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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gail Collin's "General McChrystal's Twitters": A Travesty of a Travesty

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I have long opposed U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, yet I find myself disturbed by Gail Collin's New York Times op-ed, "General McChrystal's Twitters", which seems to make light of the dismissal of Stanley McChrystal.

Say what you will about General McChrystal, but here was a soldier instructed by Obama to perform a Herculean task: stabilize with a skeleton fighting force over 650,000 square miles of foreboding territory, harboring a hostile population of almost 30 million warring tribesmen, in a year and a half. No, it couldn't be done, it still can't be done, and it is horrifying that in recent days the total number of U.S. fatalities in this country went over the 1,000 mark.

Faced with the article in Rolling Stone, Obama was required to make a no-win decision: No matter how he opted, he would not come out smelling like roses. But having already noted my opposition to the Afghanistan War, I still think Obama chose incorrectly.

How many persons who will read or comment upon Gail Collins's op-ed actually took the trouble to read all of the Rolling Stone article? I still find myself asking what were the "horrifying" things said by McChrystal.

How many persons who will read or comment upon Gail Collins's op-ed have ever toted an automatic rifle and sat in silent ambush in the middle of the night, hungry, cold, exhausted and eaten raw by mosquitoes and ants? Question to those who have served in combat units and watched their comrades killed or maimed: Do you ever recall voicing "displeasure" with those who sent you on your mission, but don't have the slightest notion of your physical and mental suffering? I do.

Sure, there are different expectations from generals, but McChrystal is a commanding officer who made a point of going out with his soldiers on their most hazardous missions. If I were in the field, this is an officer I would want beside and over me.

Sure, McChrystal may have insulted Biden, and his staff voiced nasty utterances about certain Obama administration officials, but at the risk of sounding trite, war is not a pretty thing and does not elicit verbal niceties. Perhaps this was indeed an instance where Obama could have brought Biden and McChrystal together to air out their differences.

Has Obama proven himself tough to his Republican opponents by firing McChrystal? I don't think so.

I would prefer to see Obama demonstrate his courage by removing U.S. forces immediately from Afghanistan and shouldering the blame for this fiasco upon himself - where it now squarely belongs.

[I posted the content of this blog entry in response to David Brook's Friday, June 24 op-ed, "The Culture of Exposure" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/25/opinion/25brooks.html). I would only further observe in McChrystal's defense that he was asked by Obama to prosecute an ugly losing war, while Obama permitted senior administration officials freely to question its goals and legitimacy. Was it fair to allow these administration officials to undercut openly McChrystal's thankless mission and not to expect any expression of anger, offense or resentment from the general and his staff? These are not saints; they are soldiers. Obama is the commander in chief, and he made a decision, albeit the wrong one. In fairness to the U.S. armed forces sent by Obama to Afghanistan, was it not his responsibility also to demand that Biden, et al, refrain from public expressions of skepticism? Although highly educated, Obama was never schooled in management or leadership, and we are witnessing the results.]

6 comments:

  1. I followed you from NY times. Yours was the best I have read on this issue, and I have read plenty.

    It is too easy for people to shout "fire him" through a click of the button without thinking through the issue or even spending the time to read the article instead of few selected quotes.

    Have you noticed that the level of interest on Afghanistan reports throughout the past 6 months was nothing compared to this juicy reality TV bit of the war?

    Most people are taking this too lightly, and they don't even realize it.

    POTUS should take this opportunity to have a franck conversation with Americans about what is going on in Afghanistan, and an in-depth discussion with his staff about the plans and problems. That is probably a much more difficult thing to carry out and a much riskier move towards an increase in approval rate. In the end, it's just easire to say "you're fired".

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  2. I followed you from NY times. Yours was the best I have read on this issue, and I have read plenty.

    It is too easy for people to shout "fire him" through a click of the button without thinking through the issue or even spending the time to read the article instead of few selected quotes.

    Have you noticed that the level of interest on Afghanistan reports throughout the past 6 months was nothing compared to this juicy reality TV bit of the war?

    Most people are taking this too lightly, and they don't even realize it.

    POTUS should take this opportunity to have a franck conversation with Americans about what is going on in Afghanistan, and an in-depth discussion with his staff about the plans and problems. That is probably a much more difficult thing to carry out and a much riskier move towards an increase in approval rate. In the end, it's just easire to say "you're fired".

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  3. So, Biden is not happy with this war, McChrystal was not happy with this war. The only right decision would be to quit. I think, McChrystal anticipated and planned the reaction. He just found his way out of this mess with the bang. I believe, both Biden and McChrystal do their best to change the course of this useless war. We need to thank both of them for this. Unfortunately, our placeholder for POTUS could not do any better than to keep the same course. This is a mutiny. And the cause of it is the useless war and inability of Commander in Chief to make decisions.

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  4. good comment on Brooks column though Holbrooke has been even more loose lipped.

    on a totally different note, what a relief that Roger Cohen has discovered a new calling in soccer commentary!


    K2K

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  5. great piece / comment in the NY Times. As a humble soul from the UK i watch with amazemnt at the way government behave!
    Good comment.....
    Do you write books, lecture or comment in any other formal way?
    Best wishes
    Charlie Salem www.iamcharliesalem.com

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  6. Thanks to all for your comments.

    Charlie: no books, some appearances on TV, but I'm no celebrity.

    Jeffrey

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