Posts Tagged ‘Rolling Stone’

Matt Taibbi on Trump the destroyer

March 23, 2017

Trump the Destroyer: Trump has stuffed his cabinet with tyrants, zealots and imbeciles—all bent on destroying our government from within by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.   Highly recommended.

Loose lips sink careers

June 24, 2010

General Douglas MacArthur was fired for trying to undermine President Truman’s policy.  General George B. McClellan was fired for lack of aggressiveness against the enemy. General Stanley McChrystal was guilty of neither of these things. He supported President Obama’s announced goals and was unstinting in his effort to carry them out.

He was fired for a different offense – his inability to hold his tongue and make his staff hold their tongues in the presence of a reporter.  If you read the Rolling Stone article, you’ll see that almost all the controversial remarks were made by unnamed aides of General McChrystal, almost were about McChrystal’s political foes and bureaucratic rivals within the government rather than Obama and almost all were off-the-cuff and not in the context of a formal interview.  Nor did McChrystal or any of his staff write the sub-headline about “the wimps in the White House.”

If there is a justification for firing McChrystal, it is that the newspaper article has made him a political embarrassment and also made it impossible for him to work with U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and National Security Adviser Jim Jones.

Why didn’t General McChrystal tell his staff to curb their tongues?  Probably Michael Hastings, like many good reporters, had the knack of blending in so that people forgot he was around, and spoke as if he weren’t there.  More importantly, McChrystal and his staff were probably used to dealing with beat reporters who dealt with them on a continuing basis and didn’t want to burn their bridges.


The problem with counterinsurgency

June 24, 2010

It was only after President Obama announced the firing of General Stanley McChrystal as commander in Afghanistan that I got around to reading the Rolling Stone article that provoked all the furor.

The article by Michael Hastings was an excellent portrait of General McChrystal as an eccentric but highly capable and dedicated professional who, in the writer’s opinion, is attempting the impossible and not succeeding.

If I hadn’t known anything about the controversy, I would not have regarded the snarky comments by McChrystal aides about McChrystal’s bureaucratic rivals and critics as particularly important. The most disturbing thing about the article was Hastings report on the unpopularity of the Petraeus-McChrystal counterinsurgency strategy among the troops.

The advantage of guerrilla fighters such as the Taliban and Viet Cong is that they don’t wear uniforms and can blend in with the civilian population.  Foreign occupiers cannot tell friend from foe, and wind up killing more civilians than enemy fighters – which makes the civilians more supportive of the enemy fights and more inclined to become enemy fighters themselves.

The Petraeus-McChrystal counterinsurgency strategy attempts to counter this by making transforming the military into a kind of armed Peace Corps. They are supposed to simultaneously fight the enemy and win the hearts and minds of the people. The key to this is what McChrystal in the article called “courageous restraint” – the willingness to suffer casualties and let the enemy escape rather than risk the lives of innocent civilians.

This is asking a lot of American and allied soldiers – maybe more than is possible for the vast majority of human beings. You not only ask people in jeopardy of being killed, you ask them to refrain from defending themselves and their comrades except when circumstances are right. And with an enemy as well-entrenched as the Taliban, you might not be able to root out the enemy anyway. You are damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

And whether or not the policy is feasible, Hastings’ reporting indicates that it is not understood and not being implemented as Generals Petraeus and McChrystal wish it to be.