Tuesday, June 22, 2010

 

McChrystal Unplugged

Rolling Stone has revealed that General Stanley McChrystal and his staff talk about the administration the way Obama and his staff talk about others, except mayhaps with fewer profanities.

Obviously a giant divide exists between the military and the Community Organizer in Chief, who did nothing but antagonize them and insult their integrity during the Bush years and was characterized by McChrystal as completely unprepared for their first face-to-face meeting.

Am I defending McChrystal? Of course not; he's in charge over there, and he should refrain from publicly criticizing the Commander in Chief. On the other hand, as the Post's Jackson Deihl declares (via Ed Morrissey), Obama has only himself to blame:
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal should not lose his job because of the article about him in Rolling Stone magazine. If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration’s internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama.

For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December. The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan, led to frequent disputes over tactics and contributed to a sharp deterioration in the administration’s relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. …

Nor is McChrystal the only participant in the feuding who has gone public with his argument. A scathing memo by Eikenberry describing Karzai as an unreliable partner was leaked to the press last fall. At a White House press briefing during Karzai’s visit to Washington last month, the ambassador pointedly refused to endorse the Afghan leader he must work with.

Biden, for his part, gave an interview to Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter in which he said that in July of next year “you are going to see a whole lot of [U.S. troops] moving out.” Yet as Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates tartly pointed out over the weekend, “that absolutely has not been decided.” Instead, Biden was pushing his personal version of the strategy Obama approved, which calls for the beginning of withdrawals next year, with the size and pace to be determined by conditions at that time.

The real trouble is that Obama never resolved the dispute within his administration over Afghanistan strategy.
Compounding that mistake, he never went after any of the other players leaking to the press to hold them to account the way he now appears ready to do with McChrystal.

The question now is what will Opey do with his irreverent C.O.? Trash talk him? Fire him? Set up a slush fund out of McChrystal's military pension to pay for claims against the military by Afghan citizens? It doesn't seem that he can do much without unleashing a slew of unintended consequences, none of which would be good for the war effort but, more importantly to Obama, none of which would be good for Obama, either. Daniel Foster opines at NRO:
The fact is that McChrystal has more credibility on Afghanistan than Obama does. And to the extent that Obama has credibility there at all (and higher approval ratings for his Afghanistan policy than his presidency generally), it is credibility imported from McChrystal. As such, I figure that firing the general would be disastrous for Obama, not just on substance but politically. Fairly or unfairly, it would make his administration look petty and prideful, willing to let an (admittedly serious) breach in decorum set back our best chance for success in the longest war in American history.

Obama's best bet is probably to have McChrystal prostrate himself before the national-security principals, explain himself, and move on. It looks like that is exactly what he is preparing to do.
That observation aside, I am leaving the door open to Obama capitalizing on this affair to wreak further damage on his country. One way or another, that always seems to be the play.

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