Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Juan Cole On The McChrystal Fiasco

Caption: U.S. Army Spc. Marcelino Villarreal, from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 162nd Field Artillery Regiment, Puerto Rico National Guard, provides security while Soldiers from Charlie Company, 26th Field Artillery Regiment recover a humvee stuck on a muddy road in the Khost Province, Afghanistan, March 25, 2007. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Isaac A. Graham)

A suitable metaphor for our current condition in Afghanistan, I think.

Image credit: Staff Sgt. Isaac A. Graham, U.S. Army/Wikimedia

Juan Cole has an interesting analysis of the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the now former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan. It concludes:

[Afghanistan President Hamid] Karzai appears to be attempting to strike a deal with the very Taliban and insurgents that Obama says he is pledged to uproot and destroy.

How can that make sense?

No wonder McChrystal was so frustrated that he went around his line of command to the press. The real reason for this contretemps is that Obama does not have a realistic, sharply defined set of goals in Afghanistan, and he has not been good about cracking the whip and getting everyone in his administration on the same page on AfPak.

McChrystal Drama is Sideshow;
Can Obama define a realistic Goal?

All of which, I think, is basically true. There was clearly a great deal of dissension between McChrystal and his superiors about what to do in Afghanistan, and a lot of hostility between the major players. Hostility can work, provided there is reason to think the campaign is successful. In fact, hostility is most noticeable in situations where things aren't working out, because those differing opinions lead to different notions about what and who is to blame for the failure. There's little reason to think that hostility is working to our benefit here, and a whole lot of reason to suspect the opposite.


Dusty said...

On my blog I supported Keith Olbermann's line of thinking and everyone that commented disagreed.

Personally, I think whoever is the military mind in charge of the war has little lee-way...his orders come from the administration...which means Obama and his minions are the ones to blame or cheer. Going after McChrystal for speaking his mind is petty in my book. Obama doesn't want to leave afghanistan and will use any excuse to stay there past the time limits he himself put up. Whether it's McChrystal or Petraeus doesn't really friggin matter in the 'grand scheme' of the war...

Cujo359 said...

It's not petty, Dusty, it's how military discipline and the chain of command work. There is a specific article in the UCMJ, article 88 that defines what insubordinate behavior is in this case. McChrystal was guilty of that. Pat Lang, a former U.S. Army colonel, specifically mentioned this article in his posting on the subject yesterday.

I called for McChrystal's ouster, too, because there is a clear line that the military cannot cross. It cannot be seen to be involved in politics. Its soldiers are allowed their opinions, but they can offer no support to candidates or issues that smacks of official DoD support. That line is there specifically to ensure that the military remains in control of the government, not the other way around.

Obama, in short, did the right thing. For once.

I agree that the problems in Afghanistan are not in any way addressed by this change. The current strategy is clearly failing, and their may be no strategy that can win there, even assuming we can define what winning would look like. That neither excuses McChrystal's behavior, nor does it make it OK for the President to ignore it. Obama had to do what he did, and I'm relieved he finally did it.

Cujo359 said...

Oh, I'll just add that if an infantry captain Afghanistan had said similar things about Gen. McChrystal, he would have been lucky to be allowed to resign and leave quietly.