It’s another severe embarrassment for the Obama administration, as the general the President hand-picked to run the war in Afghanistan gave remarkable access to a reporter from Rolling Stone (!) who recorded any number of ill-considered comments General McChrystal’s aides made about members of the administration, including Joe Biden (“Bite me!”), General Jim Jones, and Obama himself. For the most part, the contemptuous comments came from McChrystal’s aides, and the general could perhaps have distanced himself from them, but for this gem that was attributed to McChrystal himself:
Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn’t go much better. “It was a 10-minute photo op,” says an adviser to McChrystal. “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his [expletive] war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”
You can read excerpts from the Rolling Stone article here.
It seems to me that McChrystal will have to go. For reasons of national security, it is important to at least maintain the pretense that our commander-in-chief is respected by the men and women in uniform. Byron York, reporting on a conversation with a retired military man who has worked with General McChrystal, says we shouldn’t be surprised, as McChrystal was “an accident waiting to happen.” Apparently he makes no secret of disdain for pretty much all civilians.
Byron also made what I think is the more important point about McChrystal:
[T]he bigger problem with McChrystal’s leadership has always been the general’s devotion to unreasonably restrictive rules of engagement that are resulting in the unnecessary deaths of American and coalition forces.
Byron quotes from the Rolling Stone article, which describes an incident in which an American soldier was killed by fire from a building that soldiers had requested permission to destroy:
The night before the general is scheduled to visit Sgt. Arroyo’s platoon for the memorial, I arrive at Combat Outpost JFM to speak with the soldiers he had gone on patrol with. JFM is a small encampment, ringed by high blast walls and guard towers. Almost all of the soldiers here have been on repeated combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and have seen some of the worst fighting of both wars. But they are especially angered by Ingram’s death. His commanders had repeatedly requested permission to tear down the house where Ingram was killed, noting that it was often used as a combat position by the Taliban. But due to McChrystal’s new restrictions to avoid upsetting civilians, the request had been denied. “These were abandoned houses,” fumes Staff Sgt. Kennith Hicks. “Nobody was coming back to live in them.”
One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the platoon was given. “Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force,” the laminated card reads. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fight, that’s like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won’t have to make arrests. “Does that make any f-king sense?” Pfc. Jared Pautsch. “We should just drop a f-king bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?”
“Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force?” Good Lord. What are we doing there, indeed?
PAUL adds: Jonathan Tobin argues that “the uproar about [McChrystal’s] supposed insubordination is not justified by the text.” He says that “the only direct quotes from McChrystal are hardly the sorts of things for which he deserves to be summoned, as he reportedly has been, to Washington for a dressing down by the commander in chief.” Tobin views the Rolling Stone article as “a thinly veiled attack on the war effort and the idea that it can be won by the counterinsurgency tactics that McChrystal has championed.”
In my view, though, McChrystal stands convicted of egregious stupidity for granting the access through which Rolling Stone’s anti-war reporter was able to write the hit-piece. His aides were even more stupid for slamming the likes of Vice President Biden and National Security Advisor Jones. But McChrystal selected his aides.
He also helped elect his president; as John notes above, McChrystal apparently voted for Barack Obama. A general who cast such a vote knowing he might well end up in charge of a war under Obama’s command starts with at least one strike against him in the judgment department, and deserves no sympathy no matter how profound his buyer’s remorse.
UPDATE (by Paul): A wag, after noting that a commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President or the Vice President can be court martialed, imagines this scenario:
Maybe Obama should court-martial McChrystal, and then McChrystal should demand a civil trial in New York City, saying he’s entitled to the same treatment as a terrorist.