Was McChrystal ready to get pushed out?

The problem with owning a military strategy the way Gen Stanley McChrystal owned the counterinsurgency strategy at the center of the war in Afghanistan, is that it’s hard to admit it’s not working. It might be easier just to get fired.

Are we really supposed to believe that McChrystal knew so little about journalism or the magazine that he couldn’t have anticipated what kind of material would end up in his Rolling Stone profile? And more to the point, is it conceivable that another story from just two years ago somehow escaped his attention: the Esquire profile of Admiral William Fallon that led to his swift resignation?

On some level, most indiscretions can be seen as a loss of faith.

Meanwhile, in a short follow up to profile that toppled McChrystal, Michael Hastings writes at Rolling Stone:

President Obama, in announcing the replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal moments ago, sought to reassure the American people about the war in Afghanistan. “This is a change in personnel,” he declared, “but not a change in policy.”

That’s precisely the problem.

Changing generals isn’t likely to resolve the real trouble in Afghanistan: the fundamental flaws in the U.S. strategy of counterinsurgency.

So why did the president pick David Petraeus, the most political — and media-savvy — general of his generation, to replace McChrystal? Petraeus makes sense. He’s considered the hero of Iraq, and he has the public’s trust. He won’t be caught dead calling the offensive in Marja a “bleeding ulcer,” as McChrystal did. His appointment neutralizes him as a potential (though highly unlikely) political rival for 2012. He literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency, drafting the Army field manual on the U.S. strategy that is being pursued in Afghanistan. Above all, he is a master at crafting a narrative that Americans are eager to hear. He has almost single-handedly convinced many Washington insiders that his “surge” in Iraq resulted in some kind of major victory in Mesopotamia — a notion that is right up there with thinking that Pizza Hut has good pizza.

Here is the narrative we’re about to be sold: Things will be tough in Afghanistan. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. But eventually, with good old American perseverance, violence will drop (fingers crossed). When that happens, U.S. soldiers will stop dying in large numbers — and Americans will stop paying attention in large numbers.

Thomas Barnett, whose Esquire profile led to Admiral Fallon’s undoing, suggests that Petraeus will now have a bigger say in the conduct of the war than does his own commander in chief:

If Petraeus says the strategy needs more time, then Obama’s running for re-election as a wartime president. Period. There’s just no way that Obama can overrule Petraeus on this one without wounding himself politically. McChrystal had been signaling that Obama’s summer 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing combat troops was too optimistic. Expect Petraeus to press that case — however subtly — from day one.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 thoughts on “Was McChrystal ready to get pushed out?

  1. Norman

    Interesting read. Remains to be seen what General McChrystal ends up doing. Personally, I happen to think that “O” uses the office, but has the wrong people around him. Too bad that he fell into the trap and now owns that War. Indeed, if McChrystal saw it as a lost cause, due to just too many fingers in the stew, pot, pie, etc. then he saved face by being relieved of command. “O” can’t do that now. Actually, from the beginning, it was “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t.” It’s no wonder the country is in the shape it is today. In fact, as it slides down that slippery sloop, the so called “experts” will, like the proverbial “Rats”, abandon the sinking ship.

  2. DE Teodoru

    Since GW Bush, the neocon “World War IV” against Islam has been a cash windfall for many on the WashDC bureaucratic Yellow Brick Road; for many more, it’s all careers soaring like rockets for a lot of one-time military academy bad boys from the post-Vietnam era when these institutions had to take whatever they could get. Meanwhile, mom&das soldiers heroically swelled the ranks of widows&orphans back home following the orders of people for whom this war was a shooting star. It didn’t take long for a concerned official to point out that our soldiers “hate Muslims.” Yet, so long as GW was Commander-and-Chief it didn’t matter if the ratio was kept low casualties (ours), high body count (theirs). Muslim civilians look so much like Jihadis that even babies were thrown into the count. Why not? After all, they’re all just “damned towel heads.” PowerPoints abounded as if products of lower primates substituting graphs for policies. It didn’t matter so long as “we’re not losing.” One Pentagon PowerPoint, made to tickle GW, read: “THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX; POISON ALL OF AFGHANISTAN’S CROPS AND WATER”– and that was in 2001. Since then we’ve been “NOT LOSING,” but didn’t matter, because at the Pentagon, the gorillas were designing their COIN war against the guerrillas, marking everything “TOP SECRET,” including every square of toilet paper on the Pentagon rolls. With Rumsfeld gone the “brass” star-whores thought that their decade-long COIN moment had come, both for themselves and all those corporate profiteers who GW Bush paid back for with a bloody windfall for supporting him. Our crusade was massacring only Muslims and 9/11 made that OK. So long as the ration was 100:1 corporate and Pentagon COINers could afford a silent moment here and there on their way to cash their blood-money DoD checks. But Wall Street did to America what binLaden wouldn’t even have dared to dream….then $1 trillion a year became a bit much for millions of unemployed Americans to see Obama spend just to kill a whole lot of “towel heads.” The COIN “expert” bureaucrats with mortgages and car payments to meet began to worry that Americans were suffering from killing-Muslims-fatigue. The blood we lost bothered little the “ain’t my kid going to war” crowd, but the $$$ that spilled without creating jobs at home bothered the unemployed. Worst still, a lot of Pentagon generals had a lot of reserved corporate board seats paying top dollar once they retire to worry about as COIN warfare ate into the CASH needed to buy those corporations’ high tech war toys. So, the CASH-for-high-tech-war-toys generals at the Pentagon decided to screw the COIN generals led by Petraeus. Knowing McChrystal and his crew loved pocking a stick into at Obama’s “didn’t serve” political soft spot, they OKed the Rolling Stone-McChrystal interview, dead certain that in his unbridled wiseass desire to cower Obama every chance he got,
    McChrystal would splatter Obama’s Commander-and-Chief standing all over the page. Well, he sure did and the hypocritical “I’m shocked, shocked I say!” could be heard echoing all over the Pentagon corridors of the procurement offices. The pushy COIN guy, Petraeus, and his man McChrystal would surely stumble into a pit along with all the SpecialOps Death Squads guys who get such a rush popping-off Towel heads from 1000 yards, whatever size, gender and age they may be. Most certainly they could be counted on to say how great they were and how dog-like are their civilian masters, recklessly at their own peril. That’s all that lies behind the Pentagon’s “Top Secret” mania and all the blood heroic mom&dad soldiers shed for their country: two bit hyper-androgenic for whom all the death and destruction is nothing but opportunity. Why should they be careful? Why should they follow rules? After all, they shoot whom they want and mark it “Top Secret.” So why not
    terrorize the President, a cheesy civilian who so easily gets the political shakes? And so “he man” McChrystal couldn’t resist. Let’s run a thunderbolt through those dippy civilians, thought McChrystal and his intimates. Now McChrystal is gone, Petraeus was demoted to McChrystal’s job and a lot of pink-slipping will go to a lot of wiseass colonels who thought that all they had to do is give that McChrystal stare to the Commander-and-Chief and he’d shake like a leaf. Meanwhile, for the mom&dad soldiers it’s another day making for another widow&orphans created before dark so that the COIN generals could feel like they have America by the throat with one hand while shooting to bits all those “damned towel heads.” The COIN generals never realized that a Bush-it president they would never see again and now they’ll pay with their jobs as the Pentagon turns back to its regular hightech procurements. Afghanistan will end honorably, like Iraq…just like Vietnam, with US getting out before the inter-family blood debts get collected. We’re winning boys so keep blowing holes into those “damned Towel heads.”

  3. Dieter Heymann, Houston, USA

    The fundamental problem with “counterinsurgency” is that there must be “insurgents” and “non-insurgents” recognized as such by the overwhelming majority of the Afghan people and not merely of an Afghan intellectual upper-crust.
    From all I have been able to learn there is no such recognition by the Afghan people. In fact, not to long ago the ones that are now “in” were the “insurgent outs” helped by us to oust the Taliban.
    Ergo it is my view that “counterinsurgency” is a gigantic hoax perpetrated on our sheepish nation to justify continued occupation of Afghanistan.
    Tell an Afghan kid that the killing of his father was needed for the success of “counterinsurgency” and then listen carefully to his stream of invectives directed at you.

Comments are closed.