I'm obviously coming in late on this discussion, but it's pretty interesting to watch the breathless dialogue over words that Gen. Stan McChrystal and his aides used to describe the Very Serious People within the Washington Beltway. I particularly like the coverage in this Firelake post.
McChrystal and aides reserve their greatest rancor for top members of the Administration. They call the “inflection point” deadline of July 2011 to transition to local Afghan forces “arbitrary,” one aide calls National Security Adviser Jim Jones a “clown… stuck in 1985,” and another aide McChrystal himself offers a rejected “Wayne’s World” joke about the Vice President: “Biden? Did you say: Bite me?”
McChrystal had to apologize for the entire profile.
Well, maybe Gen David McKiernan doesn't look so bad, now. I don't have much to add to this controversy other than a few observations. First, I disagree with Spencer Ackerman that the Afghan strategy will somehow collapse if the general is relieved of his command. That's bullshit. No one is indispensable, especially four-star generals. Maybe the Obama administration doesn't want to be cast as another Democratic anti-military crowd (as the Clinton administration was), but let's be clear. McChrystal really stepped on his dick here. Just apologizing won't cut it.
Second, I find it appalling that prominent Democratic politicians like Sen. John Kerry don't immediately support firing the general. We know it was "poor judgment." Rather than being mocked by the Republican conservatives as "anti-military" (which they're going to do in any regard), Kerry doesn't want to make the right call and say, hey, the civilians are in charge of the military. If that's not clear to the general and his aides, they need to go for the good of the US military and any future exercises in national security. Matt Y has already detailed Kerry's past failure to develop a distinct and workable progressive national security strategy in his book "Heads in the Sand."
Third, I'll reserve this shot for anyone who suggests that the political strategy and/or foreign policy needs to crafted to support military operational strategy, rather than the other way around. Mr. Exum already suggests that "there are good reasons both for and against the sack," but I disagree. There's only good reasons for the sack. The military may not like the development of political strategy that is intended to guide the execution of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that's not their call. The second that the military believes it knows better than the political decision-makers, it's time for them to go. They advise, but when the order is given, they salute and move out without sniping at the decision-makers (at least while they're on active duty). I believe there were lots of ground commanders in 2003-2006 who thought the Bush administration had developed poor policy and was not supporting the prompt and efficient execution of military operations, but Rumsfeld and company kept a hard hand on any dissenters. This is the same situation, different leaders, and we cannot let this example stand as the way Dems do business.
On the plus side, if President Obama and SecDef Gates use this unfortunate incident to rethink their strategy and to ensure that the political decisions have been made and are adequate to support a 2011 start of withdrawing forces from Afghanistan, here's the opportunity to do so. It would be foolish not to search this black cloud for a silver lining.
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