Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More on McChrystal

Here’s Spencer Ackerman’s typically informed and astute take on Rolling Stone's McChrystal piece (my emphasis):

“McChrystal gets called to the White House on Wednesday to direct the monthly Afghanistan/Pakistan briefing — oh, and to explain himself and see if he can keep his job. As I wrote for the Washington Independent, firing him carries its risks. There’s only a year to go before the July 2011 date to begin the transition to Afghan security responsibility and the Kandahar tide is starting to rise. It’ll be hard to fire McChrystal without ripping the entire Afghanistan strategy up, and I’ve gotten no indication from the White House that it’s interested in doing that. On the other hand, if senior administration officials are and I just haven’t picked up on it, McChrystal just gave them their biggest opportunity. . . .

“The amazing thing about it is there [are] no complaints from McChrystal or his staff about the administration on any substantive ground. After all, McChrystal and his allies won the argument within the White House. All the criticisms — of Eikenberry, of Jones, of Holbrooke, of Biden — are actually just immature and arrogant snipes at how annoying Team America (what, apparently, McChrystal’s crew calls itself) finds them. This is not mission-first, to say the least. . . .

“We’ll have to wait for Wednesday to see if McChrystal keeps his command. My guess is he’ll stay, because now the White House knows that a chastened McChrystal isn’t going to say anything else outside of his lane to any reporter. McChrystal’s apology, emailed to me and other reporters well before the Rolling Stone story dropped, suggests that he wasn’t trying to walk away from his command in a blaze of arrogance. But it’s on him to repair his relationship with his colleagues and his bosses.”
Knowing that Ackerman’s guesses about such things are a lot more reliable than mine doesn’t keep me from being shocked by his prediction that McChrystal will keep his job. Granted, McChrystal’s no MacArthur bent on undermining Obama's military strategy and Obama hasn’t been put in a position, like Truman’s, from which he has an institutional responsibility to uphold the principle of civilian control over the military. Moreover, it won't be easy for Obama to keep the country united behind a military strategy after he has fired its author.

But none of that negates the fact that McChrystal and his aides couldn't be bothered to hide their contempt for the commander-in-chief.  Here's an excerpt from the Rolling Stone piece via Ambinder (my emphasis):

“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 fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.’”
Excuse me, but did people close to McChrystal really say that the president was "uncomfortable and intimidated by the roomful of military brass" and not "very engaged" by the prosecution of a shooting war?  I don't see how any president can discharge his duties as commander-in-chief if he visibly tolerates that kind of talk from his hand-picked general? If I start hearing spin coming out of the White House that Obama is comfortable enough in his own skin to keep working with McChrystal, Obama's really going to start sounding to me like a one-term president.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, now we have our answer. This might be the first White House decision in quite a long time that I can agree with. It sounds like you called it correctly. How could any president -- even touchy feely emphathetic Obama -- tolerate this lack of judgment. He did the right thing.