Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gaffes and Generals

I'm not sure what General McChrystal was thinking. First off, far be it for me to advise the top brass of the military not to talk to journalists, but Rolling Stone? Really? Do you think you're going to convert anyone there? Or are they just reading to see if you give any good contacts on where to procure opium?

But...I didn't find what he said to be all that bad. It was childish, to be sure, and people have been fired in the private sector for less. But he is running a war. MacArthur was recalled for trying to start a freaking war with China; McChrystal got it for making fun of Joe Biden's name? At the very least, dismissing the General seems a rash decision in a war that requires at least the appearance of continuity.

That said, one of the cardinal rules of the military is that you don't question or denigrate the authority of your superiors. McChrystal of all people should have known to keep his mouth shut, or at least had the political acumen to make it off the record. So McChrystal clearly screwed up, and screwed up in a stupid way. But dismissal seems a bit of an over-reaction.

(A caveat: I haven't read the article--which doesn't get published until this Friday--so I'm just going off of what's in the published reports, which all summarize how he "mocked civilian government officials." Again, bad-mouthing your boss at your cubicle is a good way to get shitcanned. But being the general in charge of a way, I think, would let you get a few extra passes from the HR department than being a fourth tier compliance officer of a Fortune 500 Company. However, that doesn't mean that there isn't something in the article that is a smoking gun, like calling Michelle Obama a harpy or claiming Hillary Clinton is a secret Christian Scientist. So I'll certainly grant that may be the case, but I doubt it.)

Now, I also don't know enough about military logistics, so I don't know if this is simply a proxy for dismissing him for a terrible job in Afghanistan.Like Donald Rumsfeld famously said, there are plenty of unknown unknowns, which is particularly true for me because I know a lot less about the action in Afghanistan than I should

The only good thing I can see out of this is General Petraeus's elevation. Again, I don't know much about military tactics, but at least from a public persona standpoint he seems like the real deal. He could be a closet aerosol-huffing member of the Carbonari as far as I know, but I'm willing to give him the chance.

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