McChrystal was talking to you
The ink had not yet dried on my last column that discussed the fact that Barack Obama was woefully unprepared for the presidency and as a result is making deadly missteps in the execution of that role, when news broke of General Stanley McChrystal in essence saying the exact same thing to Rolling Stone magazine. This isn't just a story to be brushed off. This is a bombshell.
Don't be distracted by the media comically chastising the General for daring to speak out against "The One" (yes, the same media that hailed military officers who were willing to "speak truth to power" in criticizing George Bush). That isn't the story.
The true meaning of the McChrystal episode is titanic, because it is quite apparent the General was sending a stern message directly to the American people.
For more reasons than I can count, it is beyond obvious that McChrystal's public criticism of Obama was not a lapse in judgment or a mistake. It was unquestionably intentional. First, four-star generals have not achieved that rank without knowing the chain of command and the expectation of subordination to superiors. Second, all of McChrystal's advisers were touting the same message, demonstrating this was no fluke, nor an offhand comment taken out of context. Third, McChrystal spoke the inflammatory words to Rolling Stone, a well known anti-war, anti-military magazine. Fourth, reports are that McChrystal actually saw the piece before it went to print and offered up no objections to its content.
If all that is true, then it naturally begs the question: Why did he do it?
McChrystal is one of the lead authors of the "counterinsurgency" strategy that, despite the nay saying of liberals like then-Senators Obama and Biden, transformed Iraq from a quagmire into a success. He knows the strategy works. But as its architect, he also knows this new military policy requires two vital elements: lots of troops, and as much time as necessary for them to do their job.
While other factors are important (cultural bonds, regional partnerships, financial investment, troop morale, etc.), the two most crucial ingredients to making counterinsurgency work (in Afghanistan or anywhere) is a massive amount of troops on the ground to overwhelm the enemy and live among the people, and a commitment to stay as long as necessary to break the will of the enemy.
This is precisely why counterinsurgency worked in Iraq. Over the ignorant objections of both Obama and Biden, then-President Bush listened to his military commanders and ordered the troop surge. And while being pummeled by the media and Democrat political opportunists for not setting a hard deadline for withdrawal, Bush committed to stay in Iraq until the job was finished. The result speaks for itself.
As the Afghan war began to deteriorate, Stanley McChrystal was put in charge to implement that effective strategy there. But he quickly found that Barack Obama is no George W. Bush. First, Obama – having championed himself as the anti-war candidate – cut the number of troops McChrystal requested. And then, in what has to be one of the most foolish wartime moves in history, he announced an arbitrary date for the beginning of American troop withdrawal.
This may please the ex-hippies in the anti-war crowd that Obama courted during the 2008 campaign, but it has emboldened our enemy, imperiled our troops, and created a giant mess of our counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan.
Having pressed his case privately with Obama's war team in Washington, McChrystal certainly saw the handwriting on the wall, and as a final recourse, pled his case to the American people.
Were his actions a breach of protocol? Yes. Did they rise to the level of insubordination? Probably. Was Obama justified in removing him from command? I think so. But after we're done hammering McChrystal for going over the President's head, we better give some serious thought as to why he was so willing to put his career on the line like that.
The reason is as clear as it is frightening: our political leadership in Washington is clueless. And their incompetence is costing us not only resources and money, but most importantly the precious lives of brave American soldiers.
General Stanley McChrystal was willing to lose his job to send that message to the only people who can do something about it. He was talking to you.