaced in an entire army? Isn’t that one of the inherent creeds of the military, that it’s one unit, the sum of its parts? Or did I miss something?

    • DragonLady said, on June 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm

      Jamaican Writer, I’m not defending the general’s remarks. But what evidence do you have it’s a race issue? Seems the RS article reported McChrystal is a Democrat and voted for Obama. I’m more than tired of folks saying just because you oppose Obama’s policies makes you an instant racist. Seems like the very people who instantly spout this nonsense use race as deterministic way of viewing everything. How do you expect people to look beyond race if you yourself cannot? It’s very tiring and a 5th grade sort of way of trying to delegitmize those you don’t agree with by calling them names in hopes it’ll stick if you repeat it enough.

  3. Eli said, on June 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Definitely he need a another chance no matter what. As said ” McChrystal also didn’t commit treason, which is what the political backlash makes it sound like. He didn’t disobey an order. He didn’t go outside his chain of command to undercut the president. He didn’t say he knew world sport news today better than his elected leadership what needed to be done. He didn’t even criticize the president other than to say he’d looked uncomfortable the first time he met the military leadership..

  4. Suresh Sheth said, on June 23, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Poor General McChrystal! With his bosses General David Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen as well as Defense secretary Gates justifying Pakistan’s ‘terrorist connections’, Mullah Mohammed Omar’s QST trail from Quetta to Kandahar is operating unimpeded.
    McChrystal himself had warned about Pakistan’s sheltering of Taliban terrorists in his August 2009 report to Obama: Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) based in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, is the No. 1 threat to US/NATO mission in Afghanistan. At the operational level, the Quetta Shura conducts a formal campaign review each winter, after which Mullah Mohammed Omar (Afghan Taliban Chief) announces his guidance and intent for the coming year‘.
    But US can not even use its drones to destroy QST that is causing daily deaths of US/NATO soldiers in Afghanistan since 2002! That shows Obama’s continuance of Bush’s mollycoddling of Pakistan.
    Defense Secretary Robert Gates sought to justify Pakistan’s terrorist connections, alluding to a “deficit of trust” between Washington, DC and Islamabad. Mr Gates also said there was “some justification” for Pakistan’s concerns about past American policies. Gen David Patraeus, rushed in with an apologia for his Pakistani friends, by claiming that while Faisal was inspired by militants in Pakistan, he did not necessarily have contacts with the militants. Both Adm Mike Mullen and Gen Patraeus fancy themselves to be “soldier statesmen” a la Gen Dwight Eisenhower. Adm Mullen has visited Pakistan 15 times and Gen Patraeus no less frequently. Both evidently have high opinions of their abilities to persuade Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to crack down on the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and the Taliban’s Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura.
    All American officers in southern Afghanistan know that they cannot prevail in the ongoing military operations, unless Taliban strongholds across the Durand Line in North Waziristan and Baluchistan are neutralized. Adm Mullen and Gen Patraeus evidently do not want to acknowledge that hard options have to be considered if their soldiers are not to die at the hands of radicals, armed and trained across the Durand Line.
    With McChrystal’s hands tied by his bosses and Pakistani ISI financing Afghan Taliban insurgency from US financial aid as narrated by Matt Waldman on 6/13/2010 in a report titled ‘The sun in the sky’ published by London School Of Economics, US military’s Kandahar operation and Afghan mission is headed for failure.

  5. RudyHaugeneder said, on June 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Gen. Stanley McChrystal is a public servant not a warlord. He dissed the president and those who voted for Mr. Obama. If the general is an honorable man, he must, I repeat “must” resign immediately.
    Do do otherwise, makes him no more than a warlord in the emloy of his close friend and ally, Afghan President Karzi.

  6. Arvay said, on June 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    When president Obama implemented the Afghan policy of the good general in what seemed like an un-Trumanesque capitulation to this half-pint MacArthur, he was actually guiding McChrystal into a rope-a-dope.
    Now comes the right cross.
    The Afghan “surge” is failing and will continue to fail. When he pulled off his publicity-founded political stunt, McChrystal accepted his fate as the donkey awaiting his new tail. We will negotiate ourselves out of the Afghan mess, and the general’s career will assume the characteristics of the Dodo bird.
    Good riddance.

  7. Hossra said, on June 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I know Stan McChrystal and had the honor of working with him when he was the JS VJ-3. Good man and warrior with the highest integrity and “Soldier first” mentality.
    Which is why the entire article — with his active participation — is so baffling.
    I can’t believe that he simply made those comments without thinking.
    Or thought that a Rolling Stones article would be the proper forum.
    Or that anything said about the CYA wimps (every Administration has them — especially after Gore invented the Internet) would not come back and bite his Alpha.
    Poor judgment, Stan.


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