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General McChrystal
The mcchrystal -- obama controversy

June 23, 2010

By Dan S Defense

McChrystal, a four star general and current commander of US forces in Afghanistan is the focus of unwelcome media attention. After McChrystal was followed around for months, by a Rolling Stone reporter with unlimited access, several unedited comments were picked up from McChrystal and his loyal staff, often referred to as "Team America". McChrystal himself made several offensive comments against the President, his administration and political appointees, such as the US ambassador to Afghanistan.

The firestorm surrounding general McChrystal may even lead to his forced resignation, which you should read as being fired. Who is general McChrystal? What are the offensive comments made by McChrystal? What offensive comments were made by McChrystal's staff? Should President Obama fire McChrystal? These questions will be addressed in this article.

Let's start by seeing who's General McChrystal. Wikipedia [ref #1] tells us that General Stanley Allen McChrystal ,is the Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A). In recent history McChrystal commanded the Joint Special Operations Command,

where he was credited with the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. In essentials, McChrystal draw plans to attack ranking enemy leader and pursed their execution with Special Forces, a job that was deemed to be dirty and essential to winning the war in Iraq. But that doesn't tell us who McChrystal is and for that we need to go further in time. McChrystal is a West Point graduate. He started his career in the infantry with the 82nd Airborne and later attended the exceedingly difficult Special Forces Officer Course at the Special Forces School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This tells us that McChrystal is a tough and determined individual. The next telling event that speaks to McChrystal character is his the fact that he deployed to forward operating bases in Qatar, Iraq and Afghanistan rather than command from the comforts of the Fort Bragg base, as previous commanders did in the past. This tells us that McChrystal doesn't seek comfort while sending his troops to live in harsh and remote operating theaters.

Fast forward to the future, to the current timeline, to see McChrystal leading our forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal instituted strict rules of engagement that were criticized by many in the US as being callus and dangerous to our troops. McChrystal argued that civilian causalities fuel the insurgency and that soldiers must take great care when engaging the enemy and must not return fire, even when fired upon, if innocent civilians may get hurt. As a former soldier in the IDF I know that McChrystal is correct in his thinking and in fact that has been the IDF's way of thinking during my years in the Army. In any case, this has been welcome by the Left and criticized by the Right. In his Rolling Stone interview [ref #2] McChrystal said that he voted for Obama. So how could McChrystal fall out of grace with the Obama Administration and the left? Simply by speaking his mind and telling what many consider simply truths.

In the Rolling Stone interview, McChrystal said that his initial meeting with President Obama was a big waste of time. McChrystal said that the 10 minute session had no substance, that Obama wasn't prepared and that the whole thing was just a big photo op for a President that's seen by many as a weak and inexperienced Commander in Chief. That was said to make Obama furious.

During the months of uncensored conversations between McChrystal and "Team America" several additional insults were made toward several other high ranking members of the Obama administration. Joe Biden was ridiculed for being a nobody and the harsh quote Rolling Stone used was "Biden who? Biden Bite me".

That made Biden angry. The US Ambassador to Afghanistan was seen as ineffective as that made him angry. The National Security Advisor, a former General was told to be stuck in the past, and even the French ambassador was insulted when the general having forced to go to an engagement he didn't see useful said "How'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?" and a staffer said in response to who was this engagement with? "Some French minister," the aide said. "It's f**ing gay." And that made waves too, since the French are considered allies. All in all, the main thread of criticism highlighted an ineffective and inexperienced administration. People who are ill prepared to deal with war and people who care more about image than anything else. This was the unforgivable sin committed by McChrystal and his staff.

What made McChrystal left a Rolling Stone reporter follow him and "Team America" for months? What did he think will result for the explosive statements that were made in front of an indiscreet reporter, working for a left leaning magazine built on sensational reporting?

Only McChrystal and God know the answer to that, but it was unsound and even stupid for McChrystal to even allow this. A reporter chasing glory through sensationalism hit a goldmine with McChrystal and his staff. To give you an idea of Rolling Stone, the cover of the magazine holding this article, has a picture of an silly person called "Lady Gaga" or some such celebrity of the day. Why would a former Special Ops man, known for keeping away from reporters, choose to let this type of journalist near him and his staff? It almost makes you wonder if this act of apparent stupidity was almost intentional. Who knows? We can all but guess.

It is well known that McChrystal has a reputation for saying and thinking what others won't, but this is highly unusual. For a commanding general to criticize the Commander in Chief, in the middle of an ongoing war is also nearly unheard of. So, should McChrystal be fired?

I'd submit that a face-to-face chat with a few harsh words should suffice. Despite hurting Obama's pride, McChrystal is still a qualified general and switching a commander in battle torn Afghanistan could cost lives. Add to that the high level of respect McChrystal commends from his troops and Afghan President Karzai, and you see that Obama's ego is far less important in grand scheme of things. He's a good general and a lousy politician, which isn't too bad in a man of war. What he said was more inappropriate than wrong and he shouldn't be fired--not for brusing some egos, and not in a middle of a war, that some think is not going well and is in desperate need of strong warrior driven leadership.

In summary, McChrystal took a series of foolish steps, from voting for an unqualified Commander in Chief to allowing a Rolling stone reporter to follow him and his staff. Being politically unsound won't help his career but also won't put lives at risk. Deposing a popular and highly skilled general to appease egos, could smooth Washington over but could damage US interests in Afghanistan. After this media circus we can assume McChrystal learnt his lesson and this affair should get concluded with a harshly worded chat, a few words on his record and his prompt return to the battlefield.

Until next time, stay safe by staying alert!

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1. Wikipedia: Stanley A. McChrystal
2. Rolling Stone: Runaway General

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