What was he thinking?
General Stanley McChrystal got himself fired for badmouthing most of the civilians involved in the Afghan war in an extended interview to Rolling Stone. He stopped short of saying anything about the President; he likes Secretary of State Clinton. For the rest--Vice President Biden, Ambassadors Holbrooke and Eikenberry, Senators Kerry and McCain and others--he has nothing but contempt.
But why did he have to publicize that in Rolling Stone ?
The article paints McChrystal as a fearless man with enormous self-discipline. More than once he came close to ruining his career. On the other hand, where necessary he was the loyal servant: he concocted the cover-up when Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire; he condoned and covered up torture he witnessed. He supported Pres. Bush in his “Mission Accomplished” gaffe. He will do what he regards as necessary to do his duty. He appears, above all, very deliberate.
Why would such a man publicly insult the civilians he works with? Under what conditions would he sacrifice his military career to state bluntly what he believes to be happening in Afghanistan? Perhaps Gen. McChrystal is making the ultimate sacrifice to hasten the end of a war that he no longer believes can be won.
McChrystal’s military strategy was threefold: defeat the Taliban militarily, win over the Afghan population to our side by living among them, helping out, building schools and clinics, and, especially, reducing civilian casualties in this war. The third prong of the strategy is to build up a viable state.
But the military campaign is not succeeding. The attack on Marja did not manage to chase out the Taliban; the promised campaign against the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar keeps being postponed. These military campaigns indiscriminately kill civilians and earn us the enmity of the population. The existing government of Hamid Karzai is by all accounts hopeless and hopelessly corrupt.
Nothing is working.
Has Gen. McChrystal tried to persuade his superiors, or the President of that and failed? Is this a desperate sacrifice to encourage Americans to refuse to support continuing the war in Afghanistan?
What other explanation is there? We should honor this soldier, widely described as “brilliant,” and end this war as soon a possible.