2010 June 24 Thursday
Clueless Stanley McChrystal Fired By Clueless Obama

What kinds of guys become US generals? Apparently, guys who need everyone to know that they aren't pussies.

"I'd rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner," McChrystal says.

He pauses a beat.

"Unfortunately," he adds, "no one in this room could do it."

With that, he's out the door.

"Who's he going to dinner with?" I ask one of his aides. 

"Some French minister," the aide tells me. "It's fucking gay."

That's from the Roling Stone article that got Stanley McChrystal fired by Barack Obama.

McChrystal probably has an accurate take on Obama. But McChrystal and his aides come across as incredibly foolish for telling a reporter what they really think. Could McChrystal possibly be smart enough to competently direct the US war in Afghanistan while simultaneously being foolish enough to allow a reporter to get the material to write the following paragraph?

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 fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."

The US government is not competent to fight wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Obama's way in over his head. His generals do not show signs of riding the clue train. Americans do not have enough curiosity or ruthlessness about the world to run an empire. The US military ought to withdraw from some of hits far-flung holdings.

Douglas Macgregor makes sense to me.

"The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people," says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. "The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.

Update: The US officers who blabbed to Rolling Stone really did the country a great service. We get to hear what they really think, rather than what the Administration has instructed them to say. So while they were foolish to speak to this Rolling Stone reporter the article is very much worth reading in full to find out more about the US war in Afghanistan and the politics of how the US runs a war than you'd otherwise get a chance to find out.

Ross Douthat relays the argument that during WWII lots of officers including general were sacked for poor performance and the US military improved greatly as a result. But in that war officers sacked other officers and the sackings were rarely over politics or war goals. Who is competent to do the sackings today? Certainly not leftist activist Barack Obama. Both Obama and his generals support a war goal that is absurd on its face. We do not have an objective reasonable goal or a willingness among the politicians or generals to admit to the absurdity.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 June 24 06:05 PM  Military Warrior Culture

Tschafer said at June 25, 2010 5:52 AM:

It's really hard to imagine Eisenhower or Grant or Lee or Pershing or even the outspoken Patton doing something like this. It's simply not how mature, successful military men behave. Nor do victorious American generals have aides that use phrases like "fucking gay", or give interviews to lightweight, pinko mags like "Rolling Stone". Obama is a complete incompetent, and I feel creepy agreeing with him on anything, but he was probably right to fire McCrystal. I certainly wouldn't want this boasting liberal dweeb who employs Eric Cartmen as an aide as my CO...

Wolf-Dog said at June 25, 2010 7:26 AM:

Randall Parker wrote: "Americans do not have enough curiosity or ruthlessness about the world to run an empire. The US military ought to withdraw from some of hits far-flung holdings."

What was the original reason the US invaded Afghanistan? To suppress terrorist operations.

Who started the terrorist operations in Afghanistan in the first place? Those who wanted to provoke the US to overextend itself by invading distant countries.

Since the provoked war has been successful for the enemies of the US, as soon as the US withdraws from Afghanistan, the terrorist attacks on US soil will probably resume, not so much because we got out of Afghanistan, but to bring us back to Afghanistan.

Black Death said at June 25, 2010 7:41 AM:

George Santayana said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. How depressing. It seems that every generation is a blank slate that learns nothing from the past. After World War II, Douglas MacArthur, who knew as much about the East as any American, warned us against becoming involved in land wars in Asia. Yet über-liberals JFK and LBJ got involved in the Viet Nam quagmire because they didn't want to "look weak" to Nixon and Goldwater. Jimmy Carter thought that dumping the nasty old Shah would lead to some sort of Jeffersonian democracy in Iran, but instead we got a thuggish Islamic theocracy. Well, whatever the Shah's failings, Iran under his rule was an ally and a force for stability in the Middle East. The current theocratic Iranian government may be planning to start a nuclear war.

Afghanistan in the 19th and early 20th centuries was part of the "Great Game" between the British (in India) and the Russians (coming down from central Asia). Why they wanted it, heaven knows, but they both coveted Afghanistan. Now we may think of the British as all cricket, tea and crumpets, but the people running their Empire were plenty ruthless when they had to be (for example, after the Sepoy Mutiny, captured rebels were strapped to the mouths of cannons and blown apart). Well, three times the British went into Afghanistan, and three times they got their butts kicked out. And does anyone recall nowadays how the Soviets dealt with their opponents? Yet their little incursion into Afghanistan led to disaster for them.

Now the US and friends are in Afghanistan, trying to do - what, exactly? Create a stable democratic government in a country that has never known democracy or stability? Please, let's be serious for a moment. If we want to protect ourselves against Islamic terrorism, the best (and cheapest) way is to keep the Muslims out. Now this isn't very politically correct, and both Bush II and Obama have blathered about "religion of peace," yet, as I look around the Muslim world, I see lots of conflict and not much peace. Not too much democracy either.

I agree completely that, whatever McChrystal's military skills, he certainly doesn't have too much common sense, even if what he says is correct. Lincoln, FDR and Churchill never would have tolerated this sort of thing from their generals, and Obama shouldn't either. But now, almost eighteen months into Obama's presidency, he owns the Afghanistan mess, lock, stock and barrel. Blaming his predecessor just isn't going to fly. Obama faces the same unpleasant situation that Johnson faced in Viet Nam - pull out, admit that the whole mission was a failure, and look foolish and weak, or double down, accept rising casualties and costs, and make the ultimate crash even more severe. This whole thing is going to end very unpleasantly.

WildHeart said at June 25, 2010 5:24 PM:

Got to agree with you, Black Death. Why do we care about Afganistan or any muslim country. Also, Obama will continue to show how bad America is to islam. No doubt about it: "This whole thing is going to end very unpleasantly."

Randall Parker said at June 25, 2010 8:44 PM:

Black Death,

In the Great Game the British wanted to protect India from the Russians. The Brits wanted a northern border that was as far north as possible and didn't want Russians near northwest India.

As for US goals in Afghanistan: Yes, definitely absurd. Yes, the way to protect ourselves from Muslims is to keep out Muslims.

Obama can't really measure generals by their ability to achieve the stated war goals because the war goals are ridiculous. Any competent general would come up short faced with trying to turn Afghanistan into something remotely like a Western secular democracy with individual rights, freedom of expression, an non-corrupt government, and an educated and enlightened citizenry.

Wolf-Dog said at June 25, 2010 11:40 PM:

But nobody answered my question: What will happen after the US withdraws from Afghanistan in 2011? The plan for Afghanistan was an initial "surge" followed by the total evacuation, similar to the plan for Iraq.

Already there are indications that as soon as the US withdraws from Iraq, hell will break loose there.

I suspect that after the US withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan, there will be a lot of large scale attacks inside the US, similar to 9/11, but the purpose will be to force the US to invade and waste blood and treasure.

Thus my final question is this: After the US evacuates both Iraq and Afghanistan (and Obama will almost certainly do just that before the elections, in order to get re-elected), if what can the US do to avoid invading distant countries without losing the oil fields of Saudi Arabia?

Engineer-Poet said at June 26, 2010 12:34 AM:

The problem with Afghanistan and Waziristan is the Afghans and Waziris.

The solution, while obvious, isn't something anyone wants to admit.

Randall Parker said at June 26, 2010 11:07 AM:


If you are referring to partition I proposed it years ago for Iraq and Afghanistan. Break them up into ethnic states. But that goes against the prevailing ethos of our times.

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