Ill-Considered Trash Talk McChrystal’s Idea of Winning Hearts and Minds

Politico reports that Stanley McChrystal saw today’s big Rolling Stone article before it was published but didn’t object to anything in it (and the Hill reports there was even more devastating trash talk that was off the record).

Rolling Stone’s executive editor on Tuesday said that Gen. Stanley McChrystal did not raise any objections to a new article that repeatedly quotes him criticizing the administration.

Eric Bates, the magazine’s editor, said during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that McChrystal saw the piece prior to its publication as part of Rolling Stone’s standard fact-checking process – and that the general did not object to or dispute any of the reporting.

Asked if McChrystal pushed back on the story, Bates responded: “No, absolutely not.

Now, given the use of the pronoun “they” in the follow-on quotes, I’m assuming by “McChrystal” Bates means “McChrystal’s office,” which may well mean only that press aide that McChrystal already fired reviewed the article.

Nevertheless, this article was not–should not have been–a surprise. McChrystal’s team was at least okay with all this trash talk being published, if not intended for it to be published.

So take a step back and think about what that means for McChrystal (and should mean for the question of whether or not he gets fired for this). Stanley McChrystal, the guy in charge of winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan, okayed this article, presumably intending it to win hearts and minds in the US.

And McChrystal presumably knows US culture better than he knows Afghanistan culture.

This article is McChrystal’s idea of winning hearts and minds.

Argue what you will about whether McChrystal’s insubordination requires his firing. Argue what you will about his unique qualifications for the job.

But if this is McChrystal’s idea of how to win hearts and minds then we will never achieve success in Afghanistan so long as he’s in charge.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Update: Rolling Stone tempers that somewhat. Though note the Hill piece and CNN pieces linked include similar, though weaker, claims.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

93 replies
  1. cregan says:

    Likely, McChrystal will get fired. For two reasons; what he said and that Obama cannot tolerate disagreement.

    Better for Stanley to get fired. At least, he then is not in charge when the entire operation goes down the toilet.

    Hearts and minds doesn’t really matter. If you have the Taliban sitting out your back door and you know the US is leaving in a year or so and the Taliban aren’t–who are YOU going to side with?

    That one point negated all the “smart power” available–if there was anyone with power who was smart in the first place.

    • Rayne says:

      Really? Obama can’t tolerate disagreement? He’s surrounded by it all the time. The problem is who wins disagreement — it tends to be whomever Rahm would pick to win.

      As for whether he should be fired: McChrystal violated UCMJ in bad mouthing the Commander-in-Chief to the media. He is supposed to lead by example, is creating an environment ripe for rampant insubordination by failing to be subordinate.

      More specifically, by failing to demand his aides be discreet, follow UCMJ code themselves and be subordinate. What most readers are ignoring is how much content in the Rolling Stone article is based on what aides and staffers said, not on what McChrystal himself said. What does this really say, that Obama does not tolerate dissent, or McChrystal is allowing too much dissension in an environment where orders are simply to be followed where not illegal?

      • Fractal says:

        What most readers are ignoring is how much content in the Rolling Stone article is based on what aides and staffers said, not on what McChrystal himself said. What does this really say, that Obama does not tolerate dissent, or McChrystal is allowing too much dissension in an environment where orders are simply to be followed where not illegal?

        I agree with you, Rayne. It’s a crucial distinction. I could find only one or two remarks by McChrystal that might amount to disloyalty, that the White House strategy review was “painful” for him and that “I was selling an unsellable position.” (I assume he meant he had to sell a small troop surge when he wanted a larger force to carry out counterinsurgency).

        If you ask me (so far, nobody did), the White House press corps echo chamber is in a giant tizzy over the Rolling Stone article, but it contains very little new information. No reason why the anti-war movement should jump into the same echo chamber that is mindlessly promoting war all over the planet as the best solution for the threats facing our country. McChrystal is being used as just one more bright shiny object to distract us from the immoral war on AfPak.

      • cregan says:

        The reporter who wrote the article says that most of the comments reported were made by aides in a bar in Paris while drinking “getting hammered” as he puts it.

        You can’t allow a general to criticize political leaders in public. That is for voters to do.

        All I was saying is that if I was McChrystal, I’d want to be fired so that when it all goes down the toilet, I won’t be around to be blamed.

        That maybe the #1 reason McC is not fired. Obama knows that if he fires McC, that he will be blamed when it all goes down the chute. There will be no one around to really share the blame with. The new guy, whoever, will be the new guy and no one will blame him.

    • gesneri says:

      I’ll bet he won’t be fired. The current administration is too afraid of what the right-wing will say. EDIT: Hmm, guess I’m wrong. I just had time to catch up with the wing-nuts demanding that he be thrown out. I’m amazed–I thought they were crazy enough with hate that anyone who dissed this administration was an automatic hero.

  2. tjbs says:

    The war criminal, Tillman lying Mc Kristol, has the hearts and minds of the war mongers for everybody else there nothing to win nothing to gain. Guys like this love to murder without consequences, love pulling the trigger and love spilling others blood.

    What a savage worthless murderer serving the blood lust of America. I bet he goes to church and prays to the God of Death and Destruction.

  3. Jim White says:

    Yep, and even if he is fired, McChrystal will just be replaced by another JSOC trash-talker. These guys only know power at the end of a fist; they don’t know working with civilians.

  4. Blue Texan says:

    This is the funniest headline, ever.

    Doesn’t this revelation make it more likely that Stanley knew his precious COIN operation was failing, and wanted to go out a la MacArthur?

  5. scribe says:

    McChyrstal knows that his strategy is failing, so the only logical thing for an arrogant fuck like him to do is get fired and then blame the debacle on someone else.

    Why else would the Rethugs, starting with Morning Joe, be calling for Obama to take McChyrstal’s job? Rethugs never act or speak for things which benefit Democrats – even when they posit what would ordinarily be the correct choice (in this instance, relieving insubordinate, contemptuous officers), they’ve taken that position only because they decided it would benefit the Rethuglicans.

    So, for Obama, the smarter thing to do would be to remind everyone that McChrystal got just about everything he wanted – the article shows he got weak, divided diplomats, a big surge in troop levels, yearly offensives, pain rays fer chrissake – and still fucked it all up. Compelling McChrystal to apologize is nothing – Mr. Century Man Walking The Area is long-accustomed to getting his ass kicked for fucking up and getting caught. And he has made a life out of fucking up and moving up. He likes both the fucking up and getting his ass kicked (or moving up) – it’s no different than McCain’s fondness for shooting craps. He gets the attention and the applause when he rolls winners, and sympathy when he craps out.

    No, IMHO the way to deal with McChrystal is to compel him to publicly state he and his strategy are a failure and that he sold a misguided idea to the remainder of the USG, then beg to be relieved of his command. (You can ask to be relieved of command.) Because McChyrstal’s spent a career building a cult of personality and personal loyalty around himself among the most dangerous people in the military, he and his cult currently constitute a danger to the Constitutional government of the United States. That cult can only be addressed by demolishing the aura of competence that surrounds it, and that can only be done by the cult admitting its own incompetence.

    Or, as Obama told us in his acceptance speech “it is time for them to own the consequences of their failures”.

    And when McChrystal does admit his failings and the catastrophic failures of leadership and strategy in the bill of goods he sold, in a fit of mercy Obama can (a) reassign him to count snowflakes in Greenland and (b) bar him from retirement at least until after 2012, so as to keep him on ice, remote and quietly under military discipline until the threat he constitutes dissipates.

  6. ghostof911 says:

    Argue what you will about his unique qualifications for the job.

    Remove his pajamas and his armed escort and the psychopath qualifies for a one-way pass to a locked ward at the funny farm.

    Where the U.S. Agency for International Development is investing in international development.

  7. Blue Texan says:

    McChyrstal knows that his strategy is failing, so the only logical thing for an arrogant fuck like him to do is get fired and then blame the debacle on someone else.

    That’s the way I see it.

  8. Mary says:

    I don’t buy McChrystal as bumbling and befuddled by the potential problems from his interview – that he was unaware that Rolling Stones isn’t a tame arm of the ExecutiveBranch press.

    I think he’s pretty much maneuvered it so that Obama more completely owns Afghanistan. Not Petraeus (or even Bush any more) but Obama. fwiw – just a busian “gut” reaction.

  9. Mary says:

    If Obama pulls McChrystal to look tough (and I’m with scribe on McChrystal’s motivations – which seem to be more important to him than the military chaos of spreading disrespect for civilian authority) then what, then who?

    Spencer is tossing Mattis out as a possible – but who? And to what end?

  10. bobschacht says:

    I’ve felt since its inception that Obama’s Afghan strategy was doomed to failure. But he was forced to come up with one early in his administration. If he fires McCrystal now, he can blame him for the failure of the strategy, and can then come up with a new strategy that relies less on the military and more on the State Department.

    Its time for a change. Bring the troops home!

    Bob in AZ

  11. Mary says:

    I think it may add to context (or complexity – take your pick) to include this story from the Guardian, about the UK’s now-former special envoy, Cowper-Coles, to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the analysis. He’s taking an “extended leave” as of yesterday, just “a month before a critical international conference in Kabul.”

    Cowper-Coles, who also had Pakistan in his remit as special envoy, clashed in recent months with senior Nato and US officials over his insistence that the military-driven counter-insurgency effort was headed for failure, and that talks with the Taliban should be prioritised.

    Holbrooke didn’t like him much: “one western official said Holbrooke found Cowper-Coles’s insistence on peace negotiations ‘troubling'”

    I’m thinking Obamaco needs to ditch the power points and find someone who understands mosaics. Like chess, we didn’t invent it, but if we want to play in the pool, we better try to figure it out.

  12. BoxTurtle says:

    Obama is between a rock and a hard place. If he keeps McC, his afghan war can continue and he can pretend it’s working. And he can fire McC when the war finally fails and avoid blame. That’s gotta be attractive. But there are lot’s of political downsides, especially since ObamaLLP is already looking kinda spineless.

    But if he fires McC, McC will at once start running for president on a “Crucify ObamaLLP” platform. Further, Obama will now have nobody to blame for Afghanistan from this point forward and he’ll have to take a lions share himself.

    If he wants to get rid of McC, this is all the excuse he needs. I think Obama will keep him.

    Boxturtle (After all, he kept Holy Joe. McC is at least that useful)

    • tanbark says:

      “That would be terrible management.”

      It certainly would be, but since Obama has shown himself to be so skilled at managing things like the little petro-glitch in the Gulf, we can ease our minds about this being handled correctly.

  13. Hugh says:

    There has been debate on some of the threads on whether what McChrystal was doing constituted insubordination. I am not sure if there is an article in the UCMJ about trash talking the Commander in Chief but I would direct you to Article 89 of the UCMJ:

    “Any person subject to this chapter who behaves with disrespect toward his superior commissioned officer shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

    Elements.

    (1) That the accused did or omitted certain acts or used certain language to or concerning a certain commissioned officer;

    (2) That such behavior or language was directed toward that officer;

    (3) That the officer toward whom the acts, omissions, or words were directed was the superior commissioned officer of the accused;

    (4) That the accused then knew that the commissioned officer toward whom the acts, omissions, or words were directed was the accused’s superior commissioned officer; and

    (5) That, under the circumstances, the behavior or language was disrespectful to that commissioned officer.

    So just to be clear on the analogy of the Commander in Chief to a superior commissioned officer, McChrystal did commit insubordination.

    • klynn says:

      Thank you. I was making that point on another thread. It. Could. Not. Be. More. Clear.

      Winning hearts and minds…not in his plan whatsoever.

  14. Hugh says:

    I should have looked a little further. Here is Article 88 of the UCMJ–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.”

    Elements.

    (1) That the accused was a commissioned officer of the United States armed forces;

    (2) That the accused used certain words against an official or legislature named in the article;

    (3) That by an act of the accused these words came to the knowledge of a person other than the accused; and

    (4) That the words used were contemptuous, either in themselves or by virtue of the circumstances under which they were used. Note: If the words were against a Governor or legislature, add the following element

    (5) That the accused was then present in the State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession of the Governor or legislature concerned.

    This is not called insubordination but is a court martial offense.

    http://usmilitary.about.com/od/punitivearticles/a/mcm88.htm

  15. bmaz says:

    Well, speaking of unauthorized Trash Talk….there is this post in and of itself!!

    On a serious note, Hugh’s cites are correct and, from what I can determine, there is certainly a very good case to be made McChrystal is culpable under the provision. However, it just does not happen that senior command officers like that are ever prosecuted, they are simply removed and sent on their way and there is a long history of just that. It is a no brainer and if you think the military does not respect Obama now, just wait till he doesn’t even show the balls to punish McChrytal. It has to be done. Afghanistan is not a big deal; another commander can do just fine continuing the waste of money and losing of the effort.

    • BayStateLibrul says:

      When was the last time a General was court martialed?
      Let’s keep the decision reality-based?

    • BoxTurtle says:

      I think Rahm’s political instincts will rule. They’ll try to transfer McC to a desk job somewhere, but keep him in the military to help keep his mouth shut. As a political opponent, he’s dangerous.

      McC may well respond by retiring.

      Boxturtle (In any case, I predict he’s appearing onstage with Palin before the end of the year)

  16. HardheadedLiberal says:

    Obama’s mother is rolling over in her grave to have her son be so thick-headed that he cannot understand that Bob Gates was full of crap when he sold Obama on McChrystal’s bill of goods, and the quality of the product (McChrystal) reflects the quality of the ideas behind the product — i.e., totally worthless.

    Maybe Obama will eventually realize that Biden and James Jones and the ambassador to Afghanistan are reality-based advisers and Gates & Hillary are trapped in some illusory world view that bears no relationship whatever to the real world of Afghanistan. I doubt that I agree with even the majority of the policy advice that Biden et al give Obama, but at least they are using lenses to view the world that are not irretrievably roseate.

      • klynn says:

        Good point. Very good point.

        And yes (@ 46), contempt is insubordination. The delineation is that contempt has been committed as the type of insubordination.

      • bobschacht says:

        Obama should make Gates and Petraeus be the water carriers for the public sacking of McChrystal.

        Gates has already called McCrystal on his own carpet before he sees Obama on the WH carpet. This could be a set-up in any number of ways: One, to publicly set up McCrystal for his administrative beheading by Obama, or alternatively, to privately prep McCrystal on how to play Obama when they meet.

        Bob in AZ

  17. Arbusto says:

    I don’t think Obamaco gets the idea that his Imperial Presidency must rule. Why have the Good General ostensibly attend a weekly briefing only to fire him before or after. Maybe McChrystal can overcome his anti-authority, self-centered psyche and offer to resign. Obama can then hold a news conference (or an address from the Oval Office ;-]) telling us that McChrystal offered his resignation for being a bad boy, but the President, always being magnanimous, refused to lose such a stalwart of the Afghans and send him back to rule over the decline of the US in Afghanistan while simultaneously perpetuating endless terrorist recruitment .

    PS His staff, also insubordinate and subversive, will no doubt be promoted forthwith.

  18. tanbark says:

    Marcy, we can pound on McChrystal until hell won’t have it, and he sure deserves it, as just another warbot trying to keep the misery going, but there is one inescapable fact that has to kept in mind with every sentence that we write about this:

    Barack Obama picked him to run the war in Afghanistan.

  19. asdf says:

    “we will never achieve success in Afghanistan”

    i agree

    also all this mcchristol bullshit is pointless, even if they can him and secretly hire him on via one of their death companies, they’ll just put someone else in charge in afghanistan who will do the same poinless killing

  20. tanbark says:

    I don’t believe McChrystal is going to be fired. The repubs will turn him into a spiked patriot/martyr club with which to beat Obama, and I think the combination of O.’s gut-wrenching fear of the military and of the republicans, will keep McChrystal in a job as long as he wants it.

    Although, it must be tempting to McChrystal to actually resign, himself, and thereby bedevil Obama with all of the crap about being soft on terrism, etc.

  21. tanbark says:

    Did MacArthur disobey direct orders? I don’t remember that as being the case, but Truman sure shitcanned him, anyway.

    • Fractal says:

      Did MacArthur disobey direct orders? I don’t remember that as being the case, but Truman sure shitcanned him, anyway.

      Seems some of us old-timers on here like comparing this situation to a “Truman moment.” I’m old, but not old enough to have seen the news reels when MacArthur disobeyed Truman, but IIRC MacArthur went back to a place Truman ordered him not to go back to. Philippines? Some other combat zone? It wasn’t just words, that’s for damn sure. McChrystal’s words are harmless IMHO. The MSM echo chamber is trying to distract us from the bullshit in AfPak.

      • netmaker says:

        Here are some links discussing the events leading to MacArthur’s dismissal.

        Basically, MacArthur made public comments that had the effect of egging China on at a time when the US was trying to conclude a peace treaty to end the Korean war. He also advocated and conducted planning for invading the PRC in conjunction with Chinese Nationalist forces from Formosa (present day Taiwan).

  22. jaango says:

    When Jimmy Carter was President, the pro-rata yardstick measured that the Admirals and Generals were equally distributed among the Democrats and the Republicans.

    With Reagan, he skewed it toward the Republicans. Bush41 continued the skew. Clinton continued the skew. Bush43 skewed it even further. And along comes Obama, and who has not yet made his feelings known or spoken about this skew.

    Now, this skew is in play, and that’s where Democratic eyeball and brains should be focused.

    As a Native American/Chicano/Military Veteran, I am holding tightly to the cards history have dealt me, and that’s for my understanding and completed assessment from years ago that the Admirals and the Generals turned their backs on the Privates, the Corporals, and the Sergeants.

    To wit, McChrystal is irrelevant.

    Consequently, will President Obama reduce or remove this skew? If not, the “damage done by Democrats to Democrats” continues apace.

    Jaango

  23. Tracerfan says:

    We will never achieve success in Afghanistan. Period.

    Not with McChrystal. Not with Obama the war leader who is killing many innocents to “protect” himself politically.

  24. boloboffin says:

    Hey, Rolling Stone has said that they didn’t show the actual article to the general and his people. They just did normal fact checking and quote verifying, and the Politico misinterpreted the editor’s remarks on Morning Joe.

    But, bottom line, the general and staff knew the kind of quotes that would run and knew how much access they’d given the reporter.

  25. TalkingStick says:

    I was disturbed that Obama did not fire this jerk earlier and more disturbed he swallowed his war and occupation plans.

    The most ominous aspect of this whole fiasco is the military challenging the dignity and authority of the civilian command. If it is permitted to stand and there will be more. There are plenty of people who would love to see a de facto military coup.

    Right now they are calling for the militarization of the immigration service and the emergency services in the Gulf..

      • TalkingStick says:

        There is no reason to believe they don’t have the same contempt for Obama. McChrystal’s now second blatant and public insubborniation are further steps forward. Will Obama call him out on it or give even more ground to the military.? That is I think a crucial decision.

    • onitgoes says:

      I agree and also feel somewhat unsettled by the possibility of setting a new standard of insubordinate (or however you wish to term it) behavior.

      In my tiny microcosm job, as a manager, it’s totally necessary to call out my staff if their behavior is rude, inappropriate, disrespectful, insubordinate, etc. If I don’t call out such lapses immediately, it sets the stage for more of the same.

      Some very good posts here with good info. I, too, am all in favor of getting out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. This potentially opens a door for that to happen.

      But as Commander-in-Chief, BHO really needs to deal with this situation stat and with an iron fist (whether wrapped in a velvet glove or not).

  26. workingclass says:

    The war in Afghanistan is a fools errand. Why should I care which fool it’s assigned to. Get out. Do it now.

  27. bobschacht says:

    Just heard on NPR, regarding McCrystal’s insubordination, and standard military practice, wrt how Obama will react:
    “When you walk by something that is wrong, and you don’t correct it, you establish a new standard.”

    {Sigh} Well, I guess the DOJ has a new standard.

    Bob in AZ

  28. rosalind says:

    related: (apologies if already linked)

    U.S. contractors bribing Afghan Taliban for safe passage, House probe finds

    Private security contractors protecting the convoys that supply U.S. military bases in Afghanistan are paying millions of dollars a week in “passage bribes” to the Taliban and other insurgent groups to travel along Afghan roads, a congressional investigation released Monday has found.

    The alleged payments, which are reimbursed by the U.S. government, help fund the very enemy the U.S. is attempting to defeat and renew questions about the U.S. dependence on private contractors, who outnumber American troops in Afghanistan, 130,000 to 93,000.

  29. TalkingStick says:

    In my tiny microcosm job, as a manager, it’s totally necessary to call out my staff if their behavior is rude, inappropriate, disrespectful, insubordinate, etc. If I don’t call out such lapses immediately, it sets the stage for more of the same.

    Yes. Allowed to stand it just continues to erode authority and unthinkable things become possible.

  30. tanbark says:

    BTW, I don’t care about McChrystal apologizing for dissing Obama and Biden; I think he should apologize for helping to sustain Bush and Obama’s endless shitmire.

    First things first.

  31. Palli says:

    Perhaps the question is whose hearts and minds is McChrystal is hoping to influence… Is it a rallying cry to members of the military who disagree with the elected President of the United States of America?

  32. NorskeFlamethrower says:

    AND THE KILLIN’ GOEZ ON AND ON AND…

    Citizen emptywheel and the Firepup Freedom Fighters:

    The article in “Rolling Stone”, McChrystal’s standing behind it and Patraeus’s throwin’ up before appearin’ before Congress are all of a peice and that peice is what it is. The cowboy generals from the Bush neo-con military are forcin’ the issue before they get buried by the failure in Afghanistan and the collapse of the power of the international oil ogopoly. This is the crisis point that all of us expected to take place just before 2012 and that was pushed up early because of the precipitous collapse of the McChrystal’s military strategy, the failure of the Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party to threaten Democratic control of congress, and the inability of the fascists to put a dent in ObamaRhama’s overall approval.

    If you look at Steny Hoyer’s statement to the coporatist Democrats about holdin on to the middle class tax cuts while lettin go of the give away to the rich and place that next to the explosion of the Peterson assault on Social Security and the decision by ObabRahma to go nuclear on BP in the PR wars, then I think we can get a look at the real war that is goin on inside the oligarchy and which side Obama’s comin’ down on with regard to the split in the military.

    Way back in the Watergate crisis, the theory was advanced that only a split in the ruling oligarchy could get rid of Nixon and that Watergate was a split between theYankee Northeastern banks and the cowboy Southwestern oils folks. The banks won that battle but lost the war in 1980. I think what we are seein today is finally a fault line in between the collapsing neo-con bankin speculators and their cowboy Generals and the establishment military that sees the immanent collapse of the 50 year old military structure and the loss of budgets going forward.

    Look for McChrystal to be fired and Obama on TV announcing his “Truman moment” and a reappraisal of the Afghantistan program.

    KEEP THE FAITH AND PASS THE AMMUNITION, THE FIGHT IS NOW IN YOUR LIVINGROOM!!

  33. whattheincorporated says:

    Aren’t you glad that our top general is a man child?

    He comes off like a bitch.

    And apparently his aides act like fucking kids.

    Huhh ehh hahaha weer in paris…this is like sooooo gay. Look at the restaurants…gayyy! French people are pussies!!! Oh wait the french are offended? Well fuck them let’s offend them some more and tell them if they don’t send more people to this pointless war we’ll say that they’re a member of the axis of evil and use predators on em! That’ll show em!

    • NorskeFlamethrower says:

      Citizen Frank33:

      Great catch, Brother Frank, the game is on now and the cowboys in the military can’t win it because this is the kinda stuff that drives the corporate media…it’s the military’s “Monica Lewinsky” crisis.

  34. VMT says:

    What I can’t figure out is what the Obama administration wants. It was always clear that the Bush/Cheney administration wanted to fundamentally change the nature of the US government, e.g the unitary executive, and implement an offensive military posture with respect to foreign policy. I always knew where they stood because their actions were always aligned with their beliefs. Indeed, their actions underscored their beliefs. The Obama administration, on the other hand, does not appear to me to really have any fundamental policy direction. Their reason for holding office doesn’t seem to be grounded in any great desire to add or subtract anything from the way the government already runs. I don’t know much about geology and it’s not much of an interest of mine. If I suddenly became the President of the Geological Society of America, however, then I’d probably be pretty useless if I never really developed more than a passing interest in geology. That’s what this administration feels like to me. They just don’t have much interest in changing anything.

    The Obama administration, as far as I can tell, is primarily interested in managing their image, but that preoccupation is not in the service of any policy direction. They are perfectly willing to let the Pentagon define their own foreign policy objectives as long as those objectives don’t impact public perceptions in any meaningful way. The overriding concern of the administration is to craft the means to make the status quo politically palatable. That concern is simply easiest way to retain an office.

    • NorskeFlamethrower says:

      Citizen VMT:

      ObamaRahma has been playin’ defense and holdin on to his political cards because he isn’t even close to havin’ control of the federal administrative bureaucracy or the courts and hasta wait for the fascists ta overplay their hand…I think we’re gunna see a measured but measurabley strong response to the wars AND the economy in the next week startin’ with the firing of McChrystal and the placing of Partaeus directly in charge of Afghanistan.

    • bmaz says:

      The consistent Obama policy is not about what to effect and accomplish by holding office, but simply to hold office.

      • b2020 says:

        Exactly right, and beautifully put. Obama represents the Incumbent Imbecile in its purest form, with no concern or grasp of the consequences of his narcisstic posturing. His life’s goal is 2012, before that it was 2008, and nothing else even registers.

      • Fractal says:

        The consistent Obama policy is not about what to effect and accomplish by holding office, but simply to hold office.

        wow. thank you, bmaz. I thought I was the only one who thought like that.

  35. wirerat1 says:

    Bah, Obama is going to fire McChrystal. He will use him as a scapegoat for the failed policy in Afghanistan and we’ll start over with a new JSOC asshat. McChrystal is entitled to his opinions and looking at threads on this forum everyday, both he and a lot of us disagree with Obama’s direction in the war.

    I’m not advocating an escalation, not by a long shot, but he’s entitled to his opinion. As long as he executes his orders, he’s OK in my book.

    The problem is that he is going to be made to be the “bad guy” and Obama is the victim here. It is a shame that it is obvious his slime will sidestep the whole blame on Afghanistan thing and place it squarely on McChrystal’s shoulders.

    It is Obama’s war, not McChrystal’s. He is merely an instrument of policy.

  36. netmaker says:

    There’s another option besides firing McChrystal and leaving him in his current position. They could strip him of his General’s stars and bounce him back down to Colonel. Then re-assign him to extremely unpleasant/crappy duty. Then make sure he is retained long enough so that his retirement pay is that of a Colonel’s and not a General’s.

    The message will be sent loud and clear to the troops that insubordination won’t be tolerated. McChrystal will be kept in a position where he can’t become a public liability as he might be as a private citizen. And, after an appropriately lengthy period of time when he has been forgotten by the public he can be pushed out.

    For a General thinking of mouthing off this would be a serious dis-incentive due to the pension loss and the humiliation of a demotion. Much more so than getting released from a duty you are unhappy with and being allowed to retire to private life with a full pension.

    • NorskeFlamethrower says:

      Citizen netmaker:

      I think what you will see is a firing of McChrystal and his immediate retirement from active duty to go on the fascist PR circut to begin the chant “who lost Afghanistan”. If Obama completely humiliates McChrystal as you and I both desire then ObamaRahma gives a kick start to the fascist blame game much like what they did in 1950 with the “who lost China” campaign.

  37. PJEvans says:

    There’s a post up at TPM on the background to this.
    Apparently McC and his aides were taking a bus across Europe at the time, due to the volcano in Iceland, and RS got extra time with them as a result, by taking the bus with them. There was a good-sized stock of McC’s favorite beer on board….

  38. brendanx says:

    This article gave me a bad feeling. The insubordination is calculated, and padded with a lot of glorification of McChrystal that will now be widely read.

    Like this crap, just to take an example:

    McChrystal was also open to new ways of killing. He systematically mapped out terrorist networks, targeting specific insurgents and hunting them down – often with the help of cyberfreaks traditionally shunned by the military. “The Boss would find the 24-year-old kid with a nose ring, with some fucking brilliant degree from MIT, sitting in the corner with 16 computer monitors humming,” says a Special Forces commando who worked with McChrystal in Iraq and now serves on his staff in Kabul. “He’d say, ‘Hey – you fucking muscleheads couldn’t find lunch without help. You got to work together with these guys.’ ”

    This reads like a “24” script. It never happened.

  39. wirerat1 says:

    McChrystal’s resignation will be accepted more likely. He won’t be fired, Obama will just accept his resignation.

  40. JThomason says:

    He’s gone, resigned. I don’t see how a beer drinking rant helps his political aspirations.

    For real, breaking news on the Huffington Post.

  41. skdadl says:

    Well, it’s a bit short of falling on your sword, but … It feels like such a set-up though. I guess I’ve got too cynical.

    • JThomason says:

      Josh Marshall is running an “easy does it” headline. Says the resignation is a matter of course to be expected. Stand by to see how Gates and O respond.

  42. Oval12345678akaJamesKSayre says:

    Just caught a few seconds of the babbling, groveling Chrissy Matthews on MSNBC. He just can’t seem to get enough of lying, torturing, murdering American military war criminals.

    End this stupid and expensive occupation of Afghanistan now.

  43. Praedor says:

    I suspect he knows his is a lost cause. He will NEVER succeed in Afghanistan no matter how much money or time he is provided. Rather than suck up his failure and the failure of counterinsurgency (no big mystery – counterinsurgency RARELY RARELY works. You can count on less than 1 hand how many times it has worked) he would prefer to get the boot and then (try and) claim that the failure isn’t HIS fault. He will say, “It was fine while I was there, but after I was gone…”

    What a wuss.

  44. Sara says:

    The MacArthur Analogy…I think it is the wrong one actually, but you can only argue this if you put the factual history in front of your nose.

    I’ll paste in something I put together for another list…

    MacArthur used the same tactic twice, first on FDR, and then on Truman, and I would contend you have to look at these cases to see the heart of the issue.

    In 1944, FDR made a summer trip on a Cruiser to Hawaii to meet with MacArthur, bringing along all his top brass from Army and Navy, plus General Marshall and the joint chiefs. The purpose of the meeting was to decide between two plans for the remainder of the Pacific War — one focused on gaining the real estate on small islands in the Pacific so as to organize massive bombing of the Japanese Home Islands, using the B-29’s which were just rolling out of the factories. (we spent more money developing the B-29 than we did on the Manhattan Project during WWII, a suggestion as to how heavily opinion was weighted toward a bombing campaign.). The second plan, proposed by the Navy and Admiral King, was to invade Formosa, (Taiwan). The Navy largely supported this plan.

    At any rate, MacArthur showed up for his meeting with FDR hours late, and with his uniform in great disarray. He had been provided with detailed briefing papers as to the agenda, but he had not bothered to read them. In effect, he was disrespectful of the President because he was in all ways unprepared for the meeting. In effect, by disrespecting the very high level meeting, he sought to gain a free hand in the Pacific by not being a participant in a meeting where clear and very final decisions were to be made.

    Both FDR and Marshall wanted to fire MacArthur for insubordination, but FDR feared he would immediately return to the US, and roll up the Republican Nomination for the 1944 election (FDR had letters between the Republicans in Congress and MacArthur to that effect), Marshall, who was a very reluctant traveler to Hawaii in July of 1944 (he did have a little project underway in Northern France at that time), knew that removing MacArthur would upset the command structure in the Pacific at a time when he needed all has combat experienced Army Brass precisely where they were to defeat Germany. The upshot was they ruled out the Navy’s Formosa Plan, but wrote some fairly specific plans and specific objectives for MacArthur, which limited his range of options. (MacArthur was set on a large ground campaign to re-take the Philippines, where he had spent so much of his career — Marshall wanted him to isolate Japanese troops in the Philippines, encircle them, and bypass them till later. Essentially they split the difference — MacArthur got his photo op coming ashore and saying “I have Returned” (he had to do it three times for the Newsreel boys), but Marshall also got the focus on gaining the real estate to the north that allowed for the construction of the B-29 bases, and thus the massive bombing of Japan’s home islands.

    MacArthur tried the same tactic with Harry Truman at the Wake Island meeting during the Korean War. He arrived late, was not in proper formal uniform to meet the Commander in Chief, and had not accepted the briefer’s that Truman had sent ahead to Japan to bring MacArthur up to snuff for the meeting’s agenda. As far as Truman was concerned, he wanted MacArthur to move the US Army sufficiently north of the 38th Parallel so as to have bargaining chips in any negotiations — but not far enough north so as to threaten Chinese or Russian borders with N. Korea, and thus Chinese land army intervention. MacArthur did not want to accept the limited goals, thus his deployment of the tactics of insubordination he had used on FDR yet one more time. MacArthur was a classic advocate of “roll-back” of Russian and Chinese gains in line with the “roll-back” strategy advocated by some in Eastern Europe, whereas the US Foreign Policy establishment, meaning Truman, Marshall, and the internationalist Republicans led by Arthur Vandenberg in the Senate, were committed to “containment.” The result was Truman (with Marshall’s support — he was then Secretary of Defense) fired MacArthur, and retired him from Army Service. Marshall’s comment that MacArthur should have been fired long ago can only be understood in the context of what he had previously pulled on FDR in 1944 during WWII.

    I don’t know how much application the MacArthur story has to the present situation. Clearly the insubordination is a huge issue, and if the reports of conversation dissing State Department Afghan Staff are correct, and those are the real attitudes among the Brass, then that matter must be firmly addressed, and I suspect it extends far beyond McCrystal. But more than the MacArthur analogue, I am wondering if the Patton example perhaps has much more relevance. Patton got into deep firing level do-doo on several occasions, the soldier slapping incident in Sicily, and the anti-Soviet speech in England just prior to D-Day — but Marshall and Ike kept him largely because he was perhaps the most effective ground commander in World War ii. They needed him, so they did a public dressing down, and left him in service. But when he made comments about Nazi’s being like Republicans and Democrats having an argument in November of 1945, Ike took away his command, and reduced him to running a very very small office with no mission. Shortly thereafter, he died in an auto accident.

    We’ll see what Obama does tomorrow. There is lots I don’t know and haven’t been following about the present situation in Afghanistan, but I do think it is very limited thinking to assume that just bringing the troops home will resolve the matter. The original problem back in 2001 was always that neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan actually control and govern the Pashton Tribal Areas in either country, and they have proven to be quite willing to host a whole assortment of non-state internationally focused terrorist organizations. The goal has to be for both Pakistan and Afghanistan to achieve functioning Sovereignty over their entire national lands and peoples so as to eliminate the ability of these tribal societies to host non-state actors. Whether the current COIN Strategy fits this goal, I haven’t been convinced yet, but I am convinced that creating the conditions for clear Pakistani and Afghani Sovereignty is the most critical matter.

    —- now I am back to FDL writing again —-

    I do think Patton, and the decisions of Marshall and Eisenhower not to relieve him while Combat was underway is the better analogy. I would go so far as to suggest that if most of the trash talk came from McChrystal’s staff, and not from him, then he should be held responsible for disciplining his underlings in a very prompt and harsh way. We all need to consider that this is a systematic problem with an “all Professional” Military. They come to live in a culturally independent orbit, and forget they are subject to congressional and public support.

    I do want to stress that I believe calls for “bringing the troops home” and the like are the serious weak position being taken by Progressives, and probably will lead us deeper into the nighmare of the post Vietnam years — the general belief that Democrats or Progressives, or whatever you want to call them — can’t be trusted to get themselves outside of a paper bag. We have just failed to absorb the reality study of 9/11 and the attack on Mumbai Hotels, London Underground Trains, Spanish Trains, and all the rest should have ground into our brains. The problem is Non-State Actors, and their ability to “rent” territory in ungoverned places so as to train and prepare their attacks. And we should be concerned that at least one of the current locations for this — Pakistan — has Nukes and probably not all that great security surrounding them.

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