Here is some information about and analysis of the McChrystal affair, sparked by the infamous Rolling Stone article. Material from other posts has been consolidated here.
- Dismiss any analysis assuming McChrystal is stupid. A reporter from a leftist magazine was in the room with them; the result was easily predictable.
- We again see revealed the bitter infighting in Washington about the Af-Pak war. Don’t confuse cause and effect. This is characteristic of failing wars. Success breeds amity within a team, failure breeds discord.
Valuable analysis of the McChrystal affair
- By Paul Yingling (Lt. Colonel, US Army, bio), posted at Wired
- See the typically comprehensive coverage at the Small Wars Journal
- About the relationship: “Obama and McChrystal Don’t Talk? Good, Says Army Historian“, Noah Shachtman, Wired, 30 September 2009
McChrystal is not stupid, despite many comments to that effect by people who’ve read the RS article (e.g, Michael Cohen). We can only guess what’s going on. Perhaps (guessing) he’s signalling dominance, a political gamble going into the next battle of the Af-Pak War — about the 2011 exit date (in colonial wars the key battles occur in the Imperial capital; the insurgents need only survive until the foreign forces leave from exhaustion of political support back home). McChrystal knows that in a street fight one always kicks a downed opponent. McChrystal has assessed Obama, and believes he has the stronger position. We will soon see if he’s right.
Laura Rozen says what few others dare to say — but many people believe (red emphasis added):
“Marc Ambinder asks what you might be asking when you pick your jaw off the floor: what was McChrystal thinking? One early thought: does he want to get fired for insubordination before his strategy is shown to fail?“
Update: someone else thinks so, too:
It’s hard to imagine a more damaging profile than what appeared on Rolling Stone’s website on Tuesday and you have to wonder if the old man wasn’t secretly asking Hastings to take him out of his misery …
— “The Stringer and the Snake-eater“, David J. Morris (USMC, retired), Virginia Quarterly Review, 23 June 2010
This was my first reaction, too. McChrystal may have decided to leave as a macho man fired by a candy-ass President because he realized that this December 2009 intel report was correct, and victory is unlikely. For a look at the current intel he’s reading see “Intelligence assessments paint bleak portrait in Afghanistan“, Washington Times, 22 June 2010.
Whatever the outcome, this illustrates the power of the military in American political system, greater than ever before in our history. If Obama does not fire McChrystal, he looks weak. If he fires McChrystal, conservatives will criticize him for damaging the war effort — firing a General with brass balls — because of his personal views (the RS article contains almost nothing about policy). A Roosevelt (either one), Truman, or Eisenhower would have quickly reassigned him for something like this, IMO. I believe Obama will do so.
Could he be court-martialed?
As explained in “Military Law Expert: McChrystal Wasn’t Insubordinate” (blog of The American Prospect), General McChrystal probably has not violated any regulations — by historical standards. Most of the quotes were from his staff, and were emotional outbursts that should have been kept informal. From the Uniform Code of Military Justice: 888 Article 88 — Contempt Toward Officials:
Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
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