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June 22, 2010 8:07 AM   Subscribe

General Stanley McChrystal is in hot water over a Rolling Stone article (pdf) where he and his staff are quoted criticizing Obama, Biden, and senior administration officials. (Previously on McChrystal's appointment.)
posted by Forktine (353 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
historical precedent?
posted by philip-random at 8:12 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.
posted by stbalbach at 8:12 AM on June 22, 2010 [17 favorites]


Politico:
And here's a passage, useful in simply illuminating the fact that the adolescent usage of "that's so gay" has filtered up to the U.S. military:
McChrystal takes a final look around the suite. At 55, he is gaunt and lean, not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn. His slate-blue eyes have the unsettling ability to drill down when they lock on you. If you’ve fucked up or disappointed him, they can destroy your soul without the need for him to raise his voice.

“I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner,” McChrystal says.

He pauses a beat.

“Unfortunately,” he adds, “no one in this room could do it.”

With that, he’s out the door.

“Who’s he going to dinner with?” I ask one of his aides.

“Some French minister,” the aide tells me. “It’s fucking gay.”
posted by ericb at 8:13 AM on June 22, 2010


What are they gonna say about him? What are they gonna say? That he was a kind man? That he was a wise man? That he had plans, man? That he had wisdom? Bullshit, man!
posted by jquinby at 8:15 AM on June 22, 2010 [20 favorites]


It surprises you that an aide to a General - in itself a pretty prestigious job - would use 'It's gay' like that? You haven't spent a lot of time around the military.
posted by fixedgear at 8:16 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Editor: McChrystal didn't push back.
Rolling Stone’s executive editor on Tuesday said that Gen. Stanley McChrystal did not raise any objections to a new article that repeatedly quotes him criticizing the administration.

Eric Bates, the magazine’s editor, said during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that McChrystal was informed of the quotes prior to its publication as part of Rolling Stone's standard fact-checking process — and that the general did not object to or dispute any of the reporting.

Asked if McChrystal pushed back on the story, Bates responded: “No, absolutely not.”

“We ran everything by them in the fact-checking process as we always do,” the Rolling Stone editor said. “They had a sense of what was coming and it was all on the record and they spent a lot of time with our reporter, so I think they knew that they had said it.”
posted by ericb at 8:17 AM on June 22, 2010


“It’s fucking gay.”

I think the problem is clear: Our military has been infiltrated, at the highest levels, by hipsters.
posted by condour75 at 8:19 AM on June 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct.

"The horror. The horror."
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:24 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Looks like someone's planning a 2012 Presidential run...
posted by MattMangels at 8:30 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, you sure showed them, General Dramatic.
posted by ignignokt at 8:32 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


What of the (crackpot?) theory that the General is basically asking to be fired so that he is not around and culpable if/when his Afghanistan policy goes belly up? Too much tin-foil?
posted by joe lisboa at 8:33 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


It surprises you that an aide to a General - in itself a pretty prestigious job - would use 'It's gay' like that? You haven't spent a lot of time around the military.

Military or no, it's really fucking unprofessional. This isn't some 19-year-old grunt at an FOB. He's an aide to a general, and not just any general.
posted by rtha at 8:33 AM on June 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


Looks like someone's planning a 2012 Presidential run...

Yes. Treason is always the best way to start off your bid for the Oval Office. [/good-for-the-goose]
posted by The Bellman at 8:35 AM on June 22, 2010


It's odd that the armed services are so overwhelmingly Republican at their highest levels when the military the biggest federal entitlement program we have.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:35 AM on June 22, 2010 [20 favorites]


I think the problem is clear: Our military has been infiltrated, at the highest levels, by hipsters.

That would explain the 8th Armored Fixie Division.
posted by Bromius at 8:35 AM on June 22, 2010 [60 favorites]


I thought criticizing the commander in chief during a time of war was the equivalent of treason. Oh, right, that was three years ago, my bad.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:36 AM on June 22, 2010 [48 favorites]


I think the problem is clear: Our military has been infiltrated, at the highest levels, by hipsters.

Okay, right here, I'm going to call this out. I know a lot of hipsters. Arguably I am a hipster, depending on who's making the call. I don't care what problems you might have with hipsters' clothing, or musical preferences, or ironic tendencies, or whatever the fuck else, but where the fuck do you get the idea that hipsters are homophobic? As a demographic, or subculture, or whatever the fuck you want to call them, hipsters are young city-dwellers and as such they tend to be extremely gay-friendly. When there's bad news about gay marriage it's guys in tight pants and girls in questionable leggings bitching about it; when someone says "that's gay" it's much more likely a douchebag in a popped collar, or a twelve-year-old, than a hipster. Hipster-iconic American Apparel sells "Legalize Gay" t-shirts for fuck's sake.

You can object to "hipsters," whatever the fuck you imagine that means, all you like. But please, get your stereotypes straight. Hipsters may have awful taste in ________, but they are not a bunch of homophobes.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:37 AM on June 22, 2010 [56 favorites]


I would like to hear his thoughts on snails and straight razors.
posted by elizardbits at 8:37 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Non-PDF full article at the Rolling Stone website.
posted by enn at 8:38 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's gone totally insane, and his methods are unsound.

He should be fired; not so much for what he said but for being stupid enough to say it on the record to Rolling Stone. And apparently this is his second trip to the woodshed. After General McChrystal gave a speech in London implicitly criticizing Vice President Biden, Obama summoned him to Air Force One in Copenhagen for a frank exchange of ideas.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:39 AM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Non-PDF full article at the Rolling Stone website.

Thanks -- that didn't seem to be available when I looked earlier.
posted by Forktine at 8:40 AM on June 22, 2010


Yeah, I think they just put it up.
posted by enn at 8:40 AM on June 22, 2010


Holy shit. I thought he was a gigantic asshole...and then I hit the part about his active participation in the cover-up of Pat Tillman's death. WTF, Obama?
posted by sallybrown at 8:40 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Joe Lisboa hits the nail on the head.
posted by Max Power at 8:40 AM on June 22, 2010


For the record: McChrystal voted for Obama
posted by republican at 8:42 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Proper attribution for "It's fucking gay" posting (above).
posted by ericb at 8:48 AM on June 22, 2010


Hipsters are also really touchy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:48 AM on June 22, 2010 [38 favorites]


I just had to do my quarterly security training yesterday. During the training, I learned that I should report coworkers who make "anti-government, pro-Communist, or pro-terrorist" statements and that the investigative services will open a file and may determine that they can no longer be trusted with a security clearance.

I wonder what would happen if I reported McChrystal.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:49 AM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Now why don't you just take it easy, Metafilter, and please make me a drink of grain alcohol and rainwater, and help yourself to whatever you'd like.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:51 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


In other Afghanistan news: U.S. Said to Fund Afghan Warlords to Protect Convoys
posted by homunculus at 8:51 AM on June 22, 2010


Google "mcchrystal torture".
posted by Joe Beese at 8:54 AM on June 22, 2010


Joe Klein | TIME Magazine:
"The opinions he expresses are not surprising to those of us who have covered this war--although his statements about the President are at variance with things McChrystal has told me in the past. As I wrote last week, the backbiting has gotten very intense--on all sides--as the frustrations of the mission mount. What is surprising is his willingness to express these opinions on the record, and that he allows his staff to do the same. The lack of discipline and the disrespect he has shown his Commander-in-Chief are very much at odds with military tradition and practice.

I suppose he will have to be sacked now. He is not irreplaceable. There are more than a few fine generals in the Army, including Lt. General David Rodriguez, a McChrystal deputy with vast experience in Afghanistan. But it is a terrible setback, a diversion from the business hand at a crucial moment in the conflict. And it is a real tragedy, because Stanley McChrystal is precisely the sort of man who should be leading American troops in battle."
posted by ericb at 8:55 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I don't think he should be fired for speaking out, the regulations against it are fundamentally anti-free speech. Judge him on his ability to command the mission, and if he has to be fired for that okay.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:57 AM on June 22, 2010


"It's all very cynical, politically," says Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who has extensive experience in the region. "Afghanistan is not in our vital interest – there's nothing for us there."

I wouldn't say nothing.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:58 AM on June 22, 2010


The Bellman, treason is when godless liberals criticize our conservative overlord daddies. What Stan the man did is to simply exercise his 1st amendment right . Clearly he sees that Obama's appeasment agenda is putting America in danger and he feels compelled to speak out.

You know, I wrote that comment as snark but I really do forsee him becoming a hero on the right, especially if Obama decides to fire him (which he should). I always thought Petraeus was the general most likely to make a 2012 run as a Republican, but you never know.
posted by MattMangels at 8:59 AM on June 22, 2010


Spencer Ackerman:
"... As I wrote for the Washington Independent, firing [McChrystal] carries its risks. There’s only a year to go before the July 2011 date to begin the transition to Afghan security responsibility and the Kandahar tide is starting to rise. It’ll be hard to fire McChrystal without ripping the entire Afghanistan strategy up, and I’ve gotten no indication from the White House that it’s interested in doing that. On the other hand, if senior administration officials are and I just haven’t picked up on it, McChrystal just gave them their biggest opportunity.

... And what an opportunity. ... The amazing thing about it is there’s no complaints from McChrystal or his staff about the administration on any substantive ground. After all, McChrystal and his allies won the argument within the White House. All the criticisms — of Eikenberry, of Jones, of Holbrooke, of Biden — are actually just immature and arrogant snipes at how annoying Team America (what, apparently, McChrystal’s crew calls itself) finds them. This is not mission-first, to say the least.

In fact, you have to go deep in the piece to find soldiers and officers offering actual critiques — and what they offer is criticism of McChrystal for being insufficiently brutal. Everyone of them quoted here is a mini-Ralph Peters, upset because McChrystal won’t let them 'get our fucking gun on,' as one puts it. I have a lot of respect for Michael Hastings, the author of the profile, but there are many greyer shades of on-the-ground military perspective than that, and I’ve seen them up close. But Hastings does a good and insightful job of showing that McChrystal is stepping into a diplomatic vacuum and acting as an advocate for Hamid Karzai despite Karzai’s performance in office.

We’ll have to wait for Wednesday to see if McChrystal keeps his command. My guess is he’ll stay, because now the White House knows that a chastened McChrystal isn’t going to say anything else outside of his lane to any reporter. McChrystal’s apology, emailed to me and other reporters well before the Rolling Stone story dropped, suggests that he wasn’t trying to walk away from his command in a blaze of arrogance. But it’s on him to repair his relationship with his colleagues and his bosses."
posted by ericb at 9:01 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Parents of Slain Army Ranger Tillman: McChrystal Shouldn't Get Top Afghanistan Post (FOX News)

In a brief interview with The Associated Press, Pat Tillman Sr. accused Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal of covering up the circumstances of the 2004 slaying.

"I do believe that guy participated in a falsified homicide investigation," Tillman Sr. said.

Separately, Mary Tillman called it "imperative" that McChrystal's record be carefully considered before he is confirmed.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:02 AM on June 22, 2010


This whole ___ is gay thing is massive bullshit. I always call people on it - "that t-shirt is so gay." "What do you mean, it's hideous! I can't imagine a gay person wearing it. Most of the gay people I know have excellent clothing sense." "Oh, it doesn't mean gay like that. It's just a word," "Just a word? Do you Jew people down when bargaining?"

Note that it appeared during the Bush administration - you think it's coincidence that a term equating homosexuality with inferiority appeared during the most anti-gay administration? Not that I think the Bush administration did it - but people felt free to express their most homophobic sentiments.

That people say use it in the military... why should this be a surprise to anyone? It's a massively sick culture and their hatred of gays is just one aspect of its insanity.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:03 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Editor: McChrystal didn't push back.

Of course he didn't. This seems very calculated. He's smart enough to know when he's speaking on the record to a reporter, and probably feels putting public pressure on the President is a way for him to get what he wants. As the article says, the last time he did so, he got 30,000 more troops out of the 40,000 he was requesting. Precedent shows him that it's a tactic which worked in the past, so why not do it again?
posted by zarq at 9:05 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


“I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner,” McChrystal says.

A poet warrior in the classic sense.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:05 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


McChrystal was head of JSOC for five years, and no doubt ordered and oversaw many assassinations, renditions, and other assorted black ops. Why is Obama now allowing such a person to have a mainstream leadership role with political power?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:06 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't say nothing.

What do Afghanistan's minerals have to do with the US?

He prefers Bud Light Lime

The man clearly has gone insane.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:06 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would like to hear his thoughts on snails and straight razors.

"I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream. That's my nightmare."

"That's pretty fucking gay."

"Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor . . . and surviving."

"Yeah, great. Listen, dude? Totally gay. Now pin on your medals and go make nice with that French guy."
posted by gompa at 9:07 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


And its only been a year
posted by adamvasco at 9:08 AM on June 22, 2010


He prefers Bud Light Lime

The man clearly has gone insane.


I don't see any method at all, sir.
posted by gompa at 9:08 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a massively sick culture and their hatred of gays is just one aspect of its insanity.
• 73 percent of military personnel are comfortable with lesbians and gays (Zogby International, 2006).

• One in four U.S. troops who served in Afghanistan or Iraq knows a member of their unit who is gay (Zogby, 2006).

• Majorities of weekly churchgoers (60 percent), conservatives (58 percent), and Republicans (58 percent) now favor repeal (Gallup, 2009).

• Seventy-five percent of Americans support gays serving openly - up from just 44 percent in 1993 (ABC News/Washington Post, 2008).

• In 1993 RAND Corp. concluded that openly gay people in the U.S. military do not negatively impact unit cohesion, morale, good order, or military readiness.

• Several other military-commissioned and GAO studies have concluded that open service does not undermine military readiness, troop morale or national security.

• Studies of the militaries in Australia, Israel, Great Britain and Canada have shown open service to have no adverse effect on enrollment or retention.

• The total number of countries allowing openly gay service is 24. The US and Turkey are the only two original NATO countries that still have bans in place.

• Today, there are at least 65,000 gay Americans serving on active duty and one million gay veterans in the United States, according to the Urban Institute.

• The CIA, FBI, State Department, the Defense Department on the civilian side, and defense contractors do not discriminate based on sexual orientation.*
posted by ericb at 9:09 AM on June 22, 2010 [31 favorites]


Looks like someone's planning a 2012 Presidential run...

If it comes to a choice between Palin, Romney, Ron Paul, or Huckabee vs. McChrystal... at least I can respect McChrystal on some level, and trust him not to do anything stupid with the nukes.

I don't trust any of the others on that last point - Palin in particular.

That's not much of a recommendation, I realize, but America electing someone who truly believes in Armageddon to a position where they control the deployment of our nuclear arsenal is fucking suicide.
posted by Ryvar at 9:12 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


McChrystal was head of JSOC for five years, and no doubt ordered and oversaw many assassinations, renditions, and other assorted black ops. Why is Obama now allowing such a person to have a mainstream leadership role with political power?

Because black ops are a very key part of operations in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan?
posted by Think_Long at 9:12 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


McChrystal Aide Steps Down In Wake Of Rolling Stone Piece.
posted by ericb at 9:12 AM on June 22, 2010


Forktine, thank you for posting the pdf.
posted by vincele at 9:14 AM on June 22, 2010


Hamid Karzai, Brother Endorse McChrystal After Rolling Stone Interview: 'Best Commander' Of Afghanistan War
posted by ericb at 9:14 AM on June 22, 2010


The CIA, FBI, State Department, the Defense Department on the civilian side, and defense contractors do not (openly) discriminate based on sexual orientation.*
posted by fixedgear at 9:15 AM on June 22, 2010


McChrystal was head of JSOC for five years, and no doubt ordered and oversaw many assassinations, renditions, and other assorted black ops. Why is Obama now allowing such a person to have a mainstream leadership role with political power?

From what I understand, McChrystal's specialty is transforming failing plans, systems and strategies into ones that work. He was also extremely successful at systematically hunting down and tracking thousands of insurgents as head of JSOC. He understands the 'on the ground' environment in Iraq and Afghanistan much better than most, because he had to. This probably made him quite an attractive candidate to a President who felt the war was being mishandled by Bush appointees who were out of touch and out of their depth.
posted by zarq at 9:16 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.

Yeah, commanding them to do things beyond the pale of acceptable human conduct, like dropping bombs on village weddings from unmanned drones (ok, hyperbole, since I know those are run by the unaccountable CIA ops there).

My one major problem with President Obama from the beginning of his campaign was his blind conviction that Afghanistan was a worthy war to be fighting. What bullshit.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:19 AM on June 22, 2010


the regulations against it are fundamentally anti-free speech.

Tough. The military is not a democracy, and every soldier knows it.

While I don't believe GEN McChrystal is guilty of Article 88, he is guilty of being an idiot to allow such candor on the record to a Rolling Stone journalist. He has no business airing his opinions of civilian leadership or colleagues for public consumption. Sec Gates and the Obama Administration have canned other generals for less.
posted by lullaby at 9:19 AM on June 22, 2010


Only on MeFi could an article about the military turn into a hipsters vs. fratboys pissing contest. Enough already. Some of us left school years ago and are tired of youyr adolescent clique warfare.
posted by jonmc at 9:20 AM on June 22, 2010 [19 favorites]


Oh, and if doesn't fire the general, he's inviting an entire culture of insubordination to go nuts. He has to fire him. I'll be appalled if he doesn't.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:20 AM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Note that it appeared during the Bush administration - you think it's coincidence that a term equating homosexuality with inferiority appeared during the most anti-gay administration? Not that I think the Bush administration did it - but people felt free to express their most homophobic sentiments.

I was in high school well before Bush II found his personal jeebus at the end of a rail and a good many of the denizens of my school used 'gay' in exactly the same manner. Admittedly this was Reagan/BushI era, but I doubt there was a run away from 'gay' during Clinton's term in office.
posted by Fezboy! at 9:20 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Note that it appeared during the Bush administration

I don't think so, that one was around when I was in grade school 20 years ago. It's already starting to look anachronistic, which is encouraging, but also means I'm old.
posted by Kirk Grim at 9:21 AM on June 22, 2010


I don't think he should be fired for speaking out, the regulations against it are fundamentally anti-free speech.

Aww, that's cute.

First, the Supreme Court ruled in Parker v. Levy (1974) that:
While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections. The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside of it.
Second, "don't publicly contradict your boss" is an essential rule rule in any line of business, especially when your boss is the president of the United States.

America electing someone who truly believes in Armageddon to a position where they control the deployment of our nuclear arsenal is fucking suicide.

"The missiles are flying. Hallelujah...hallelujah!"
posted by kirkaracha at 9:21 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The worst part about all of this is fucking Rolling Stone gets to pretend to be legitimate while planning next month's "Fergie's back, and she's serious" special cover issue.
posted by Think_Long at 9:21 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Have I spoused you yet, ericb? I think I need to.

I've really got no problem with these guys venting - as Ackerman points out, it's pretty deep in the article and the quotes are captured in "unguarded moments". You could argue that military personnel have no business talking that way in any place or time, and I'd tend to agree, but I think we're getting more heat than light in this profile.

If there was active resistance to the President's plans, or deliberate sabotage, then I could see a pattern that needed to be checked.

And this is the only way to answer "that's so gay".
posted by lysdexic at 9:24 AM on June 22, 2010


America electing someone who truly believes in Armageddon to a position where they control the deployment of our nuclear arsenal is fucking suicide.

It's not suicide if you believe in Heaven.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2010


Metafilter: "It’s fucking gay."
posted by wcfields at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2010


Only on MeFi could an article about the military turn into a hipsters vs. fratboys pissing contest. Enough already. Some of us left school years ago and are tired of youyr adolescent clique warfare.

Jon, there have been only 4 comments related to hipsters here.
posted by cavalier at 9:27 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


You could argue that military personnel have no business talking that way in any place or time

Might be helpful if it's not in a place or time that they're around a reporter.
posted by lullaby at 9:27 AM on June 22, 2010


For the record: McChrystal voted for Obama

Now, how on earth could you know that? I mean, even if he's on the record as having said it, how could you know it was true and not just a politically motivated misrepresentation? And even so, how is it relevant?

McCrystal's just ticked because he basically got all the troops he asked for and still can't deliver, and the administration is increasingly likely to start moving toward an eventual withdrawal when it makes its promised reevaluation of progress in the region and finds we've actually moved backwards. Maybe this is a case of deliberate career suicide. It's hard to imagine a guy as high ranking as McChrystal could possibly be so clueless.

And given Rolling Stone's increasingly hostile coverage of the administration in recent months, I doubt it's purely coincidence McChrystal chose to make these "gaffs" in that forum. He probably hoped to find a sympathetic audience for his complaints.

Now what'd be funny is if the nominal "liberals" ended up taking McChrystal's side in this scandal: especially considering he's been one of the most forceful and vocal advocates for dramatically escalating our combat presence in Afghanistan.

Why is Obama now allowing such a person to have a mainstream leadership role with political power?

How about because there aren't really any senior generals in the military who don't have that kind of baggage? Even the venerable old war horse Colin Powell was involved in helping to cover up the My Lai Massacre. Rule out giving leadership positions to all senior military commanders who've in some way been implicated in wrong-doing and you'd be left with no one but new recruits to run the war machine. Besides, McChrystal was/is highly regarded within the upper-echelons of the military. The last thing you want is to get all those assholes pissed at you.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:27 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Newsweek: General has history of speaking his mind.
posted by ericb at 9:29 AM on June 22, 2010


The worst part about all of this is fucking Rolling Stone gets to pretend to be legitimate while planning next month's "Fergie's back, and she's serious" special cover issue.
They do some pretty good journalism on the side, you know. For better or worse, more people will buy that coverstory on Fergie than will buy a cover story about Afghanistan. If the former effectively funds the latter, so be it.
posted by verb at 9:29 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


McChrystal Aide Steps Down In Wake Of Rolling Stone Piece.

What an idiot. He sucked anyway, he never should have been put in charge over there and we ought to leave Afghanistan militarily, other then have a few troops there working with the central government, or something. The idea that we are going to pacify Afghanistan and turn it into a utopia is absurd.

--

It's kind of a side note, but I have to say I'm kind of shocked at all the people who are shocked at the "That's so gay" thing. It's a very common expression. We don't think people who say someone "got gypped" is racist against gypsies or that someone "welched on a bet" is baised against people from Wales.
Okay, right here, I'm going to call this out. I know a lot of hipsters. Arguably I am a hipster, depending on who's making the call. I don't care what problems you might have with hipsters' clothing, or musical preferences, or ironic tendencies, or whatever the fuck else, but where the fuck do you get the idea that hipsters are homophobic?
But that's the whole thing, people who say that may not homophobic, they just say that because that's what's said without thinking about it. Or they think they're being 'edgy' or something. They don't think about whether or not it offends gays when they say it.

Besides there are lots of definitions of 'hipster' many of which really just boil down to "fashionable people who annoy me"
posted by delmoi at 9:31 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


We don't think people who say someone "got gypped" is racist against gypsies or that someone "welched on a bet" is baised against people from Wales.

No, but we probably think they're idiots for not considering the racist implications of the origins of those terms.
posted by elizardbits at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


They do some pretty good journalism on the side, you know.

Exactly. I find Matt Taibi's articles to often be in-depth and interesting.
posted by ericb at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2010


Honestly, I don't think he should be fired for speaking out, the regulations against it are fundamentally anti-free speech.

The Supreme Court has held that the needs of the military--like obedience and discipline--justify permitting rules and regulations which would be considered unconstitutional when applied to civilians. See Parker v. Levy:

While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections. The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it.

Parker quotes United States v. Priest:

Disrespectful and contemptuous speech . . . is tolerable in the civilian community . . . In military life, however, other considerations must be weighed. The armed forces depend on a command structure that, at times must commit men to combat, not only hazarding their lives but ultimately involving the security of the Nation itself. Speech that is protected in the civil population may nonetheless undermine the effectiveness of response to command. If it does, it is constitutionally unprotected.

Members of the military are governed under the UCMJ. Article 88 would appear to fit in these circumstances. From Army Times:

My favorite UCMJ provision is Article 88, which makes it a crime for an officer to use contemptuous words against the president, the vice president, Congress, the secretary of defense, the secretary of a military department, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, or the governor or legislature of any state, territory, commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present. In 1999, Army Lieutenant Colonel Michael Davidson explained in a law review article that contemptuous "means insulting, rude, disdainful or otherwise disrespectfully attributing to another qualities of meanness, disreputableness, or worthlessness."

Wikipedia says:

It is immaterial whether the words are used against the official in an official or private capacity. If not personally contemptuous, adverse criticism of one of the officials or legislatures named in the article in the course of a political discussion, even though emphatically expressed, may not be charged as a violation of the article . . . Giving broad circulation to a written publication containing contemptuous words of the kind made punishable by this article, or the utterance of contemptuous words of this kind in the presence of military subordinates, aggravates the offense. The truth or falsity of the statements is immaterial.

See here for an in-depth explanation.
posted by sallybrown at 9:34 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sure individuals in the military reflect the prevailing opinions on homosexuality, when they are not on duty - but the military as an organization is actively hostile to gays.

However, I don't want to derail. I'm SICK of "____ is gay" as a turn of phrase (I'm not gay, just a lover of language) and so it springs in my face.

Reading this article was very disturbing. I've been the subject of a news article so I have first-hand knowledge about how they distort the truth, but even discounting that heavily, I still get a strong impression of a group of hyperaggressive fratboys playing stupid dominance games with another group of ineffectual career diplomats while a country dies.

It seems to me as if Obama is forced to fire this guy. The challenge to his authority is simply too great. I'm also suspecting that McC believes that the Afghanistan front is going to collapse and wants to be out before it does.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:37 AM on June 22, 2010


>> Note that it appeared during the Bush administration..

But which one? I remember hearing kids say this during Bush I's tenure when I was in elementary school. And that was in Alabama, which means it had already come and gone everywhere else.
posted by JohnFredra at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2010


If you're not homophobic, why would you use "gay" as a pejorative?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:41 AM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


After General McChrystal gave a speech in London implicitly criticizing Vice President Biden, Obama summoned him to Air Force One in Copenhagen for a frank exchange of ideas.

Sounds like it's no more Mr. Nice Guy. You can't pigeonhole this as a youthful indiscretion—McChrystal is displaying very little gravitas indeed. Some may think disciplinary action an inappropriate response, but really at this point Obama needs to take Roosevelt's advice and tell his supporters and detractors alike: "I said, I've got a big stick."
posted by infinitewindow at 9:45 AM on June 22, 2010


This gambit didn't work out too well for Douglas MacArthur.
posted by briank at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2010


> If you're not homophobic, why would you use "gay" as a pejorative?

I can't speak for the general, but growing up in the US "gay" was used as a catchall for "dumb, silly, pointlessly weird, etc". Certainly, it was an unfortunate bi-product of homophobia but its usage usually wasn't really directly homophobic.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:48 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, if UCMJ Article 88 applies here, it goes way beyond firing McChrystal--it means he can be court-martialed. (I highly doubt that would happen, though.)
posted by sallybrown at 9:50 AM on June 22, 2010


It seems to me as if Obama is forced to fire this guy. The challenge to his authority is simply too great. I'm also suspecting that McC believes that the Afghanistan front is going to collapse and wants to be out before it does.

I agree, lupus_yonderboy. If the Military Code of Justice is observed, then General McChrystal shouldn't just be relieved of duty, he should face a court-martial. The law is clear on that point (something else he must have known).
888. ART. 88. CONTEMPT TOWARD OFFICIALS

Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:53 AM on June 22, 2010


corrected version:
He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.
Yeah, commanding them to do things beyond the pale of acceptable human conduct, like dropping bombs on village weddings from unmanned drones (ok, hyperbole, since I know those are run by the unaccountable CIA ops there).


You both might read the article. McChrystal has imposed much stricter rules on airstrikes, artillery, reckless driving, patrolling. His strategy requires more soldiers, because it's based on greater close combat infantry action, contra Joe Biden's stated desire to rely on standoff attacks.
posted by Jahaza at 9:54 AM on June 22, 2010


He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.

The article clearly states multiple times that he's been giving very strict orders to the troops about not killing or endangering civilians, but also that his entire COIN strategy is based on establishing and maintaining positive relations with the Afghani people. His soldiers have objected to these new enforced guidelines, out of concern that they are being placed in greater danger.

So what exactly are you objecting to? Or are you engaging in hyperbole?
posted by zarq at 9:56 AM on June 22, 2010


If you're not homophobic, why would you use "gay" as a pejorative?

I don't consider myself a homophobe, but I heard the word 'gay' used as a putdown long before I knew what a homosexual even was, so it took a long time to break the habit even though I knew better.

But that's beside the point, this guy is an aide to a public figure, it's a fucking job requirement for him to a) choose words carefully and b) assume that anything a reporter hears will be used against you.
posted by jonmc at 9:57 AM on June 22, 2010


Or what sally brown said.

I think the president should at least fire him. His distinguished service and yada-yada might justify foregoing the court-martial. But he should go.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:58 AM on June 22, 2010


He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.

Guys... you know this is just a quote from Apocalypse Now, right? Right?
posted by elizardbits at 9:59 AM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Jon, there have been only 4 comments related to hipsters here.

that's 4 too many
posted by pyramid termite at 9:59 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The McChrystal Balls Up.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:01 AM on June 22, 2010


I remember hearing kids say this during Bush I's tenure...

Really?! (I'm not doubting you, just fascinated.) I'm in New York City, and I pretty well remember the exact time I first heard this, around 2003. I do a lot of music and performances, so I'm always around 20-somethings!

If you're not homophobic, why would you use "gay" as a pejorative?

I've actually never heard anyone using it in a homophobic context, strange enough. I call people on it every time, it's always been hipsters, and the answer is always, "No, it doesn't mean gay that way, it's just a word." And these were without exception gay-positive people.

Now, I don't buy this answer for a moment. It's not acceptable to "Jew" people out of money; why should it be acceptable if inferior things are "gay"? You can't claim that "Jewing" people out of money isn't a racist term (and yes, I really have had people, well, one person, once argue with me that it wasn't - using just the same reasoning) - why do you think using "gay" as a pejorative is one whit different?

Every time you use the word "gay" to mean "inferior" you are reinforcing that correlation in your mind. Even if you don't know the gender meaning of the word, when you discover it you'll at least partially think, "Aha, these are these inferior people I was talking about all along."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:02 AM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


posted by Jahaza You both might read the article

posted by zarq The article clearly states multiple times that he's been giving very strict orders to the troops about not killing or endangering civilians


You both might look here.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:04 AM on June 22, 2010


He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.

ATTENTION THIS IS A MOVIE QUOTE THANK YOU
posted by shakespeherian at 10:05 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be perfectly honest, people that get annoyed at gay being used as a pejorative make me want to use it even more. Does that make me a bad person?

What I'd really like to know is how many people who get upset at that are also Christians. I went to a liberal Catholic high school, and boy were they all over you when you called something "gay", but completely silent when Pope John Paul II said that AIDS was "caused by a lack of moral values". So excuse me if I see this crusade as a completely empty (albeit well-meaning) gesture.
posted by MattMangels at 10:09 AM on June 22, 2010


I don't consider myself a homophobe, but I heard the word 'gay' used as a putdown long before I knew what a homosexual even was, so it took a long time to break the habit even though I knew better.

This more or less conforms with my experience that the popularity of "gay" as all-purpose (ie: not necessarily homophobic) putdown actually originated with pre-teens. In fact my introduction to the "issue" came via a friend who's eight or nine year old had been called to the principal's office for it (the kid did NOT know that gay = homosexual).

I soberly await a serious investigation of how this silly bit of schoolyard nastiness has managed to penetrate to the highest levels of the United States Military.
posted by philip-random at 10:10 AM on June 22, 2010


To clarify, my beef is that people focus their attention too much on words, and not on the real causes of homophobia (religion, lack of or poor education, etc)
posted by MattMangels at 10:11 AM on June 22, 2010


It's kind of a side note, but I have to say I'm kind of shocked at all the people who are shocked at the "That's so gay" thing. It's a very common expression. We don't think people who say someone "got gypped" is racist against gypsies or that someone "welched on a bet" is baised against people from Wales.

Oh my. You're going to regret saying that. You may get some slack owing to your status on MeFi, but I expect you'll get a sound enough rebuke. For god's sake, some people break out the torches for referring to the country Obama is president of "America".

Even though, yes, it is quite common in usage and has been since at least the late 80's, if not before. The word gay can be used to describe something other than the person, as opposed to many other words considered slurs, which exist solely as a slur.

To me it is like the phrase "x is harder than chinese algebra". It is a nonsensical saying, algebra is by definition exactly the same everywhere. But somehow people find it offensive, solely because it contains the word chinese. I keep waiting for the hammer to come down on chinese food, mexican food, etc. "It's all food, all humans consume food, why do we have to be racist about the food's origin?" Remember, even recognizing or identifying a difference is inherently racist, and possibly offensive given the context.

It's frustrating because I fight against real world racism all the time, easily identifiable grossly inappropriate hateful stuff, but yet I get angry when I see it addressed on MeFi where apparently a great many posters live in some sort of Shangri-la. (Let's see if I get called out for that one).

See also: burhanistan.

On preview: Lupus, your experience is non-typical. "That's gay" has been common parlance for something that was dumb, silly, ridiculous, or otherwise met with disapproval, since at least the late 1980's. And we are talking junior high and high school, not 20-somethings.

2003 is about when I first heard people encourage others to stop saying it, not start.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 10:11 AM on June 22, 2010


it’s fucking gay is maybe insensitive (more so because now we've been told it so many times), but it is not an indication of homophobia. not that it isn't intended that way by somebody (though who, really?), but i've used it, and my friends have used it, and more in the spirit of how a lot of gay stuff, when we're not being all serious and political about it, is funny and strange. my straight friends have used it more as a nod of respect to the sense of humor gay culture has about itself, and (although it was sweet at first, their consideration) i hate that now they fucking stop and apologize to me when they say or hear it, considering i know they love me and would do anything for me, because now we're supposed to automatically invest it with all nefarious intention. the fact that it is used with some degree of humor, by those we know do not have issues with gay people, pretty much makes it worthless as a remark of true anti-gay bigotry. the way i see it, even spoken by homophobes, it's a compliment--they just haven't realized it yet. and really, if this is what is considered harmful language now--if this is what has replaced 'faggot'--then that seems rather encouraging to me, to go from something so pointedly hateful to something this innocuous. just the fact that people are saying gay all the time makes gayness less of a big deal. people used to use the word with disgust and contempt. now there are straight dudes using it as, at very worst, a mild insult.

there is actual anti-gay stuff happening out there that is not waving around this catchphrase, so the distraction is rather silly. from my perspective, some shit is just fucking gay, and all the better for it we are for it than when it wasn't. i'm not inclined to go out of my way to guilt-trip or alienate people who are otherwise on my side; one of the the cool parts about being gay, here and now, is shedding victimhood, not looking under rocks to find it.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:12 AM on June 22, 2010


Every time you use the word "gay" to mean "inferior" you are reinforcing that correlation in your mind. Even if you don't know the gender meaning of the word, when you discover it you'll at least partially think, "Aha, these are these inferior people I was talking about all along."

While I am strongly against the use of 'gay' as pejorative, I do wonder about what the statute of limitations is on when a usage rooted in prejudice becomes dissociated from its original implications. I mean, calling someone a 'sucker' used to mean that you were calling them a cocksucker (similarly 'you suck!' or 'this sucks' or 'that movie sucks'), but I don't think many people would argue that this usage is homophobic today. I don't know where or when to draw the line, but simply pointing out the origins of a term don't necessarily mark it as prejudicial.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:12 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's frustrating because I fight against real world racism all the time, easily identifiable grossly inappropriate hateful stuff, but yet I get angry when I see it addressed on MeFi where apparently a great many posters live in some sort of Shangri-la. (Let's see if I get called out for that one).
posted by discountfortunecookie


I am offended by your username! Consider yourself called out!
posted by mattdidthat at 10:14 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the president should at least fire him. His distinguished service and yada-yada might justify foregoing the court-martial. But he should go.

At the moment, he seems to be the most competent, knowledgeable man for the job they have. Whom do you think should replace him?

Ignore the violation of military rules aspect of this for a moment, since the military as an institution encourages unwavering faith and loyalty to leadership. We've seen repeatedly how that can encourage and contribute to coverups and questionable activities.

Prior to his election, our President exhibited a strong willingness to speak candidly to the American public. He seemed to respect the fact that we are adults, capable of handling tough news -- the unvarnished truth. He was a breath of fresh air, considering we were emerging from an administration which fed us simplified, fearmongering slogans while covering up actions which seemed antithetical to American ideals.

McChrystal is a loose cannon. But this President should know and value those willing to speak truth to power -- even if that truth is difficult to stomach. My impression of McChrystal is that he's willing to stick his neck out for what he feels is right. I don't believe that should be punished.
posted by zarq at 10:16 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


How Rolling Stone Won The News Cycle And Lost The Story.
But if you wanted to read that profile, rather than rely on a couple of pull quotes or the punditocracy? Tough luck: Rolling Stone didn't even bother putting it online before they rolled it out. In fact, despite the fact that everyone else's website led the profile, Rolling Stone's site led with Lady Gaga's (admittedly impressive) machine gun jumblies all day and didn't even put the story online until 11:00 ET.
Machine gun jumblies?
posted by dirigibleman at 10:16 AM on June 22, 2010


fourcheesemac: "Oh, and if doesn't fire the general, he's inviting an entire culture of insubordination to go nuts. He has to fire him. I'll be appalled if he doesn't."

This shows a lack of imagination: "General, welcome to ANTARTICOM" would be a fitting punishment, I think.
posted by boo_radley at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2010


ATTENTION THIS IS A MOVIE QUOTE THANK YOU

So? It doesn't apply here.
posted by zarq at 10:18 AM on June 22, 2010


posted by zarq Whom do you think should replace him?

Someone who understands and respects the chain of command and the rule of not openly criticizing superiors.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:19 AM on June 22, 2010


You'd think 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, people would have figured out that the "defense" budget has very little to do with defending the U.S.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:19 AM on June 22, 2010


But this President should know and value those willing to speak truth to power...

getting caught cattily speaking truth behind power's back isn't the same thing.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:21 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


McChrystal is a loose cannon.... I don't believe that should be punished.

Hurm.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


posted by zarq [This movie quote] doesn't apply here.

Sure it does. The general with his extreme prejudice should be terminated.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:25 AM on June 22, 2010


Someone who understands and respects the chain of command and the rule of not openly criticizing superiors.

I'm not asking hyperbolically. I'm asking for names.

We've been down that road. It was a disaster. Bush II didn't listen to the people he appointed or any of the people he asked to advise him in Iraw, and look where it got us. Shinseki, Bremer, Garner, Franks, Petraeus, Tenet, Baker, Hamilton, Westmoreland, Odierno, Casey, Sanchez all had their opinions solicited and ignored.

Perhaps more of them should have gone public.
posted by zarq at 10:27 AM on June 22, 2010


getting caught cattily speaking truth behind power's back isn't the same thing.

And as has been pointed out by multiple people here including myself, he didn't do it behind anyone's back. He did it on the record with a reporter with full knowledge he was doing so. When asked to confirm his quotes, he did so.
posted by zarq at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2010


The general with his extreme prejudice should be terminated.

The general should be terminated with extreme prejudice?
posted by backseatpilot at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2010


Sure it does. The general with his extreme prejudice should be terminated.

Explain please what McChrystal has done that fits what the quote accuses him of.
posted by zarq at 10:29 AM on June 22, 2010


Sure it does. The general with his extreme prejudice should be terminated.

Because there's a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. The good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature".

sorry. this is like my most favourite movie ever.
posted by elizardbits at 10:30 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're not homophobic, why would you use "gay" as a pejorative?

And if you don't know your use of it has implications for others who may hear you use it, and then you are told that it does have said implications, why would you continue to use it after being educated?
posted by hippybear at 10:31 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't know if you people realize this, but McChrystal is in trouble because the White House wants more high-altitude bombings and his troops want more genocide.

He's an idiot but he's not the main enemy here.
posted by Avenger at 10:36 AM on June 22, 2010


>> If you're not homophobic, why would you use "gay" as a pejorative?
>
> I can't speak for the general, but growing up in the US "gay" was used as a catchall
> for "dumb, silly, pointlessly weird, etc". Certainly, it was an unfortunate bi-product
> of homophobia but its usage usually wasn't really directly homophobic.

You hear "That's so gay" among kids in daycare, way too young to know how sex works let alone what homosexuality is. It became current in the 1980s. Before that, the phrase was "That's so queer" which goes back, to my personal knowledge, at least to the 1950s. At a certain point kids all over the country somehow got the memo that you shouldn't say "queer," you should say "gay." So they did, and do. Department of unintended consequences.
posted by jfuller at 10:36 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


And here's a passage, useful in simply illuminating the fact that the adolescent usage of "that's so gay" has filtered up to the U.S. military:

In my experience, anything you'd hear on a high school campus you'll hear in the military.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:38 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hurm.

Sometimes there is value in speaking truth to power, and when those in power don't want to listen sometimes there is also value in doing so publicly or obliquely, outside of normal channels.

Whistleblowers can have a positive effect. I agree with saulgoodman that he's covering his rear. But do you not think the public has a right to know whether the head of our forces in Afghanistan believes our leaders fully understand and are realistic about what they're doing there?
posted by zarq at 10:40 AM on June 22, 2010


How to Fire a General: With the president ordering a face-to-face meeting with his Afghan general for publicly blasting the White House, Harold Evans on what Obama can learn from President Truman’s dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur.
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think there is a difference between political grandstanding in order to get your way with a vie for public sympathy via attempting to embarrass your boss in Rolling Stone and speaking truth to power. I also think that, regardless of the method employed, any 'loose cannon' in the military is someone who is not good at being in the military.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:44 AM on June 22, 2010


I don't think he should be fired. All that would do is furnish the right wing with a ready narrative of "we'd have won, but they stabbed us in the back" a la Germany after WWI.

Leave him in place. If we succeed in Afghanistan, fine. If we fail, McChrystal will own the failure. I'm sure they'll still find a way to blame the liberals, but at that point it'll be per force more outlandish and so more easily dismissed.

In fact, to me, this puts more pressure on McChrystal. He'd better deliver now - or else, the stench of failure will be unbearable "we gave you all you asked for, and bore all your insults - and you still failed; nice going, now your name in history is POS".

Let him stay and twist in the wind. He talked shit about his superiors - let's see how good he is on the job. And there will be no mercy.
posted by VikingSword at 10:50 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


By the time MacArthur was dismissed he was already popular on U.S. soil. Find me ten people that aren't on MetaFilter that know who McCryhstal is -- er, before the news today. Shame to have to sack him based on his apparent skill set, but hey, there are rules.
posted by cavalier at 10:50 AM on June 22, 2010


getting caught cattily speaking truth behind power's back isn't the same thing.

And as has been pointed out by multiple people here including myself, he didn't do it behind anyone's back. He did it on the record with a reporter with full knowledge he was doing so. When asked to confirm his quotes, he did so.


so are we to believe he directly called out obama on being "uncomfortable and intimidated" amongst military leadership, and obama didn't out himself on this embarrassing point, and so a reporter was the next best option? that's not whistleblowing; it's publicly undermining obama's leadership, and not even on a policy basis.

I agree with saulgoodman that he's covering his rear. But do you not think the public has a right to know whether the head of our forces in Afghanistan believes our leaders fully understand and are realistic about what they're doing there?

given the former, just how accurate and forthcoming do you think mcchrystal is about the latter and his role therein? this article has far less to do with policy disagreement or strategy than being some kind of political/publicity stunt.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:53 AM on June 22, 2010


You do not EVER want the military leadership publicly contradicting its civilian leadership. Let them resign under protest, and let them then speak out all they want.

A general, with troops under his command, and contradictory opinions on public policy, is a political force. This is how you get coups, oligarchies, and military dictatorships.

Actually, according to Jefferson we were supposed to have a revolution every twenty years. Maybe this is just what we need. It's not like we're getting campaign finance reform any other way.
posted by clarknova at 10:58 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


The article clearly states multiple times that he's been giving very strict orders to the troops about not killing or endangering civilians, but also that his entire COIN strategy is based on establishing and maintaining positive relations with the Afghani people. His soldiers have objected to these new enforced guidelines, out of concern that they are being placed in greater danger.

Actually, the proper demonym is Afghan. Afghani is their currency, and calling the people "Afghani" is insulting. I know you didn't do it on purpose, but just pointing that out.

I am currently deployed to Afghanistan. I have seen some good progress here. I personally do not, however, think the COIN strategy is working to full effect. It is very restricting, and I feel it places us in greater danger than we need to be in. While I really like and respect the Afghan people, and I definitely do not want civillians to be killed, I do not think we will defeat the Taliban by stepping on eggshells.

This is a fight that needs to be fought and won. We need to be allowed to do our jobs, without being blindfolded with our arms tied behind our backs.

Whatever comes of this, I have full confidence in my President and my leadership.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 10:58 AM on June 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


I don't know if you people realize this, but McChrystal is in trouble because the White House wants more high-altitude bombings and his troops want more genocide.

He's an idiot but he's not the main enemy here.


That's not at all a fair characterization of the situation.

Some within the White House--in fact, Biden in particular, the one McChrystal personally impugned--were arguing we should withdraw the majority of our troops from the region and instead of fighting Afghanistan as a conventional ground war, leave only a small special forces troop presence in place (and yes, continued drone strikes on specific Taliban targets) and treat the engagement in Afghanistan more as a policing action against the more violent militants in the region. That side lost the debate to a large extent, and McChrystal's side, which wanted to do a full on Iraq-style surge with rapidly escalating combat operations (and at least 40,000 new troops) against militants in the region to root them out, won.

You can blame the troops for wanting "more genocide" all you want, but if you think they're the problem, then surely you think McChrystal's desire to bring in many more times the number of troops only aggravates that problem.

This is simple. McChrystal is on the side that wants the president to commit to being in Afghanistan forever and he resented it when the administration publicly stated that it would start planning a withdrawal in 18 months. That's what this is about: the perception on the part of some in the military that the President's withdrawal timeline in Afghanistan is too rigid. There's a lot more discussion of that here.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:04 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


In addition to being fired, what could happen?

Court-martial is really unlikely because (1) Article 88 appears to have only been used as the basis for a court-martial only once in over sixty years (as of this 1999 article), and (2) it would look bad PR-wise for Obama; it could easily be interpreted as "Waah, he called me something mean, punish him!"

In addition, General McChrystal is a four-star general. From what I can find, only two Army generals have ever been court-marshaled under the UCMJ (so, since 1951). This says Maj. General (so, two-star, I think?) Robert E. Dow (whose name was actually Robert W. Grow) was court-martialed in 1952 "in what one historian considered Cold War hysteria," "after his diary was stolen from a hotel in Germany and published by East Germany's Communist government." This 1999 New York Times article says retired two-star Maj. General David R. E. Hale was court-martialed and demoted to a one-star brigadier general rank after having extramarital affairs (possibly coerced) with the wives of four subordinates, lying about it, and mishandling taxpayer money.

It appears that only one Admiral has ever been court-martialed under the UCMJ: Selden G. Hooper, convicted for sodomy that occurred after he had retired.

As for other, punishments, this 2005 Washington Post article about a four-star general relieved of his command for having a consensual extramarital affair with a female civilian notes that an Army spokesman "could find no case of another four-star general being relieved of duty in modern times."

According to this 1998 New York Times article, one-star Rear Admiral John T. Scudi was relieved of command for "having an extramarital affair and lying about it to investigators" and potentially steering contracts to his female paramour. This says Scudi agreed to retire at the rank of Captain rather than face court-martial.

And when a two-star Air Force general called President Clinton a "dope-smoking," "skirt-chasing," "draft-dodging" Commander-in-Chief, his superior officer ruled out a court-martial in favor of a written reprimand.
posted by sallybrown at 11:07 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


How to Fire a General: With the president ordering a face-to-face meeting with his Afghan general for publicly blasting the White House, Harold Evans on what Obama can learn from President Truman’s dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur.

But isn't part of the problem that Obama already did this with McKiernan?

I mean, McChrystal is "Obama's guy." Maybe Obama should have vetted the guy a little more... firing him now would be admitting that he made a huge mistake. I'd be surprised to see it.

Good luck, C17H19NO3. Stay safe.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:10 AM on June 22, 2010


"The missiles are flying. Hallelujah...hallelujah!"

Remember to omit the second half of that during Lent.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:12 AM on June 22, 2010


I'm pretty surprised to find myself in disagreement with zarq.

President Obama is the commander in chief. MacCrystal can respectfully disagree with him, he can issue reports with conclusions that aren't convenient for the President, and he can otherwise speak what he sees as truth to power. But it is not OK for a general to publicly disrespect the President, and that's frankly what the quotes in this article do. Moreover, the general's indiscreet and juvenile comments about other officials are an obvious effort to divide the adminstration into warring camps, so "his" side will win.

I'm hoping he is fired. I am confident that someone with good judgment can pick up the job and continue the better policies in Afghanistan. But Obama doesn't need a loose cannon like this on the deck.
posted by bearwife at 11:12 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


As others have noted about Truman's dismissal of Macarthur, I'll note that it happened quite famously in American history 100 years earlier than that. George McClellan was in charge of the Union Army, and he didn't get along with Lincoln.

...McClellan's leadership skills during battles were questioned by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who eventually removed him from command, first as general-in-chief, then from the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln was famously quoted as saying, "If General McClellan does not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time." Despite this, he was the most popular of that army's commanders with its soldiers, who felt that he had their morale and well-being as paramount concerns.

General McClellan also failed to maintain the trust of Lincoln, and proved to be frustratingly derisive of, and insubordinate to, his commander-in-chief. After he was relieved of command, McClellan became the unsuccessful Democratic nominee opposing Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election. His party had an anti-war platform, promising to end the war and negotiate with the Confederacy, which McClellan was forced to repudiate ...


Don't think Obama doesn't know this -- Democratic presidents that fire popular generals in time of war usually turn out OK.

You know, except for that whole John Wilkes Booth thing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:12 AM on June 22, 2010


Sorry, McCrystal. Didn't mean to be disrespectful or anything.
posted by bearwife at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2010


Machine gun jumblies?

Wait five minutes, someone'll make an FPP about it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2010


If you're not homophobic, why would you use "gay" as a pejorative?

I think it's actually homophonic. Turns out that in English, words can have more than one meaning. Or do you think someone who says, "I feel cheerful and gay" is homophobic? Or maybe homophillic?
posted by straight at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2010


McChrystal's side, which wanted to do a full on Iraq-style surge with rapidly escalating combat operations

IANAE, but that does not sound like COIN tactics.

Here's an interesting take on McChrystal's changing tactics from Gareth Porter on Counterpunch.

It sounds like the change in emphasis towards targeted raids is a result of the president's desire to "demonstrate progress."

I don't think the split in strategy or tactics is as black and white as you make it out to be.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:17 AM on June 22, 2010


Sorry, McCrystal. Didn't mean to be disrespectful or anything.

It's actually McChrystal. I can't spell it either.

posted by mrgrimm at 11:18 AM on June 22, 2010


I don't think the split in strategy or tactics is as black and white as you make it out to be.

There was a brouhaha already over this, before the initial deployment of 30,000 additional troops, because McChrystal was in the camp that wanted a much larger troop presence. That is in fact pretty black and white, and those same COIN practices you're now making out to be a good thing were decried by many during the Iraq war because a major part of COIN is black ops (secret operations designed to undermine support for an enemy, like blowing up a town square full of innocent people in a way that makes it look like your enemy did it).

If you were paying attention, you must remember this. The tension over the troop levels and the withdrawal plans were a big deal at the time, and it was crystal clear where McChrystal stood back then.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:23 AM on June 22, 2010


"Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon's most secretive black ops."
posted by saulgoodman at 11:26 AM on June 22, 2010


It's odd that the armed services are so overwhelmingly Republican at their highest levels when the military the biggest federal entitlement program we have.

I guess, if your definition of "entitlement program" involves having to march for miles, sleep in tents, and spend years away from your family getting shot at by strangers.
posted by Slap Factory at 11:26 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


it was crystal clear where McChrystal stood back then.

I see what you did there.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 11:27 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't think Obama doesn't know this -- Democratic presidents that fire popular generals in time of war usually turn out OK.

You know, except for that whole John Wilkes Booth thing.


Lincoln was a Republican.
posted by Slap Factory at 11:27 AM on June 22, 2010


Democratic presidents that fire popular generals in time of war usually turn out OK.

lincoln was a republican

I think it's actually homophonic. Turns out that in English, words can have more than one meaning. Or do you think someone who says, "I feel cheerful and gay" is homophobic? Or maybe homophillic?
posted by straight


Do I need to say it?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:28 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess, if your definition of "entitlement program" involves having to march for miles, sleep in tents, and spend years away from your family getting shot at by strangers.

Then don't fucking sign up for it. It's not like we have the draft. Nobody forces you to serve in this war machine. Plus, anybody who signed up in the last 8 years or so, signed up while our military was engaged in the most dubious of wars (and a blatant illegal war of aggression in the case of Iraq).

It is a giant entitlement program - especially for the military industrial complex. Enough. I'm all for cutting the defense budget by 90%. If we have fewer hammers, maybe we won't be galavanting all over the world looking for things to hit.
posted by VikingSword at 11:33 AM on June 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


Honestly, I don't think he should be fired for speaking out, the regulations against it are fundamentally anti-free speech. Judge him on his ability to command the mission, and if he has to be fired for that okay.

There is nothing anti-free-speech about military policy. It's meant to provide cohesion - nobody is required to join the military nor to rise to the rank of general. Also, generals are military commanders but also politicians who make statements which will be read and interpreted by the public. He serves under our Commander in Chief Obama. You don't talk smack about your superiors on the record (in the NYT, no less) and expect to have it blow over like nothing happened.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:36 AM on June 22, 2010


I guess, if your definition of "entitlement program" involves having to march for miles, sleep in tents, and spend years away from your family getting shot at by strangers.

It's a volunteer effort, and you get paid for it. Sorry it's tough. Isn't that what you signed up for?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:37 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty surprised to find myself in disagreement with zarq.

HOW DARE Y--- err.... I mean... uh... no worries. :D :D :D

Seriously, though: I changed my mind about the high value of political and military secrecy and unwavering loyalty during the last administration. Prior to Bush II, I would never have supported such behavior. But Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the wiretapping scandal and other offenses make me think that perhaps when oversight fails, the whistleblowers have value.

That said, despite what I said earlier, I'm remain unconvinced that McChrystal fits the description of a whistleblower, and yes, we can't dismiss the violation of military regulations completely. The hierarchy obviously can't afford to condone such a disrespectful breakdown in discipline.

But I wish more officers had broken ranks during the Bush years. Spoken out for what they believed was right, and against injustice, corruption and torture. And deep down I wonder if those criticizing McChrystal now would have similarly hailed him as a hero if he had trashed Bush in Rolling Stone way back when.
posted by zarq at 11:38 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


straight (ha, eponysterical):Or do you think someone who says, "I feel cheerful and gay" is homophobic?

But that's not a pejorative use of "gay."

I'm really surprised that people generally still don't get that the pejorative use of the word "gay" can be really hurtful. A gay friend of mine once explained it as this: Imagine people went around saying "Ew, that's so [your name]," whenever they came across something stupid or uncool or annoying. Being gay is just as (or more!) central to many people's identities as their names are. Every time someone uses a central part of your identity as a synonym for "gross," it feels like he or she is calling you "gross" as well.

fallacy of the beard: i'm not inclined to go out of my way to guilt-trip or alienate people who are otherwise on my side; one of the the cool parts about being gay, here and now, is shedding victimhood, not looking under rocks to find it.

Look, not to be all "straight person telling the gay person how he or she should feel," but I don't think it's fair to characterize objecting to the pejorative use of "gay" as looking for victimhood. Words are just words (sticks and stones, etc), but words also have a lot of power to normalize certain attitudes and behaviors. In my opinion, it's worth working toward a culture where a person in a position of power wouldn't be so comfortable saying "It's fucking gay" in front of a Rolling Stone reporter.
posted by sallybrown at 11:39 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Lincoln was a Republican.

And with that, I fall out of my chair laughing at myself. Can't believe I made that mistake. Yes, Lincoln was a Republican. Truman was a Democrat. For some reason, I was thinking that since Lincoln and Obama were (politically) both from Illinois ... oh well ...

I'll go shut up now.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:42 AM on June 22, 2010


I mean, calling someone a 'sucker' used to mean that you were calling them a cocksucker (similarly 'you suck!' or 'this sucks' or 'that movie sucks'), but I don't think many people would argue that this usage is homophobic today.

Is this origin correct? The term "sucker" means mark or rube, like someone who gets fooled by a con artist. It was frequently used in films at least back to the '40s, when swearing was rare on camera. I've never personally heard of that origin. Not saying it's not true, but I am not sure.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:44 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It ain't your great great grandfather's Republican Party anymore anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:44 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's actually homophonic. Turns out that in English, words can have more than one meaning.

Sure thing. I'll believe that. Oh wait, I just looked in several different online dictionaries, and with the exception of the Urban Dictionary, none of them have the supposed homophonic meaning you ascribe. And even the UD seems disparaging of the use of the word in the "that's so gay" context.

It seems pretty obvious to me that the "that's so gay" use of the word developed from societal loathing of homosexuals, bringing with it the baggage of "undesirable, unwanted, and rejected" to its more generic use currently in vogue. But claiming its a homophone when there is no definition of "gay" which carries that connotation in any dictionary at least shows that it's slang and recent and definitely not considered correct.
posted by hippybear at 11:45 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


> Is this origin correct? The term "sucker" means mark or rube, like someone who gets fooled by a con artist.

Yep, and it implies that that person is a baby or inexperienced. A nipple sucker, not a penis sucker.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:46 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


But I wish more officers had broken ranks during the Bush years. Spoken out for what they believed was right, and against injustice, corruption and torture. And deep down I wonder if those criticizing McChrystal now would have similarly hailed him as a hero if he had trashed Bush in Rolling Stone way back when.

There is a significant difference between disagreeing publicly with your Commander's strategy and saying derisive things about his cabinet, and speaking out against crimes against humanity which you are being directed to conduct or overlook.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:46 AM on June 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ack. Urban Dictionary page for "gay", should have been included above.
posted by hippybear at 11:46 AM on June 22, 2010


so are we to believe he directly called out obama on being "uncomfortable and intimidated" amongst military leadership, and obama didn't out himself on this embarrassing point, and so a reporter was the next best option? that's not whistleblowing; it's publicly undermining obama's leadership, and not even on a policy basis.

You're sort of arguing two different points with me, and it's a little confusing. I said that he was not misquoted and that he knew he was on the record when he was speaking with a reporter, and when he was asked to confirm his quotes he did so.

With regard to your points, in the month that the reporter was embedded with McChrystal and his staff, the general obviously spent a great deal of time trying to convince him that COIN was tactically viable, and at least some time pointing out both that the President was out of his depth with regard to military matters and understanding the situation as well as that the President did not seem to fully comprehend what's happening in Afghanistan. I think McChrystal knew exactly what he was doing, and yes, it publicly undermines the President. Whether you agree with me or not, my assertion is that the public should be allowed to know how our military leadership in Afghanistan assesses Washington's political leadership with regard to the war.
posted by zarq at 11:47 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


And deep down I wonder if those criticizing McChrystal now would have similarly hailed him as a hero if he had trashed Bush in Rolling Stone way back when.

I am fine with people ripping into any President we have, and all for free speech. Let the general have at it -- once he has a different job. But the general has to decide what he wants to be--- a general, or a media based critic.

I'd be expecting Bush, too, to fire any general who said about his administration what McChrystal said about Obama's. Being a public critic means not taking a salary that is predicated in part on public respectfulness toward the civilians to whom one reports.
posted by bearwife at 11:55 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


So either McChrystal's self-righteousness combines with stunning naivete, or this is calculated brinksmanship-- an attempt to support military counterinsurgency by way of political insurgency.

And now he either gets sacked, in the process becoming a The Warrior Who Wasn't Allowed to Finish the Battle while simultaneously forcing Obama to reverse his decision in hiring him, or McChrystal proves beyond doubt that he's untouchable-- and will have even more leverage to push for a longer stay in Afghanistan.

Victory in Kabul begins in the Beltway, it seems.

So, yeah... Michael Hastings' unearthing of McChrystal's early short story of presidential assassination was rather a nice touch.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:56 AM on June 22, 2010


I think it's actually homophonic. Turns out that in English, words can have more than one meaning. Or do you think someone who says, "I feel cheerful and gay" is homophobic? Or maybe homophillic?
posted by straight at 11:14 AM on June 22 [+] [!]


eponysterical


There was a brouhaha already over this, before the initial deployment of 30,000 additional troops, because McChrystal was in the camp that wanted a much larger troop presence. That is in fact pretty black and white...

McChrystal wanted 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan, right? Obama made a press conference to say how we would "narrow the mission" ... then agreed to 30,000 more troops. That's black and white?

I will agree that McChrystal certainly seems like he wants to make this a multi-decade occupation, but I think that some of the recent aggressive tactics are due to pressure from the administration to "demonstrate progress."

I also don't think the COIN practices are a good thing at all. I think the U.S. should have never gone into Afghanistan and should get the fuck out now.

It is a giant entitlement program - especially for the military industrial complex. Enough.

It's been more than "Enough" for well over 25 years. What's going to change it now?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:57 AM on June 22, 2010


There is a significant difference between disagreeing publicly with your Commander's strategy and saying derisive things about his cabinet, and speaking out against crimes against humanity which you are being directed to conduct or overlook.

I agree.

I'm simply not entirely sure that disagreement and derision are all that is happening here.
posted by zarq at 12:01 PM on June 22, 2010


I'd be expecting Bush, too, to fire any general who said about his administration what McChrystal said about Obama's. Being a public critic means not taking a salary that is predicated in part on public respectfulness toward the civilians to whom one reports.

That's fair and reasonable.
posted by zarq at 12:02 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


And now he either gets sacked, in the process becoming a The Warrior Who Wasn't Allowed to Finish the Battle

What kind of Avatar Channels does a Warrior Who Wasn't Allowed to Finish the Battle get?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:02 PM on June 22, 2010


Mark Ambinder at the Atlantic reminds us that McChrystal’s feud with Eikenberry goes back to the days when McChrystal was commander of JSOC, From an indepth article by Juan Cole.
posted by adamvasco at 12:03 PM on June 22, 2010


Yep, and it implies that that person is a baby or inexperienced. A nipple sucker, not a penis sucker.

I stand corrected on this (I guess I was under this impression because of a few books I've read that have an apostrophe on the front of 'sucker); I think I'm still correct about the usage for 'you suck.'
posted by shakespeherian at 12:09 PM on June 22, 2010


Apparently McChrystal isn't the only one who no longer respects the President's authority.

That's black and white?

Yes. It's black and white that McChrystal wanted that, and the administration didn't just roll over easily and give him exactly what they wanted. Remember, a significant portion of those troops came from new NATO troop commitments (part of the compromise).

What's black and white is that McChrystal was in the camp that fervently wanted even more troops and no clear withdrawal timetable--time and time again, he's quoted as saying things like "Americans need to prepare themselves for a long-term commitment in Afghanistan, etc. What's black and white is that the issue of troop level increases and withdrawal schedules was an area of serious contention with a lot of back and forth and political posturing from the pentagon and the administration--as reported frequently in the press at the time.

Remember the whole widely publicized scandal about the military brass leaking a report preemptively critical of any troop draw-downs or withdrawal schedules? How it was widely viewed at the time as a calculated political move meant to force the administration to commit more troops? Yeah, McChrystal was implicated then, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:13 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oops, that "apparently McChrystal isn't the only one who no longer respects the President's authority" non sequitur was supposed to be a link to this.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:15 PM on June 22, 2010


After reading Jon Krakauer's book Where Men Win Glory, I was shocked that McChrystal wasn't immediately removed from the Afghanistan operations. He not only was in on the Pat Tillman cover up, there's some very convincing evidence he was one of its chief architects.

Pat Tilman was a true hero, and McChrystal's CYA handling of the whole matter was just disgusting. Total Bush toady. Here's Krakauer talking about the whole matter. Really amazing stuff. Another on CNN.

BTW: Yeah, I'm sure McChrystal voted for Obama. I'm certain he had a 'Hope' poster in his HumVee.
posted by silkyd at 12:31 PM on June 22, 2010


Whether you agree with me or not, my assertion is that the public should be allowed to know how our military leadership in Afghanistan assesses Washington's political leadership with regard to the war.

i think that the way we are seeing it play out here is a strong indication of why we shouldn't particularly trust an assessment given in this manner, and it is likely a big reason it is more generally frowned upon. someone in this position is going to be conveniently selective about what he blows the whistle on; he is not trying to inform the public as much as he is trying to use it.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 12:37 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Newsweek: Why Military Code Demands McChrystal's Resignation.
posted by ericb at 12:37 PM on June 22, 2010


Zarq: See, the thing is that the man is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:37 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


clarknova: You do not EVER want the military leadership publicly contradicting its civilian leadership. Let them resign under protest, and let them then speak out all they want.

At the first difference of opinion, the generals might well overcome the politicians.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:40 PM on June 22, 2010


Volcano disruption leads to McChrystal scoop
"[Michael] Hastings said he basically stumbled onto unprecedented access with McChrystal.

After McChrystal's press advisors accepted a request for a profile in Rolling Stone, Hastings joined McChrystal and his team in Paris. It was supposed to be a two-day visit, followed up by more reporting time in Afghanistan.

The volcano in Iceland, however, changed the plans. As the ash disrupted air travel, Hastings ended up being 'stuck' with McChrystal and his team for 10 days in Paris and Berlin.

Due to the volcano, McChrystal had to travel from Paris to Berlin by bus. Hastings said McChrystal and his aides were drinking on the road trip "the whole way."

'They let loose,' he said. 'I don't blame them; they have a hard job.'

Hastings then traveled with McChrystal in Afghanistan for more reporting. In the end, what was originally supposed to be a two-day visit, turned into a month, in part thanks to the disruptions created by the volcano.

Hastings said McChrystal was very 'candid' with him and knew their conversations were for reporting purposes. 'Most of the time I had a tape recorder in his face or a notebook in my hand,' he said.

Hastings said most of the critical comments, which are now causing a stir, were said in the first 24 hours or so of his reporting.

'It wasn't a case of charming him into anything,' said Hastings.

He added that there hasn't been any push back or denials from McChrystal because has most of the quotes on tape.

Hastings has done a few trips to Afghanistan before, but is better known for his reporting in Iraq."
posted by ericb at 12:45 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can't believe you guys are arguing about "that's so gay" when the really appalling quote is "Fuck, when I came over here and heard that McChrystal was in charge, I thought we would get our fucking gun on."
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:48 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


As usual, some of the best discussion on this topic is over at Tom Ricks' blog.
posted by Rangeboy at 12:48 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ben Smith:
“The mother of the slain football player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman sought to warn President Obama against making General Stanley McChrystal his commander in Afghanistan.

Mary Tillman said in an unpublished interview this year that she wrote to Obama and called Senators and members of Congress seeking to block McChrystal's appointment when she learned that he was under consideration for the post.

She called the lack of deliberation leading to his appointment ‘disgusting’ in the interview, given before today's Rolling Stone article spurred intense tension between the general and the White House. An audio recording of the interview was provided to POLITICO by the interviewer, who asked to remain anonymous.

McChrystal has been accused of involvement in covering up of the fact that Tillman had been shot by his own comrades, having approved a citation for a posthumous medal that attributed his death to ‘enemy fire,’ though the general also penned a memo warning the White House against describing the circumstance of Tillman's death for fear of future embarrassment.

An official investigation blamed McChrystal for ‘inaccurate and misleading assertions’ in the formal recommendation of Tillman for a Silver Star.”
posted by ericb at 12:52 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The worst part about all of this is fucking Rolling Stone gets to pretend to be legitimate while planning next month's "Fergie's back, and she's serious" special cover issue.

Rolling Stone's site led with Lady Gaga's (admittedly impressive) machine gun jumblies all day...

The cover article in which this McChrystal article appears is about Lady Gaga with a photo of her in a "locked-and-loaded brassiere."

In related news: Cyndi Lauper Defends Lady Gaga’s Gun Breasts On ‘The Joy Behar Show’.
posted by ericb at 1:11 PM on June 22, 2010


Obama should replace McChrystal with Lady Gaga. That would totally confuse the Taliban.
posted by homunculus at 1:18 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Obama should replace McChrystal with Lady Gaga. That would totally confuse the Taliban.

I have a hunch that not too few MeFites would be thrilled at the idea, assuming they assign her to the front line.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:21 PM on June 22, 2010


The cover article in which this McChrystal article appears is about Lady Gaga with a photo of her in a "locked-and-loaded brassiere."

Holy crap the photo retouchers at RS must get paid by the layer.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:22 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


You both might read the article. McChrystal has imposed much stricter rules on airstrikes, artillery, reckless driving, patrolling. His strategy requires more soldiers, because it's based on greater close combat infantry action, contra Joe Biden's stated desire to rely on standoff attacks.

Oh, I'm sure it's all roses and lullabies now that Billy is at the helm. Such a sensitive man.

What we're told is "better" is still a travesty, and civilian noncombatants are dying every day from US fire in Afghanistan. We just don't hear about it because Lara Logan is pregnant (CBS news' recent excuse for why they've basically stopped covering Afghanistan, if you can believe it).

And yes, I know it's a quote from Apocalypse Now. My point is, Afghanistan looks enough like Vietnam to me to make it less than safely ironic to make such a reference.

It's not a winnable war. It never was. We're just throwing our own guys and plenty of Afghan civilians into a meatgrinder and hoping we get lucky.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:23 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Who could be in line to replace [McChrystal], if indeed the controversial Rolling Stone article proves to be his downfall."
posted by ericb at 1:36 PM on June 22, 2010


It will be interesting to see how this shapes up over the next month or so.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:42 PM on June 22, 2010


Good lord, people. Joe Lieberman remains the chair of Homeland Security. If you think McChrystal's losing his job then you're more naive about Obama than most bloggers I gave up on six months ago.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:47 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


CNN is reporting that, according to Joe Klein, he has resigned

http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2010/06/22/latest-mcchrystal-developments/
posted by TwoWordReview at 1:47 PM on June 22, 2010


Oops, link fail!

CNN is reporting that, according to Joe Klein, he has resigned.
posted by TwoWordReview at 1:48 PM on June 22, 2010


If you think McChrystal's losing his job then you're more naive about Obama than most bloggers I gave up on six months ago.

Wait for it ...

No joke. I'd resign if I were him too.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:00 PM on June 22, 2010


Can Obama afford to fire McChrystal? -- "Success of Afghan offensive trumps 'firing offense,' some analysts say."
posted by ericb at 2:00 PM on June 22, 2010


Thread was too long to read all, so I apologize if this had been covered before.
There is at best the merest similiarity between Truman/McArthur and this episode.
McArthur crossed over into (then called) Red China and risked an act of war, disobeying Presidential orders many times ignored orders requiring notification that he was to obtain authorization from Washington prior to taking any military action against objectives in Chinese territory.

McChrystal was complicit in the coverup of Pat Tillman's death....But. I presume he believed he could not speak for himself after the conspiracy had hit him from below and above. He would likely have got the Janis Karpinski treatment, which at the time was not old news.

On balance I'm glad he serves. Any taint of insubordination (aka free thinking in public) against the Executive is the President's prerogative to deal with as s/he sees fit, so it's in the President's court. I expect Obama will excoriate him in (leaked) private comments, and will 'ask' him to remain in the US for 6 months to 'create consensus' with the national security team and 'reach agreement' with the President's strategy, which means Holbrooke moves on. McChrystal has an ally in SOS Clinton. Biden, infamous for his prolixity, will still be Obama's point person on Afghanistan.
posted by nj_subgenius at 2:00 PM on June 22, 2010


CNN is reporting that, according to Joe Klein, he has resigned

If I were a four-star officer right now, I'd be taking my phone of the hook.

Of course, that's one of many reasons that explains why I'd never achieve a four-star rank.
posted by sallybrown at 2:02 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is at best the merest similiarity between Truman/McArthur and this episode.

McChrystal / MacArthur: Deja vu all over again?
posted by ericb at 2:03 PM on June 22, 2010


The difference between precipitating an act of war by contravening Presidential orders and calling the president unprepared, his subordinates calling Jim Jones a 'clown', handicapping Holbrooke's career trajectory and (again, a subordinate) referring to Vice President 'Bite Me' is enough for me to suppose that the Presidential prerogative will be abused badly if McChrystal is fired. If he resigns, it's likely because he wanted that and found his opportuinity.
posted by nj_subgenius at 2:10 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's true that this incident is fairly dissimilar to Truman's firing of MacArthur. But that doesn't mean that the best Truman quote isn't relevant:
I fired him because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President. I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail. (source)
posted by enn at 2:20 PM on June 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


For a while," says one U.S. official, "the most dangerous place to be in Afghanistan was in front of McChrystal after a 'civ cas' incident." The ISAF command has even discussed ways to make not killing into something you can win an award for: There's talk of creating a new medal for "courageous restraint," a buzzword that's unlikely to gain much traction in the gung-ho culture of the U.S. military.

I like that idea, for the military and the police. It takes more courage to handle a situation with restraint when you are able than it does to reach for the taser or gun.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:22 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you think McChrystal's losing his job then you're more naive about Obama than most bloggers I gave up on six months ago.

You are right. He is not losing his job. He fucking lost his job.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:26 PM on June 22, 2010


I really don't mind being wrong on this.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:41 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for the general, but growing up in the US "gay" was used as a catchall for "dumb, silly, pointlessly weird, etc".

We can now say, "That's so McChrystal" and "pulling a McChrystal" for dumb, silly, pointlessly weird crap people do that ends up in them either getting fired or showing what jerks they are.
posted by anniecat at 2:43 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really don't mind being wrong on this.

So, does that mean some of us aren't so naive just because we generally support Obama?
posted by No Robots at 2:43 PM on June 22, 2010


Hm. So far he's offered to resign. Has Obama accepted?
posted by lysdexic at 2:51 PM on June 22, 2010


So, does that mean some of us aren't so naive just because we generally support Obama?

Should it? I'm glad McChrystal is gone (though at this time is says he's "submitted his resignation," and that Obama hasn't accepted it.) But that doesn't make it not upsetting that apparently you can't "look forward" past saying nasty things about you in a once-relevant magazine but you can for, I don't know, war crimes your predecessor's administration committed. The last year and a half of Obama's actions are what made this a surprise. That doesn't change the last year and a half. But anyway, I don't really intend to derail this thread over a half-joke upthread so yeah, good job apparently firing that guy, Mr. President.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:51 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


CNN is reporting that, according to Joe Klein, he has resigned.

Well, other sources are reporting he has "offered to resign" or "submitted his resignation." He has to do that under bare minimum protocol here. The President doesn't have to accept it.

He should though, and then announce an accelerated withdrawal from theater. Fuck Karzai.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:51 PM on June 22, 2010


Great minds and all that, XQUZYPHYR.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:52 PM on June 22, 2010


"Clarification from Joe Klein: Gen. McChrystal as "offered to resign" he has NOT submitted his resignation."

-CNN Twitter
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:52 PM on June 22, 2010


Also, the emerging backstory is a lot of this was said as Billy and the Boys were drinking, hard, on a bus trip with the reporter present.

Nice.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:53 PM on June 22, 2010


A hard drinking general?
posted by lysdexic at 3:02 PM on June 22, 2010


"Clarification from Joe Klein: Gen. McChrystal as "offered to resign" he has NOT submitted his resignation."

Yep.

CNN:
"The Twitter post from Klein's magazine offered the 'clarification' that the general has 'offered to resign' he has NOT submitted his resignation."
posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on June 22, 2010


It's a volunteer effort, and you get paid for it. Sorry it's tough. Isn't that what you signed up for?
posted by krinklyfig at 2:37 PM on June 22 [1 favorite +] [!]


Regardless of whether it is voluntary, it's silly and axe-grindy to call a job (and a hard-working job, where you potentially put your life and limb in jeopardy, and be apart from your family for sustained periods of time), a "federal entitlement program."
posted by Slap Factory at 3:51 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


You are right. He is not losing his job. He fucking lost his job.

Well, not yet. But it's looking that way. CNN has clarified that he has merely offered his resignation, and that article you link says Obama won't rule out firing him, but no one is reporting that he's actually gone yet.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:00 PM on June 22, 2010


NOT MY GAY-ASS PRESIDENT, DOGG
posted by tehloki at 4:11 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


For those that would like to know more about COIN, I highly recommend Kilcullen's The Accidental Guerilla.
posted by Man Bites Dog at 4:22 PM on June 22, 2010


the emerging backstory is a lot of this was said as Billy and the Boys were drinking, hard, on a bus trip with the reporter present

Bud Lite Lime apparently. He should resign for the shame of that alone.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:29 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am thinking about another precedent. Gibbs says Obama is angry. Last time he was publicly angry a certain pastor of his got fired.
posted by bearwife at 4:31 PM on June 22, 2010


Having read the articles (and not all hundred plus comments), I've got to say it is kind of sickening to see a full general whine like this. This is what passes for a soldier now? Christ, he learned it all from Murdoch's minions. (and, yeah, it's his aide's who cried the most, but that is who he chose to surround himself with - little boys who think life is trolling the Drudge Report.)
posted by Some1 at 4:32 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting TPM article:
How Rolling Stone Won The News Cycle And Lost The Story

In a multi-platform, multimedia environment, it's difficult for a magazine to break the kind of news that will lead every cable broadcast, every newspaper and every website for hours on end. But that's what the Rolling Stone profile (written by Michael Hastings, who is currently in Afghanistan) of General Stanley McChrystal did this morning.

But if you wanted to read that profile, rather than rely on a couple of pull quotes or the punditocracy? Tough luck: Rolling Stone didn't even bother putting it online before they rolled it out. In fact, despite the fact that everyone else's website led the profile, Rolling Stone's site led with Lady Gaga's (admittedly impressive) machine gun jumblies all day and didn't even put the story online until 11:00 ET.
---
Should it? I'm glad McChrystal is gone (though at this time is says he's "submitted his resignation," and that Obama hasn't accepted it.) But that doesn't make it not upsetting that apparently you can't "look forward" past saying nasty things about you in a once-relevant magazine but you can for, I don't know, war crimes your predecessor's administration committed. -- XQUZYPHYR
I doubt Obama gives a crap about him talking smack about some of the civilian leaders (but not Obama specifically). But there seems to be a strange kind of "Washington consensus" around this. It makes sense that generals should not talk crap about their civilian leaders, but this is relatively minor. Almost everyone has talked crap about their bosses every once in a while.

So this seems like something Obama is doing not because he's personally offended but because it's "the thing to do" in D.C. Which is exactly the same reason he's "Looking forward" on war crimes, because that's what D.C. wants.
posted by delmoi at 4:37 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who's in Charge Here? What Rolling Stone's McChrystal profile reveals about our fractured command in Afghanistan.
posted by homunculus at 4:39 PM on June 22, 2010


Bud Light with lime. Wow.

I guess we can't actually chalk any of this up to actually being drunk.
posted by delmoi at 4:55 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Oh, I'm sure it's all roses and lullabies now that Billy is at the helm. Such a sensitive man."

Surely there's a lot of space between "roses and lullabies" and "beyond the pale of acceptable human conduct".
posted by Jahaza at 5:19 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Laurence Lewis has an aptly titled, and interesting, front pager at Daily Kos (I know, I know) right now with a zinger of a title: "The general isn't the problem, the war is."

His point is that at some point the hawks at DoD (and in the government) and their industrial cronies are going to have to accept that the wars we're in are not winnable and that the spigot is going to run dry, along with public support. *That's* the Vietnam analogy.

Endless war is not the same thing as economic productivity, and there is no such thing as a moral war, especially when there is no end or goal defined or in sight. The sooner the President can regain his once sure grasp of those core principles of his liberalism, the better. One hopes that the idea was simply to defer all of this to a second term in hopes we could beat an orderly retreat that didn't look like having our asses handed back to us in Saigon. Maybe that was or is still the idea, and that's what McChrystal was so incensed about, this middle way bullshit. On that, left and right can perhaps agree. Go in and break shit and kill people or get the fuck out. We've tried the former in a massive enough scale (and the Soviets on a far more massive scale before us) for long enough to know there's no fucking point. So what if the US looks weak? We already look stupid.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:01 PM on June 22, 2010


So this seems like something Obama is doing not because he's personally offended but because it's "the thing to do" in D.C.

It's the "thing to do" in the military. Whether or not Obama is personally offended is totally irrelevant. Obedience to superior officers is the building block of the military. (Whether or not that's harmful is a different discussion.) Maintaing a culture of obedience requires showing respect to superiors. Article II of the U.S. Constitution grants Obama, as President, the role of Commander in Chief: the highest ranking person in the entire organization. Even more important, his commandment of the armed forces maintains civilian control of the military in the United States.

McChrystal, an extremely prominent officer responsible for decisions impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, civilian and military, American and Afghan, went on the record with a national news organization and disrespected his highest possible superior officer. That's a Big Fucking Deal. I know with all the pageantry and general BS surrounding both the military and politics in the U.S. that it might seem like the same old fake outrage, but it's really not. McChrystal symbolically pissed all over the organization he helps lead.
posted by sallybrown at 6:03 PM on June 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


Olbermann just did one of his irritating Special Comments in which he raises an interesting possibility: that McChrystal could become a martyr figure for Obama's critics to rally around. Olbermann urged Obama to keep him.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:24 PM on June 22, 2010


sallybrown is correct; this cannot be allowed to stand, whether for expediency or 'the mission' or any other reason. There's a line between disagreeing and disrespect, and by publicly criticizing the President, the good General has crossed that line. I really loathe the term 'slippery slope,' but I feel it adequately describes the situation that would exist if a United States military commander were allowed to keep his position after such gross insubordination to the President.
posted by Mooski at 6:35 PM on June 22, 2010


NPR interview with Michael Hastings, writer of the controversial article. Mr. Hastings is surprised at the "hullabaloo" and even defends McChrystal's conduct.

Regardless of his personal feelings toward McChrystal, his staff or his behavior, though, he wrote and submitted the story, quoting the general warmly and accurately. That's the kind of journalism we need—telling truth to power and the meek equally well.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:11 PM on June 22, 2010


"Mr. Hastings is surprised at the "hullabaloo" and even defends McChrystal's conduct."

My eyes are rolling so hard they just popped out of my skull.

I'm just going to link to James Fallows on this

It's about civilian control of the military, respect for the chain of command, and the concepts of disrespect and insubordination. Every officer and enlisted person in every military branch is well schooled in what those concepts mean.

If the facts are as they appear -- McChrystal and his associates freely mocking their commander in chief and his possible successor (ie, Biden) and the relevant State Department officials (Holbrooke and Eikenberry) -- with no contention that the quotes were invented or misconstrued, then Obama owes it to past and future presidents to draw the line and say: this is not tolerable. You must go. McChrystal's team was inexplicably reckless in talking before a reporter this way, but that's a separate question. The fact is -- or appears to be -- that they did it

posted by longdaysjourney at 7:25 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's probably a good thing anyway. Now we'll have to start planning to get out of Afghanistan a lot sooner. McChrystal just fucked up whatever slim chance we once might have had of getting out without leaving a total clusterfuck behind us.

That eighteen month deadline was about up anyway, wasn't it? At the time, everybody accused Obama of just posturing, but he hasn't wavered. I think that's what's really bringing this to a head now.
Obama, however, spurred by Joe Biden, fought back, virtually accusing Gates and Mullen of insubordination, and countering with White House leaks that cast doubt on the wisdom of an open-ended commitment. Finally, a deal was struck, which gave the military the extra troops it wanted, but created the summer 2011 deadline for withdrawals to begin. Almost immediately, Clinton, Gates and Petraeus began publicly downplaying the deadline, which confirmed the suspicions of pundits that it was mostly for show. But Alter claims that behind closed doors, Obama told the military brass again and again that after eighteen months their time was up. “If you can’t do the things you say you can in eighteen months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?”
So rather than face his failures in Afghanistan honorably, McChrystal flamed out and deactivated his metaphorical MeFi account. Good riddance.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:16 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obama should replace McChrystal with Lady Gaga. That would totally confuse the Taliban.

The Taliban hate us for our thongs and machine-gun bras.
posted by lukemeister at 8:28 PM on June 22, 2010


In related news: Cyndi Lauper Defends Lady Gaga’s Gun Breasts On ‘The Joy Behar Show’.

It's about time someone stood up for the gun breasts.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:33 PM on June 22, 2010


lukemeister: "The Taliban hate us for our thongs and machine-gun bras."

You know who else feared Lady Gaga?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:34 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, for people who are supposedly incredibly smart and loyal, they sure threw their boss under a bus.

Last I checked, their boss seemed to have a real problem with civilian casualties...
posted by effugas at 8:50 PM on June 22, 2010


Why Obama Should Not Fire McChrystal
posted by lullaby at 10:25 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't see how Obama could keep McChrystal and look the rest of his national-security team, most of whom got slagged pretty hard by the general's minions or the general himself, in the eye. It would be hugely damaging to their confidence that the president has their backs, it seems to me.
posted by Dasein at 10:27 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Go ahead Obama, are you feeling lucky?
posted by wallstreet1929 at 5:34 AM on June 23, 2010


CNN is reporting that McChrystal will resign today.
posted by Trochanter at 6:23 AM on June 23, 2010


He didn't stick around for the war planning meeting, which means he was told to take the day off and shrug off that jet lag, all is well - or Jon Favreau has been seconded to him to write a speech that does not say anything at all about old soldiers fading away.
posted by nj_subgenius at 7:55 AM on June 23, 2010


saulgoodman: "So rather than face his failures in Afghanistan honorably, McChrystal flamed out and deactivated his metaphorical MeFi account. Good riddance."

I think he should stay for that reason, myself. "This is your mess, you WILL clean it up."

I don't like the metaphorical pissing contest going on with talking heads saying, "oh, if $what_I_want doesn't happen, Obama's in trouble." The only thing that will confirm that is history, and that's a ways off.

There's more heat than light being presented in this whole mess. You don't have to like the people you work for to do a good job. You don't have to like the people who are doing a good job for you.

Guess we'll find out in a few minutes.
posted by lysdexic at 8:48 AM on June 23, 2010


We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 23, 2010
posted by homunculus at 8:50 AM on June 23, 2010


There's more heat than light being presented in this whole mess. You don't have to like the people you work for to do a good job. You don't have to like the people who are doing a good job for you.

I understand that point of view, but this isn't the first time McChrystal's been insubordinate, nor the first time he's shown bad judgment, if this accounting of events behind the scenes is accurate. I'm repeating some of the relevant passages from the link again, but with additional context, because this nicely summarizes the version of events that I find most credible, and it explains a lot:
Ever since last December, when Obama told a crowd at West Point that he was both sending reinforcements to Afghanistan and planning to begin withdrawing them eighteen months later, most commentators have assumed that the surge is real but the timetable is fake. The more money the military spends and the more blood it spills, goes the logic, the more invested it will become in the fight. And since barely anyone believes that America and its allies will have crippled the Taliban by next summer, Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal will presumably block any substantial withdrawal. After all, as David Halberstam details in The Best and the Brightest, civilians tend to delude themselves that military deployments are like faucets they can turn off at will when, in fact, the more troops they send, the more authority they cede to the men with stripes on their shoulders. Stopping a war that the military does not want stopped requires a massive civil-military showdown, the kind that Harry Truman triggered when he fired Douglas MacArthur in 1951 because the general would not stop trying to reunify the Korean Peninsula. Few in the punditocracy believe Barack Obama would do any such thing.
....

The way Alter tells the story, last summer, General Petraeus, General McChrystal and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen leaked to the press that they wanted lots more troops for an indefinite period, thus backing Obama into a corner. Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates basically supported the brass. Obama, however, spurred by Joe Biden, fought back, virtually accusing Gates and Mullen of insubordination, and countering with White House leaks that cast doubt on the wisdom of an open-ended commitment. Finally, a deal was struck, which gave the military the extra troops it wanted, but created the summer 2011 deadline for withdrawals to begin. Almost immediately, Clinton, Gates and Petraeus began publicly downplaying the deadline, which confirmed the suspicions of pundits that it was mostly for show. But Alter claims that behind closed doors, Obama told the military brass again and again that after eighteen months their time was up. “If you can’t do the things you say you can in eighteen months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?” he asked Petraeus, Mullen and Gates. The U.S. must “not occupy what you cannot transfer” to the Afghans by 2011, he told McChrystal again and again.
If indeed, the current escalation was directly a result of aggressive lobbying and political maneuvering on the part of McChrystal, Gates and Mullen, and their strategy has failed, then the failed strategy itself--with all of McChrystal's assurances of easy victory--demonstrates a profound lack of sound judgment.

Now I think what McChrystal wants to do is force Obama's hand, then make it easier for those already inclined to blame Obama for a failed mission in Afghanistan to blame him ("He took out the world's greatest commander!" etc.) but that's a cynical shuck and jive. McChrystal architected the approach that hasn't delivered on its stated goals. He should have been fired on that basis, but by preempting the administration, he's trying to deflect responsibility and turn sentiment against his commander in chief. That's simply not acceptable behavior. He's playing politics with his command. And the mere fact that the corrupt and incompetent Karzai administration has been issuing statements of support for McChrystal only makes McChrystal look that much worse in my book.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:15 AM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Back to the article - which puzzles me more as I think about it.

Take "the aide". The moment I read that "Biden/bite me" line, I knew he was going down - and then I go back to the thread and see he's already gone.

But what person with the intelligence of a carrot could read that article and not think that? And yet McC apparently vetted the quotes - which means he must have expected to throw the aide to the wolves. The more I think about it, the more I believe that the only possible reason to do this is as a way to get out from under the upcoming collapse.

As an aside, the fact that McC was heavily implicated in the Tillman coverup yet Mr. Obama hired him anyway is yet another of the cases where Mr. Obama has been utterly tone-deaf to the sensibilities of his core constituency.

The Tillman case was a big deal to a lot of "liberals" because here's a man's man, a jock's jock, someone who throws away a career in professional sports to join the military out of patriotism, and not only is he killed by friendly fire or conceivably even fragged(*), but we discover that he was repeatedly reviled within the Army both before and after his death simply because of his atheism. Like the

So I know I'm not the only one who gets to that point in the Rolling Stone story and says, "Jesus, Mr. President, what did you expect?"

It's as if Mr. Obama is compelled over and over again to repudiate us. "I don't like those liberals, I don't believe in one thing they stand for, I do not share their concerns in the slightest."

(* - the evidence points away from that but has also been deeply screwed with as part of the admitted cover-up.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:36 AM on June 23, 2010


If indeed, the current escalation was directly a result of aggressive lobbying and political maneuvering on the part of McChrystal, Gates and Mullen, and their strategy has failed, then the failed strategy itself--with all of McChrystal's assurances of easy victory--demonstrates a profound lack of sound judgment.

Did McChrystal assure an easy victory? I did not see that in any of the articles, and it sounds inconsistent with everything I have heard.
posted by Slap Factory at 9:49 AM on June 23, 2010


Well, I think you might understand the situation a little differently if you were sitting in a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and if your own Secretary of State (and extremely popular political rival) consistently sided with the Gates/Mullen/McChrystal contingent in the upper ranks of the military.

And you basically seem to be saying Obama should have factored political calculations more heavily into his decision-making--that he wasn't being political enough when, six months or so in office, he appointed the guy who enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Joint Chiefs and pretty much the entire Pentagon establishment to lead the effort in Afghanistan.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:51 AM on June 23, 2010


And yet McC apparently vetted the quotes - which means he must have expected to throw the aide to the wolves. The more I think about it, the more I believe that the only possible reason to do this is as a way to get out from under the upcoming collapse.

Pat Lang and the SWJ guys have put forth the most plausible theory, imo, that McChrystal & Co. were attempting to extend the one-year time limit the President put on the Afghanistan surge that McChrystal got the Admin. to adopt last year

What McChrystal has done is to challenge President Obama. Everyone in the armed forces knows that. The notion has emerged in the COIN community that Obama is weak and can be bullied into removing the time restriction that he has placed on the Afghanistan COIN campaign plan that he adopted at their urging last year. Macarthur implicitly threatened both Roosevelt and Truman with the possibility that he would mobilize Republican politicos against them. The COIN crowd think that the same method can be used against this president. They have been willing to bet that he is no Truman and that Gates and Clinton do not have Marshall's strength. The effrontery of the deed in feeding this reporter all this material without placing it off the record is clearly a challenge to civilian control of policy.

Robert Haddick at the Small Wars Journal

Finally, how did this fiasco with Rolling Stone magazine happen? Field commanders and their staff officers talk to the media in order to get their stories out. In the case of McChrystal and the Afghanistan campaign, the need to do so has lately been even more urgent than usual. McChrystal and his staff were seeking to “add time to the Washington clock.” They hoped to get their message out to media audience segments that would soon be putting the most pressure on the Obama administration to terminate the campaign. The theory was that delivering their message – through a channel like Rolling Stone – would short-circuit, at least for a time, growing political pressure against the war. Unfortunately for McChrystal and certain members of his staff, the inflammatory bits of the article apparently show a commander and staff frustrated and exhausted by an intractable task – the very opposite of the message they intended to send.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:57 AM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Slap Factory: Well, I was mainly keying off McChrystal's claims about Marja being effectively a "government in a box" (though he more recently characterized Marja as "a bleeding ulcer").

McChrystal apparently maintained early on that if our forces could just take and hold Marja, establishing a stable situation in Afghanistan would be a cake walk from there. From the cited link:
The truth or falseness of the dicta is not the matter in question; though if the government in a box could turn so quickly into a bleeding ulcer, there must have been a fault (among other places) somewhere in McChrystal's thinking. Nobody asked him to explain or try to understand Afghanistan with these picturesque and mutually canceling metaphors.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:57 AM on June 23, 2010


Sorry that should have been "one-year-and-a-half time limit".
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:58 AM on June 23, 2010


McChrystal Aides Shocked, ‘Heartbroken’ After Mag Profile
posted by homunculus at 9:59 AM on June 23, 2010


MSNBC: Sources tell NBC that President Obama has relieved Gen. McChrystal of command.

We'll know for sure in about 10 minutes when President Obama makes an address at 1:30 p.m.
posted by ericb at 10:22 AM on June 23, 2010


And, he's out. General David Petraeus is to take over his command.
posted by ericb at 10:29 AM on June 23, 2010


Au revoir.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:33 AM on June 23, 2010


Does this mean that Petraeus will be giving up his CentCom command? I imagine that he'll eventually be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as a reward for all this, in any event.

Also, what happens to McChrystal? Is this the end of his military career, or does he get a less prominent command?
posted by Dasein at 10:34 AM on June 23, 2010


If you think McChrystal's losing his job then you're more naive about Obama than most bloggers I gave up on six months ago.

Really?
posted by ericb at 10:34 AM on June 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Seven Days in May, anyone?
posted by No Robots at 10:42 AM on June 23, 2010


Slap Factory: Well, I was mainly keying off McChrystal's claims about Marja being effectively a "government in a box" (though he more recently characterized Marja as "a bleeding ulcer").

My understanding is that "government in a box" is a normative statement, not a descriptive one. The goal of the strategy was to bolster/develop the institutions needed for stability in a turnkey fashion, which is different from saying that as a result of the strategy, a stable government would materialize as if presented in a gift-wrapped box. McChrystal seems to have been very consistent in recognizing how difficult the war and occupation would be.

But I recognize that the author of the linked Huffington Post essay is a professor of literature at Yale, so maybe he has more talent or experience at interpreting turns of phrase than I do.
posted by Slap Factory at 10:47 AM on June 23, 2010


So He's officially gone. I had Huffpo open in another thread And it actually auto-refreshed and started playing a video of his announcement. There's a live stream here, apparently.

I have no idea how to link to the actual anouncement video HP has on it's front page though, kind of annoying.
posted by delmoi at 10:52 AM on June 23, 2010


I guess McChrystal will have to take a job as a defense contractor lobbyist making millions. What a tragedy for him.
posted by delmoi at 10:53 AM on June 23, 2010


Really?

PageUp is the button next to the Smug key.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:04 AM on June 23, 2010


WHO WOULD FIRE THIS GUY:
"He runs 7 to 8 miles a day, eats one meal, and sleeps for four hours a night."
-Wikipedia

But seriously this is stupid.
posted by azarbayejani at 11:13 AM on June 23, 2010


PageUp is the button next to the Smug key.

I love ya, XQUZYPHYR, but you set yourself up for the de-smugging here. Walk it off, incorporate this data point into your take on this Administration, and move on.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:13 AM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


PageUp is the button next to the Smug key.

It is. Indeed, yes it is!
posted by ericb at 11:13 AM on June 23, 2010


I love ya, XQUZYPHYR, but you set yourself up for the de-smugging here.

PageUp is how you get to this already being addressed 24 hours ago, before his resignation became ambiguous and someone waited 24 hours to make an identical comment when it was confirmed. If you actually care about "my take on this administration" my u/n is very easy to Ctrl-F and read a few dozen comments back.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:18 AM on June 23, 2010


PageUp is the button next to the Smug key.

Hey, nobody forced you to make a prediction and insult people who disagreed. Now you want sympathy? Ha!
posted by krinklyfig at 11:22 AM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


krinklyfig, you can't imagine how hard it is typing this with one hand while flagellating myself with the other. I'm going back on my promise from 5:51 yesterday and plan to stop doing so. You enjoy your day.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:26 AM on June 23, 2010


Really, at the end of the day, it's all about us, ain't it?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:34 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does this mean that Petraeus will be giving up his CentCom command?

Yep. Worst demotion ever.
posted by lullaby at 11:34 AM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


krinklyfig, you can't imagine how hard it is typing this with one hand while flagellating myself with the other. I'm going back on my promise from 5:51 yesterday and plan to stop doing so. You enjoy your day.

LAWL, you're the one who said this would never happen, like < 24 hours before it happened.
posted by delmoi at 11:36 AM on June 23, 2010


Video of the President's statement this afternoon.
posted by ericb at 11:39 AM on June 23, 2010


XQUZYPHYR, if you hadn't called anyone who disagreed with you staggeringly naive, then no one would be calling you out for being wrong. Or if they did, they would be the ones coming off as dicks.
posted by Dasein at 11:41 AM on June 23, 2010


Rich Lowry | National Review
"I'm not sure how Obama could have handled this any better. He was genuinely graceful about McChrystal and his explanation of why he had to go made perfect sense. He called for unity within his adminstration in pursuing the war and sounded quite stalwart about both the war and about the strategy. More importantly, his choice of Petraeus as a replacement for McChrystal is a brilliant move: He gets a heavy-weight, an unassailable expert in this kind of warfare, and someone who presumably can step in pretty seamlessly. He also picked someone who has expressed (very diplomatic) misgivings about the July 2011 deadline and who will have the clout and credibility to tell the president that he can't afford to go down in troops when July comes, should circumstances warrant. (It should also be noted that this is a step down for Petraeus and he can't relish directly managing another war — that he will do so speaks to his selfless patriotism.) In short, Obama has made the most of a rotten situation."
posted by ericb at 11:41 AM on June 23, 2010


Hey, nobody forced you to make a prediction and insult people who disagreed. Now you want sympathy? Ha!

That's hilarious. :)
posted by zarq at 11:41 AM on June 23, 2010


It's hilarious that an article in a music magazine that has Lady Gaga on the cover prompted this.

That a such a high ranking military officer was brought down by this says something, but damn if I know what at the moment.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:41 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Michael Hastings can now extend this article into a book. What'll be the title? 'How I Brought Down a Four Star General?'
posted by ericb at 11:44 AM on June 23, 2010


It's also incredibly weird that they had a reporter hanging around for all of this. Talk about self delusional, it sounds like they were so sure of their cause, they just didn't believe anything bad could come of their comments.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:45 AM on June 23, 2010


Talk about self delusional, it sounds like they were so sure of their cause, they just didn't believe anything bad could come of their comments.

Bud Light Lime is a harsh mistress.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:52 AM on June 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


I admire and feel keenly disappointed for David Petraeus. CENTCOM was his reward for the Iraq surge, but the conflict takes him down the chain to a combat theater as the new face of the armed conflict in Afghanistan. It will be a damn shame if he's wrung out by a second system effect, and seems wise enough not to let that happen or let others do it to him.
posted by nj_subgenius at 12:16 PM on June 23, 2010


Investigators probing US money flow to insurgents
posted by homunculus at 12:42 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


General McChrystal and the militarisation of US politics: America has settled into being a nation perpetually at war. In this climate it's no surprise generals sometimes get out of control
posted by homunculus at 12:46 PM on June 23, 2010


Video of the President's statement this afternoon.

Petreus and Gates are tiny, tiny men.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:14 PM on June 23, 2010


And deep down I wonder if those criticizing McChrystal now would have similarly hailed him as a hero if he had trashed Bush in Rolling Stone way back when.

It's not entirely hypothetical: Previously on Mefi.
posted by Slap Factory at 1:32 PM on June 23, 2010


And deep down I wonder if those criticizing McChrystal now would have similarly hailed him as a hero if he had trashed Bush in Rolling Stone way back when.

Can't speak for "them what's criticizing McChrystal" but I can answer emphatically and unequivocally, no, I wouldn't have. Our military leadership must remain subordinate to our civilian leadership at all costs. That's the central-most feature of our Democracy--one of the most crucial conditions necessary to the preservation of the republic. I repeatedly criticized Bush at the time, in fact, for deferring too often and too enthusiastically to his generals when it came to defense policymaking.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:41 PM on June 23, 2010


I would have hailed any general that had spoken out against Bush. However, I would hardly have expected him to be allowed to remain at his post. I believe that democracy requires of all citizens that they remain loyal to their conscience, whatever the cost.
posted by No Robots at 1:46 PM on June 23, 2010


> I would have hailed any general that had spoken out against Bush.

What these jokers were doing could hardly be called "speaking out". They were just making dopey snipes after knocking back a few drinks.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:48 PM on June 23, 2010


Precisely, Burhanistan. All the less reason to expect them to be allowed to remain at their posts.
posted by No Robots at 1:49 PM on June 23, 2010


Also, you can not have generals speaking out against the CinC. What kind of message does that send to the lower ranks actually doing the fighting? It's toxic. Sorry, but their 1st amendment rights kind of have to get stepped on.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:50 PM on June 23, 2010


Remind me again please Why are "we" in Afghanistan?

Jonathan Alter reconstructs the administration's deliberations about Afghanistan in autumn 2009. Vice President Joe Biden, walking with the president to the decisive meeting with Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was assured by Obama that the policy of beginning a significant withdrawal in 2011 was a direct presidential order. Alter reports that Obama, whose mantra for the military was "Do not occupy what you cannot transfer," said to Petraeus, "I want you to be honest with me. You can do this in 18 months?"

Petraeus: "Sir, I'm confident we can train and hand over to the ANA (Afghan National Army) in that time frame."

Obama: "If you can't do the things you say you can in 18 months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?"

Petraeus: "Yes, sir, in agreement."

Mullen: "Yes, sir."
posted by adamvasco at 1:50 PM on June 23, 2010


And you're glossing over an important distinction between your example under Bush and this case: In that previous case, the general was publicly expressing honest disagreement with the president's policies. He wasn't ridiculing the civilians leadership, orchestrating leaks to the press and violating the code of Military Justice. He disagreed on principle, and owned up to it.

But there wasn't the slightest indication he wouldn't respect the chain of command or carry out his duties honorably. He didn't publicly ridicule his superiors and resort to underhanded political tactics to try to force President Bush to accept his policy priorities. That's the difference.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:51 PM on June 23, 2010


Sorry. That last comment was still in response to this.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:52 PM on June 23, 2010


The effrontery of the deed in feeding this reporter all this material without placing it off the record is clearly a challenge to civilian control of policy.

This is the crux of why he was, and should have been, fired. I respect Obama’s politicking. Perhaps my methods are not the right ones. But I would have had McChrystal’s balls in an ashtray on my desk and that would have been considered kind. In Rome, in the republic, his outfit would have been decimated.
There is no sin greater than questioning the civilian leadership of the military as a military officer. Other than perhaps being a traitor, which I consider in the same ballpark.

Insulting the president and vep – meh. Bad form. Maybe a slap on the wrist. Shouldn’t be done in public. But troops are going to gripe and complain. Patton had more than a few “WTF?” moments. MacArthur on the other hand was a pretty good egg, a lot of people liked him – up until he resisted the policies of civilian leadership.

(Truman’s quote is fairly appropriate here in this case as well: "I fired him because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President. I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”)

Bitching about policy decisions, ok. In public, not so ok. But trying to wrest policy decisions from the civilian government the way he did? Yeah, you’re going to get a mudhole stomped in your ass and rightfully so. McChrystal’s actions were despicable. He was insubordinate and was attempting to subvert civilian control, even if he didn't mean to - he's a commanding general in an ongoing theater of war with a stupefying amount of power and extremely high visibility.

I agree with Hasting’s sentiments: "McChrystal puts his life on the line. He is willing to put his life on the line in a way that civilians don't really understand, or can't appreciate."

But you don’t just sacrifice your life, you sacrifice you’re autonomy. Thoreau said men serve the state not as men but as machines and there is no free exercise of judgment – this is exactly so. And must be. This is not only the sacrifice those men make, but also the most necessary step society must take. Would you arm a mass of men and then leave them to their own devices? Leave them to set policy?

McChrystal might be the best general officer since Scipio Africanus or he could be another Burnside, but he’s an American, not a Roman.
As much as I empathize for having to follow decisions or policies or even complete reversal of policies one might not agree with, if you can’t deal with civilian oversight you don’t belong in the military, not as an officer much less a general.

He feels so strongly, let him retire. Then he can yap all he wants. Happened a lot under Bush. Top ranking guys were falling out all over. I’d have the same criticism and expect the same response though if one of them challenged civilian leadership then though.

All that aside – what kind of a silly bastard is he? Either he expected a complete failure of leadership or he knew he was making the worst possible political decision of his career.
If it were the latter, then he doesn’t have the skill in judgment to be a general. Hell, I don’t, but I’m not a political animal. Not everyone who knows how to kick ass should be kicked up the chain. Some people are hell on wheels in the field. Some are brilliant in the back. Very very rarely do the two meet (as with Scipio).

If it were the former, then what the hell kind of American is he that he wants the administration to fail and be subject to military officers decisions on policy? Where the hell does he think that's going to get us? If we pull off some magnificent win in Afghanistan - what, we're going to run our system that way now? That worked out just so well for Rome, and every other representative form of government subject to military coup.

Even if Obama were completely limp-dick and intimidated – he still had to make the decision he made. Whatever one thinks of the man, he’s in the Oval office which means you’re not fighting him, you’re fighting the entire resources and apparatus of the executive branch, not just the man himself.

McChrystal either forgot that or he didn’t know it. He was either sending a message or he and his staff broke discipline in front of a reporter at a key moment in the operation in Afghanistan.
Maybe he’s too close to the situation. Maybe he is looking at his post-retirement job. Maybe he’s genuinely polarized in his ideology. Whatever his motives he’s not the guy I want calling the shots as a general or as an American.

Maybe he doesn’t even know what it is he did. Maybe he thinks he was just pissing on Obama. He wasn’t. The office of President is not inherent in the man. The man – whoever he is – is a temp. The office is an investiture of the people of the Untied States. So McChrystal pissed on US.
That’s what’s unforgivable. It’s even worse if he doesn’t know that. It's almost unthinkable that he does, and doesn't care. More likely he's succumbed to the sort of doctrinaire thinking that is a hazard of certain kinds military service that can become an echo chamber if you allow it. Double edged sword for some hard charging types. You lose your sensitivity to alternatives in favor of decisiveness.
Which, really, is an excellent practical reason for civilian leadership from the military perspective.

There's a pretty good scene in "Thirteen Days" the Admiral orders a ship to fire over the Soviet ships and the SecDef gets angry. The Admiral sees it as a tactical situation and asserts that the Navy knows how to deal with blockades. And McNamara says it's not a blockade, it's language, it's a vocabulary, it's Kennedy communicating with Khrushchev.

Similarly - an important element of COIN is communication. Either the general has lost the sensitivity for it, or he thinks he can attempt to assert his will on the American people.
But that line of reasoning aside - it's just as bad a tactical move as Sonny Corleone asking Sollozzo if they guarantee the Corleone family's investment.
Never let someone outside the family know what you're thinking.

If he knew fully what he was doing, and this is pretty extreme condemnation, McChrystal doesn't consider us family. To remove the metaphor there - he's serving something other than the people of the United States. Even with the best intentions, that's not acceptable.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:22 PM on June 23, 2010 [19 favorites]


Thoreau had no high regard for those who serve the state as machines:
Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs.
A citizen first and a soldier second, that is what best serves the interests of the state.
posted by No Robots at 3:35 PM on June 23, 2010


Petraeus and the Myth of the Surge
posted by homunculus at 3:36 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do enjoy how Petraeus gets an endless supply of blowjobs for realizing 30 years after the fact that "hearts and minds" was more than some hippie catchphrase. But apparently he's the only person in the upper-echelon military to do so, so ... kudos?
posted by kafziel at 3:39 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


And you're glossing over an important distinction between your example under Bush and this case: In that previous case, the general was publicly expressing honest disagreement with the president's policies. He wasn't ridiculing the civilians leadership, orchestrating leaks to the press and violating the code of Military Justice. He disagreed on principle, and owned up to it.

No argument there. I didn't say the example was on all-fours with what's happening now; I just said that it wasn't an entirely hypothetical question. Personally, I think that the both Fallon and McChrystal made the correct decision in offering their resignations.
posted by Slap Factory at 4:00 PM on June 23, 2010


10 Things to Know About the Petraeus-McChrystal Switch
posted by homunculus at 6:08 PM on June 23, 2010


Does Petraeus Mean a Return of Afghanistan Air War?
posted by homunculus at 7:27 PM on June 23, 2010


I didn't say the example was on all-fours with what's happening now; I just said that it wasn't an entirely hypothetical question.

That's fair enough, Slap Factory. And truth be told, you're probably right.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:58 PM on June 23, 2010


Having spent an inordinate amount of time listening to Roman history podcasts, I'm a bit concerned about Petraeus's growing power and influence. Hopefully he turns out to be more a Washington than a Napoleon.
posted by empath at 9:11 PM on June 23, 2010


Does Petraeus Mean a Return of Afghanistan Air War?

This is a topic that I have tangentially been looking for an opportunity to rant about for some time, and perhaps another chance will present itself, but for the moment: air power is not the problem; the specific type of aircraft used are. The Air Force has always disdained the role of close air support, and as a result has resisted purchasing the sort of aircraft that could be extremely effective in close-support roles without inflicting civilian casualties. Instead, fast-attack aircraft designed for carrying nuclear weapons and penetrating sophisticated air defences are pushed into a role for which they are not suited. Without an ability to circle slowly, observe the situation, and languish in the area, they fly in and drop their bombs, giving air support a bad name it need not deserve.

Everyone should read the fantastic chapter "Reversing the Decay of American Air Power" in America's Defense Meltdown, published by the Centre for Defense Information. It lays out how an obsession with the idea of strategic bombardment leading to enemy collapse has shaped Air Force acquisition policy, leading it to resist dedicated air-superiority and close-support aircraft, despite the lower cost and higher effectiveness of the latter.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in close-air support. Why the hell aren't the skies of Afghanistan buzzing constantly with the sound of A-10 Warthogs? I guarantee that if they replaced the fighters that currently deliver most of the ordnance, you wouldn't have huge civilian casualty numbers, because the pilots, secure in a very tough aircraft, could spend time loitering and picking off targets as necessary.

Let me quote just a small part of the chapter, following a long and fascinating analysis of how procurement decisions affected the course of the second world war and other conflicts. The following is itself an abbreviated version of a story published by the Army News Service:

A four man American special ops team leading a force of 26 Afghan National Army (ANA) troops was ambushed several times by 800 enemy Taliban fighters. The 7 vehicle convoy led by Staff Sgt. Jamie Osmon was ambushed for the first time at a valley edge. Fortunately, the convoy was able to extricate itself from this ambush. Sgt. Osmon “... knew they were going to hit us again, it was just a matter of where.” Just 3 kilometers later it happened. They were
in deep trouble. At that point they noticed the ANA troops were missing.

“We headed back south to the other ambush point.” The first close support aircraft, a B-1B bomber, flew overhead. “It didn’t seem to have much effect,” Osmon said. [No matter how badly the B-1B pilot wished to help, a single B-1B bomber at high altitude flying close support is still an oxymoron.]

The special ops team got back to the original ambush site and discovered that the other team was still pinned down. Osmon asked about A-10 close air support.

On the Baghram flight line, Tonto and Lobo [call signs of the two A-10s] had just taken off and refueled en route. Once the A-10s were close to the ambush site, Tonto explained, “We were told they didn’t have radio capability ... We flew over the canyon to put eyes on the situation.” Private Schloss, “We could hear the A-10s come in... It was like it was Christmas – the happiest moment of my life.”

Captain Tonto pointed out that, “It took us a little time to determine exactly where the friendly forces were, as well as where they were taking fire from. ... Once we identified the enemies, we marked their positions and opened up with 720 rounds of 30-mm high-explosive incendiary ammunition.”

Sgt. Osmon, “When the Vulcans [the A-10’s 30-mm cannons] opened up, the enemy fire ceased. It was great.” [Note that up to this point the A-10s did not have radio contact. The entire encounter was accomplished by eyeball.] The Army team finally made radio contact with the pilots.

“The A-10s came around for a second gun pass,” Tonto said, prompting Ser-geant Osmon to quip: “Grip-21, this is Maverick. This may be a bit quick, but I think I love you.”

The convoy discovered the whereabouts of the missing ANA members. “One of the ANA members came up to the group in a lull in the fighting – he told us they had been captured by the enemy forces...The enemy said they would release the rest of the ANA team and let us go if we called off the aerial close air support.”

The enemy dispersed and the reconstituted convoy limped home on two bad tires. The normal three hour trip took six hours, covered by the A-10s the entire trip.


The author highlights a few points:

There are a few lessons to be learned from this incident:

• Though few, if any, Air Force documents praised the A-10s, the Army grunta love the Warthogs, and Army periodicals had much praise for the A-10s.

• The close-support effort provided by the B-1B bomber was useless.

• The 30-man force would have been “goners” without the A-10s.

• When the small force recognized their peril, the first question they asked was, “Where are the A-10s?”

• The air battle began without radio contact. Nevertheless, the A-10 pilots had the low- speed maneuverability and survivability necessary to sort out the ground battle disposition.

• Even in terrain that offers cover, the 30-mm cannon is devastatingly effective against enemy combatants.

• Note the enemy’s offer to release captives as a bribe to shut off the A-10’s attack.

• Thirty men backed-up by two A-10s can prevail against an enemy force of 800 men. No high-speed, high-altitude jet could have achieved this.


In other words, the "air war" could be devastatingly effective; it could be just what the United States needs, tactically. But it would mean acquiring and deploying, in large numbers and quickly, an updated, low-tech, highly-survivable A-10. Not spending three decades designing and acquiring a new stealth fighter to fight the Russians and Chinese. I doubt that the American military bureaucracy is up to the task.
posted by Dasein at 9:18 PM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why the hell aren't the skies of Afghanistan buzzing constantly with the sound of A-10 Warthogs?

Totally. You'd think nobody had ever played Total Annihilation and watched Brawlers rip up the k-bot hordes.
posted by No Robots at 9:58 PM on June 23, 2010


I guess McChrystal will have to take a job as a defense contractor lobbyist making millions. What a tragedy for him.

Or right wing Fox propogandist. Sarah Palin poster boy. Victim of Socialist Regime. Fucking Palin McChrystal in 2012!!!


USA!!! USA!!!! USA!!!!
posted by Trochanter at 10:04 PM on June 23, 2010


It's hilarious that an article in a music magazine that has Lady Gaga on the cover prompted this.

From what I've seen lately, Rolling Stone is fighting the good fight. I'm loving the Taibbi stuff. The level of outrage they're expressing needs badly to be expressed.
posted by Trochanter at 10:17 PM on June 23, 2010


...the unvarnished comments actually understate the backbiting among these senior policymakers and their staffs. ...David Ignatius
posted by adamvasco at 11:02 PM on June 23, 2010


It boils down to this: how could Obama trust a man who held him in such contempt, and if he couldn't trust him, how could he leave him in place?

But there's a deeper issue here, the general contempt that the military has for civilians. McChrystal's contempt is a symptom of that. That's a dangerous situation, and the more separated military culture becomes from civilian culture, the worse it gets.

The cure is to significantly increase the numbers of citizen soldiers. Two ways to do that would be either mandated service or a draft. I think a better method is a strong GI Bill that will provide anyone who serves their time with a full ride through college or tech school. That way, there are more citizen soldiers, rather than the professionals who currently make up the military, and those citizen soldiers are at the level that would have to do the actual shooting in any sort of coup.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:07 AM on June 24, 2010


The cure is to significantly increase the numbers of citizen soldiers. Two ways to do that would be either mandated service or a draft. I think a better method is a strong GI Bill that will provide anyone who serves their time with a full ride through college or tech school. That way, there are more citizen soldiers, rather than the professionals who currently make up the military, and those citizen soldiers are at the level that would have to do the actual shooting in any sort of coup.

Conscription didn't seem to help LBJ avoid contempt and scorn. Why do you think we would have a different result now?
posted by Slap Factory at 6:14 AM on June 24, 2010


Or right wing Fox propogandist. Sarah Palin poster boy. Victim of Socialist Regime. Fucking Palin McChrystal in 2012!!!

Maybe not.
Even more about McChrystal: now it can be told. The story about him voting for Obama is not contrived. He is a political liberal. He is a social liberal. He banned Fox News from the television sets in his headquarters. Yes, really. This puts to rest another false rumor: that McChrystal deliberately precipitated his firing because he wants to run for President.
posted by lullaby at 6:38 AM on June 24, 2010


When I visited the Recruitmrent Center, the Enlistment Office, Fort Benning, Fort Eustis, with my son, there is a persistent emphasis on the Army Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage. Gen. McChrystal failed badly on Loyalty, Respect and Honor, and in doing so, he seriously jeopardized the mission.

If Gen. McChrystal had behaved this way during the Bush presidency, the Right would be accusing him of Treason, and calling for a military investigation, and Gen. McChrystal's head.

I'm pretty astonished that the Army would give the Rolling Stone magazine a month of access. I'm mildly surprised, and delighted, that the Rolling Stone magazine is now the voice of serious journalism.
posted by theora55 at 7:00 AM on June 24, 2010


This just in: Petraeus backs July 2011 Afghan withdrawal deadline
posted by saulgoodman at 11:04 AM on June 24, 2010


Of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Blackwater
posted by homunculus at 11:06 AM on June 24, 2010


In hindsight, I'm actually pretty disappointed by the level of immaturity in the humor. I mean, I've hung out with a lot of people in the military, and they do have their own brand of humor, but the best of it is never as lame as "Biden / Bite-Me." Calling the dinner with the French consulate "gay"? "Clowns?"

I'm not asking for Jon-Stewart-grade humor or wit here, but come on! "Bite Me?"

I'm just saying, if they were more clever or intelligent jokes, I might have a bit more sympathy for the guy. I think the quality of the jokes just speaks to the general quality of how stupid and immature the guys are that McChrystal surrounds himself with. It's not good when you value loyalty as a replacement for intelligence.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:09 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thoreau had no high regard for those who serve the state as machines

Thoreau thought all men who serve the state as a kind of tool, that give up their autonomy. I take his condemnation as read. You cannot have a citizen who is a soldier or a soldier who is allowed to make decisions as a citizen. Otherwise you get an army that never fights and a citizenry that will always seek to make war in order to get its hands on force.

I agree one is a citizen first. One can relinquish that right and trust in the responsibility of one’s fellow citizens in order to serve. But Thoreau spoke of conscience. I don’t believe anyone should be forced to serve, so any man can serve or not as their conscience dictates in whatever capacity (it’s not only about destruction, particularly in the modern era).

And while there have been no mutinies or widespread rebellions amongst the American forces, the same trust not to misuse power or let lives be lost without good cause has not been reciprocated by the American people.

Thoreau had a lot to say about that: “The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war;” (And “If a thousand [citizens] were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.”)

But in this case – McChrystal did not refuse to serve in an unjust war, but challenged rather the right of the people to determine what wars its troops will or will not fight.

Thoreau thought the principle as one thing. Either a war was just and you fought it (as with his praise of Captain John Brown) or it was not, and you didn’t. He urged people to rebel against the government because of slavery – “It was his peculiar doctrine that a man has a perfect right to interfere by force with the slaveholder, in order to rescue the slave. I agree with him.”

All well and good.

Who then gives the battlefield orders? The person most right? How do we all know to listen to him? We need then some kind of order. Well, if my conscience dictates that it’s ok for me to fight against slavery, is it ok if my conscience dictates that I not fight this particular battle today? Or tomorrow either? Maybe I don’t like the whole battle plan and won’t fight until I’m satisfied, but hey, yeah, I’m still on board. Totally. Maybe my conscience will let me fight tomorrow.

So there are two principles here – righteousness and the necessity of surrendering a certain degree of autonomy when one serves the cause.
What is righteous and what isn’t is debatable and likely will be debated endlessly here and elsewhere.

The only debate then is – given one has to give up certain rights to be in any way successful in warfare (and one does) – can any cause, however righteous, ever supersede civilian control?

I can see none. Not without doing systemic damage that’s possibly irreparable.
Civilians have, by design in the U.S. government, the monopoly on force.

Indeed, nuclear weapons are loaned to the Department of Defense by the DOE and the president, again a civilian, is the only one authorized to employ them.

Change civilian control and even the most enlightened cause will quickly devolve into totalitarianism.
We’ve even seen it in practice. Lincoln was a gifted man of principle. He was also a tyrant. He fought slavery but he did it by overturning rights and violating the law.

Liberty is a righteous cause, I can’t think of anything offhand that’s more noble than fighting to free people from slavery. But he suspended habeus corpus, instituted military trials, etc. and the courts later found (Ex parte Milligan) that, yeah, he can’t do that.

Of course by then the deed had been done. Now it’s nice we got away with that, and the situation was an extreme one, but we see that there was damage done and others have attempted to encroach the bounds of power along the same lines (Bush, et.al)

So – this is where Thoreau’s reasoning fails. Yes, sometimes men are made machines. Yes, citizens should follow their consciences. But in no case is should a man in possession of power lent him by the will of the people through their representatives be allowed to dictate terms that override the representatives.

That’s the sacrifice. You get to fight the good fight. Save lives. Free people. But you don’t get to choose where and when you exert it (beyond the laws of war). Because if you are answering to your conscience you’re not answering to the conscience of the people.

Situations like Lt. Watada’s – debatable. His argument was predicated on the war in Iraq being illegal so it's a different situation. He offered to serve in Afghanistan instead. I think he made a decent case and I respect his position.
What he did not do however is once he got his hands on the firepower say “Screw you, I know better” and attempt to dictate policy one way or the other.

This is the part of being a warrior that Thoreau did not understand. That it is a sacrifice and an act of trust in your country to put your life in their hands and act on their behalf, sacrificing your own liberty in order to do so.

This augments his greater point however, that it’s the conscience of the citizen that keeps the state war powers in check.
Again – in McChrystal’s case, we’re talking about someone who is attempting to subvert that civilian control. I have no doubt McChrystal thinks his own reasons are just. This is where the logic fails. Everyone thinks their cause is just. Everyone thinks their way is the right way.
In order to prevent tyranny you have to take away force or decision making.
There is no one we can trust with the power to make or not make war other than ourselves so we strip troops of their liberty to make decisions on their own behalf as long as they wield force.

And this thing with McChrystal is why. He thinks he knows better. And hey, maybe he does. Maybe he becomes a complete pacifist and doesn't want to fight any war ever. That's a very enlightened position. But once we allow him to make that decision - we cede the fact that it's our decision, not his, to make.
We've allowed that an elite minority can monopolize force given it's a just cause. I won't contest peace is a just cause, but the point is the cause cannot be a factor to the warrior, once they've agreed to serve (again - within the givens not participating in war crimes). Because any cause will then do. Or won't do.
Clemenceau was right in saying war was to important to be left to the generals. It's not technical expertise as it may be in the enlisted ranks (maybe). The victory parameters are political questions. As Churchill said - as the point of view is raised the distinction between politics and strategy diminishes.

So the dominance of the military in military - civilian relations is a genuine problem. Not just for the civilian leadership, but for the military.
My first instinct is typically to go for the jugular. It's been a long standing habit of mine to constantly question and requestion that perspective, if only because it can lead to creative, and superior, outcomes.
And it's made me a superior combatant in many different ways. Even reframing situations as combat. Hackers do this a lot. Bit harder to apply to where straightforward force is in use and there's a time element. But strategy is very susceptible to political decisions.

Generals don't like that. And this is typically where they're wrong. They don't like being out of their comfort zone. As though there was something respectable in being a one-trick-pony. I think this is more what Thoreau was talking about.
There's no reason the mode in which someone serves a cause shouldn't be flexible. Then you are indeed a machine.

Hell, I'd daintily drink tea with a French minister if it advances my country's position. I'd know more about, say, poodle grooming, if that was his thing, than he does. Make a better croissant than his own mother and enjoy doing it.
It might have been fashionable to be cannon fodder back in the day, and that pro patria mori attitude might still be rattling around, but it's not enough to have guts anymore. I mean - it never really was. But today it's not even practical or useful.
You have to be good at a number of things in modern warfare and if the best one can think of to creatively bring an engagement to a resolution is busting heads - yeah, that's not going to really accomplish any goals.

that "hearts and minds" was more than some hippie catchphrase.
Well, it started in guerrilla combat. But those guys did have deep tans and relaxed grooming standards.

Why the hell aren't the skies of Afghanistan buzzing constantly with the sound of A-10 Warthogs?
You go to war with the defense contractors you have. Not what the guys in the field want.

A word on doctrinal thinking. It’s a bit like the McDojo sensei saying “No, you attacked me wrong. Attack me like this.”
And the hearts and minds thing – just seems a bit too touchy feely to a lot of people. So did jujutsu before Royce Gracie. Just too soft to work. Not facey-punchy enough.
So, as with any organization, particularly bureaucracies, orthodoxy is not necessarily overtly encouraged, but it’s fully understood to lead to advancement.
We're slowly being disabused of those notions. Like pretty much every powerful military in world history.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:57 PM on June 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Maybe he becomes a complete pacifist and doesn't want to fight any war ever. That's a very enlightened position.

I like this. And if he is prepared to pay the consequences: dishonour, imprisonment, poverty?

But once we allow him to make that decision - we cede the fact that it's our decision, not his, to make.

This is unreal, a wish. A soldier cannot be forced to fight, he can only be punished for not fighting. We do not allow him to make the decision: he makes it with or without our approval, and we respond.

Now, it is true that as citizens we forego some rights in order to have a greater level of security. But we are at all times at liberty to exercise whatever power we have. We must accept, though, that there may be negative consequences for such exercise.

Btw, thanks for the long reply. Most interesting and helpful.
posted by No Robots at 1:26 PM on June 24, 2010


I can see none. Not without doing systemic damage that’s possibly irreparable.
Civilians have, by design in the U.S. government, the monopoly on force.


I think that's an incomplete view. Military force is exercised de facto, if not de jure, with the consent of the military. When you get to the point of discussing the conditions under which orders can be refused (and not by announcing to Rolling Stone magazine that you don't like someone) things are already in a really bad way though.

Indeed, nuclear weapons are loaned to the Department of Defense by the DOE and the president, again a civilian, is the only one authorized to employ them.

Nuclear weapons are on odd case, because they're not a simple one line chain of command. The authorization to use nuclear weapons must come jointly from the President and the Secretary of Defense (or their successors) and must be communicated through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (representing the Joint Chiefs) to the National Military Command Center and from that level on down, it must always be passed on and verified by two officers and then two men must act together to take positive action to launch.
posted by Jahaza at 6:28 PM on June 24, 2010


Conscription didn't seem to help LBJ avoid contempt and scorn.

I'm not so worried about a particular President's general popularity, I'm more worried about the danger of a military that feels superior to and resentful of the civilian population. Toss in a large Dominionist clique, and it's a formula for a military coup.

The only protection I can see from that danger is to make sure that there are a lot of non-professional, civilian-identifying soldiers in the rank and file, soldiers who would be much less likely to go along with a coup than a cadre of propagandized professionals who believe they outrank civilians. I don't like either random conscription or mandated service on moral grounds, but I don't like the growing potential for a coup either. In fact, it scares me quite a bit.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:13 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's a page with a good variety of links on the Dominionist movement in the US military.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:31 PM on June 24, 2010


Jimmy it's hardly surprising considering people like Boykin were at such a high level; also see Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Mikey Weinstein's fascists in the US military .
posted by adamvasco at 3:41 AM on June 25, 2010


The only protection I can see from that danger is to make sure that there are a lot of non-professional, civilian-identifying soldiers in the rank and file, soldiers who would be much less likely to go along with a coup than a cadre of propagandized professionals who believe they outrank civilians.

It's a little odd to read this and it's quite possible that I'm thinking of something entirely different when I read it. But when you write things like "a military that feels superior to and resentful of the civilian population" and "the general contempt that the military has for civilians," you jump to 'potential coup' and I think 'oh, they've been deployed'. I don't know, maybe you're talking about disaffected colonels and generals so my reaction is entirely irrelevant, but the soldiers I know, the lower enlisted ranks, junior NCOs, that kind of thing -- if they genuinely feel like this, it's because they've been deployed (to a war zone).

I don't feel isolated from civilian culture because I hate civilians and think they are beneath the military. I feel isolated because I went to war and I changed, but then I came back and everything here was the same. In the last five years, I've spent more time in Iraq and Afghanistan than the US. But I'd come home and realize that no one had noticed my soldiers had ever left. When the 1% spends years on end getting shot at and watching their friends die and then they return to a generally apathetic public, it can't be too surprising that they feel some bitterness toward that public that sent them to war in the first place.

So in my experience, contempt manifests itself less as "let's replace Obama with King David Petraeus" and more "I'm in college so now I have to deal with these fucking airheads who care too much about unimportant things". And I don't think creating more 'citizen soldiers' rather than professional soldiers is going to be helpful here, so long as those 'citizen soldiers' continue to deploy for months or years and then have to deal with reconciling their experience with their civilian lives again.

Excuse me if this was entirely off base in terms of what you were trying to get at, though.
posted by lullaby at 7:31 AM on June 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


So in my experience, contempt manifests itself less as "let's replace Obama with King David Petraeus" and more "I'm in college so now I have to deal with these fucking airheads who care too much about unimportant things".

Yeah, they should be focused on important things like subjugating middle eastern nations.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:15 AM on June 25, 2010


Michael Hastings Says Troops Are Happy That General Was Ousted.
posted by ericb at 12:12 PM on June 25, 2010


Via ericb's link: Why the Hacks Hate Michael Hastings
posted by homunculus at 1:18 PM on June 25, 2010


And if he is prepared to pay the consequences: dishonour, imprisonment, poverty?

Well, I see no dishonor in it. Perhaps in going AWOL. But Lt. Watada for example acted completely honorably. And very bravely. And I think he’s gotten a stalemate out of it, legally. He’s been discharged. He might still be on the hook for conduct unbecoming, but the justice department pretty much let it go. All in all I’d call it a win. I don’t know what he’s doing as a civilian, but there’s enough support that a man like that is not going to go hungry.
Obviously some people don’t have the capacity for nuanced thought and wish him imprisoned, impoverished, etc for 'patriotic' reasons or because he's a former 'babykiller.' But you can get people to sign off against women’s sufferage and dihydrogen monoxide too.

This is unreal, a wish. A soldier cannot be forced to fight, he can only be punished for not fighting.
I’m saying they’re two sides of the same coin. If you join the armed forces, you can’t suddenly say “wait, I’m a pacifist now” when there’s a war. We wouldn’t want our generals invading countries on their own initiative either.
Otherwise the decision making power for fighting, or not, no longer rests in the hands of the representative government.

Military force is exercised de facto, if not de jure, with the consent of the military.

Yes. But consent is given when you take the oath. Not as a contested point later as to whether a given engagement is justified. Again, the general staff cannot countermand the civilian leadership. Otherwise that’s a coup.

Obama exercised the principle of civilian control of the military perfectly. McChrystal piled up enough to make a big stink. The president slapped him down. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
The more power you have, the more important it is to maintain discipline and oversight and diffuse the possibility of abuse at/by a single point of failure.

Nuclear weapons are on odd case, because they're not a simple one line chain of command
Exactly.

The only protection I can see from - (a coup) - is to make sure that there are a lot of non-professional, civilian-identifying soldiers in the rank and file,

It’s a bit like being a Christian or Jew or whatever vs. being an American. Dominionists are a problem. But civilian control of the military is perhaps the only thing sacred in the U.S. armed forces. In solid, practical terms what McChrystal did wasn’t even that wrong. Bit of criticism and an attempt to exert some influence to get his perspective across.

Most of us do that every day on the job. Plenty of politicking, backstabbing, cheese eating, all sorts of in-fighting. What McChrystal failed to do was treat the president as the embodiment of the immutable Word. That goes back to our founding mythos. Our president refuses to be a King. Our warriors refuse to be Caesars. There are checks and balances and the people are the constituted derivation of power.

If you don’t believe in that as an officer you’re a heretic as much as if you were a cardinal and said “Y’know what? Screw this Jesus asshole. We’re doing what I say from now on.”
Practically, it doesn’t amount to much. Symbolically – yeah, you’ve just excommunicated yourself. Same sort of thing.

And I don’t know of any former officers who would say any different. Perhaps there were some people who spoke in McChrystal’s defense. I’d say odds would be good they’re idiots.
If you do not bend your knee to principle, if you do not follow the orders of civilian leadership, then you might as well be a mercenary. Even if it is for a good cause, you’re just looking for payment in another kind of coin.

Which is the problem with Dominionists. But as I say, they’re really just playing games. They might get enough juice to be a problem, but it wouldn’t lead to a coup per se. It would be a subversion/end run of the military chain of command first. I don’t know that’s going to happen as long as you have politicians keeping tabs on it.

Where that becomes highly problematic is where you have political support (and I’m looking at Bush) for that kind of thing.
Actually, when I was training people it was a little uncomfortable teaching people who outranked me. But there’s an understanding there and a system of dealing with it.
The Dominionists have their own hierarchy. That’s pretty messed up. And it makes operational security tough. Fanatics aren’t hard to spot. And since they’re dedicated to something other than U.S. interests they tend to be less dedicated to their service. Which makes them less cohesive which makes for not so great a warfighter.

I’m not saying ‘not dangerous,’ just not lethal. Fundimentalism is derived from the latin ‘fundamentum’ which means ‘asshole.’

Yeah, they should be focused on important things like subjugating middle eastern nations
Fight the power Pope Guilty! It’s those lousy enlisted men that make all the wars. You gotta stick it to ‘em. Those oil companies, media magnates, and defense contractors need all the help they can get.
Meanwhile college students are more worried about who wins American Idol, the closing of the river swim docks and jacking off on first person shooters than what is being done in its name and the people they send off to war dying.
But that couldn’t be what some dumb grunt was talking about.

"If we lived in a State where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us good, and greed would make us saintly. And we'd live like animals or angels in the happy land that needs no heroes. But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust, and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice, and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all... why then perhaps we must stand fast a little - even at the risk of being heroes." —Thomas More
posted by Smedleyman at 1:24 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Via ericb's link: “It was so fast, both right and left seemed to get together to call for his resignation. There was no one defending McChrystal.”

I’m not surprised.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2010


I understand the feeling that the home front has not been at all supportive of the troops, beyond putting yellow ribbons on their SUVs. I completely agree with that feeling, and we need to do a lot more for those who've been deployed. It seems to me that the current Congress is doing a lot more than the previous ones. I hope that is getting through to the troops, although the monopoly Fox News has on military facilities makes me wonder.

But that feeling of contempt for civilian culture has been growing for a long time in the military. I first read about it in an Atlantic article, about the Army War College, in the '90s. The career soldiers are the ones who display it most, but they instill it in the lower ranks as well, both by design and by simple osmosis, and it is dangerous.

On the one hand, we need a cadre of professional soldiers who know the work. On the other hand, professional soldiers are by nature undemocratic, and if they should decide that they know better than the population at large or the politicians elected by that population, there needs to be some counter-force against them.

The division of the military into semi-competitive branches is one form of restraint. Another, the one I am suggesting is very important, is to make sure that a majority of the military is short-timers who identify with civilian culture rather than military culture.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:44 PM on June 25, 2010


Magazine Betrayed McChrystal, Officials Say -- "Military contends Rolling Stone reporter broke interview ground rules."
posted by ericb at 3:09 PM on June 25, 2010


I first read about it in an Atlantic article, about the Army War College...

Nit: Actually, that article is about Fort Leavenworth. The U.S. Army War College is located in Carlisle, PA.
posted by ericb at 3:47 PM on June 25, 2010


The Politico Opens the Kimono. And then Pretends it Never Happened.
posted by homunculus at 6:36 PM on June 25, 2010


Yeah, they should be focused on important things like subjugating middle eastern nations.

No, definitely, when I was in Iraq my primary focus was "how can I best subjugate these people?" rather than "I need to do my job and keep the people around me alive". Obviously the unbearable inanities of my fellow college students these days matter so much more than that.

And I believe strictly speaking Afghanistan isn't considered to be in the Middle East. Unless you were suggesting that we subjugate Iraqis but not Afghans.


I understand the feeling that the home front has not been at all supportive of the troops, beyond putting yellow ribbons on their SUVs.

I don't know if that's quite what I intended to say. I didn't need fresh pats on the back from everyone when I got home, and frankly didn't want any. An indication that people in this country realized a war was happening at all, and there were people over there fighting it, is what would have been nice.

Can't speak for peacetime military as I've never served in one, but my experience (for myself and my friends) with the disconnect with civilian society stems almost entirely from war. I know some soldiers and airmen who spent their whole enlistments in the States and they just have different attitudes toward and interactions with civilians in college or at their post-military jobs.

Is it an entrenched cultural issue at the very top? I don't really know. But remember that the military is already bottom heavy. A large majority of soldiers in the Army are E-5s and below (and O-3s and below). That would suggest a great proportion of soldiers are in the midst of serving their first and probably only four or so years in. I'm not sure how much more short-time-y it can get.
posted by lullaby at 8:23 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, definitely, when I was in Iraq my primary focus was "how can I best subjugate these people?" rather than "I need to do my job and keep the people around me alive". Obviously the unbearable inanities of my fellow college students these days matter so much more than that.

You went, for no good reason at all, to another country, where you participated in the illegal forcible occupation of another nation, in the subjugation of a people. Any of their "inanities" are far more valid things to be concerned with than how you feel about your participation in the violation of international laws.

And I believe strictly speaking Afghanistan isn't considered to be in the Middle East. Unless you were suggesting that we subjugate Iraqis but not Afghans.

If I missed where you went to Afghanistan, my apologies.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:48 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Any of their "inanities" are far more valid things to be concerned with than how you feel about your participation in the violation of international laws.

This isn't about some constant intellectual examination of the value of my military service in Iraq (and, yes, Afghanistan). Outside of political or even moral considerations, I still spent a total of 3-4 years during which my central concern was trying to keep many other people healthy and alive in a combat zone. Going from that to the average college student's life is bizarre and alienating and just kind of fucking weird sometimes. Is that so difficult to understand?
posted by lullaby at 9:07 AM on June 26, 2010


Worse Than a Nightmare
posted by homunculus at 10:39 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


You went, for no good reason at all, to another country, where you participated in the illegal forcible occupation of another nation, in the subjugation of a people. Any of their "inanities" are far more valid things to be concerned with than how you feel about your participation in the violation of international laws.

this was completely uncalled for. If you can't be participate without making personal attacks against people, then maybe you shouldn't post.
posted by empath at 3:20 PM on June 26, 2010


This isn't about some constant intellectual examination of the value of my military service in Iraq (and, yes, Afghanistan). Outside of political or even moral considerations, I still spent a total of 3-4 years during which my central concern was trying to keep many other people healthy and alive in a combat zone. Going from that to the average college student's life is bizarre and alienating and just kind of fucking weird sometimes. Is that so difficult to understand?
It seems like it takes pretty tortured reasoning to avoid understanding it. A friend of mine who did three tours in Iraq came home with a short list of medals and letters of commendation for putting himself in harms way to save his fellow soldiers and a number of Iraqi civilians over the course of his time there. Morality of war aside, legality of the invasion aside, my friend as an individual spent his time shooting at people who shot at him and trying to keep people who didn't shoot at him safe.

Coming home and enrolling in college to become a graphic designer was a really important goal for him, but he experienced a lot of the same jarring culture clash experiences described earlier in this thread. I imagine that if you spend years actively, moment-to-moment working to avoid being killed, the concerns of the average college student certainly feel surreal and disconnected from reality. Even trivial.

A couple decades ago a family friend had a visitor from Poland staying with her for several weeks. This was when Poland was still solidly in the Soviet Bloc, mind you. This family friend of ours got a call from the local grocery store one afternoon. Her Polish friend had gone out to do some shopping, and made it as far as the HEY GUESS WHAT BUD LIGHT CHIPS MEAT MEAT DO YOU WANT SOME JAM LOOK AN END CAP barrage of product, and was close to a panic attack. She hadn't been prepared for the intense firehose of meaningless choice, and the act of simple stuff like picking up a loaf of bread was actively disorienting.

This isn't to say that fighting a war and shopping in Poland are the same thing. Just that different circumstances can render the mundane experiences of another context very, very surreal and disorienting and disconcerting. I don't think that it's justifying the Iraqi invasion to acknowledge this.
posted by verb at 6:45 PM on June 26, 2010


Jimmy Havok, you may be interested in this op-ed by Andrew Bacevich, if you haven't seen it yet.
Long wars are antithetical to democracy. Protracted conflict introduces toxins that inexorably corrode the values of popular government. Not least among those values is a code of military conduct that honors the principle of civilian control while keeping the officer corps free from the taint of politics.
And Andrew Exum started a little discussion related to it on his blog, though he focuses on special operators. It might be closer to what I think you were trying to get at.

verb, I get what you mean. I think it's essentially similar too. I have a friend who recently returned from a couple years in sub-Saharan Africa with the Peace Corps, and is having some of the same issues as well. And while the Army and the Peace Corps are two different tools of the US government, I think I have a lot more in common with her than many other civilians my age.
posted by lullaby at 9:44 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Public Souring on the Afghanistan War
posted by homunculus at 11:10 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The two poles of journalism
posted by homunculus at 9:08 AM on June 28, 2010


The Politico Opens the Kimono. And then Pretends it Never Happened.

I sincerely don't understand why Jay Rosen is pretending that Politico revealed a massive, hidden secret then tried to cover it up. To get access, reporters make compromises. Haven't multiple television shows and movies driven this firmly home by now? Isn't this common knowledge?
posted by zarq at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2010


I guess he's excited because it's generally not admitted openly, even though it's fairly common knowledge. That and the irony of coming from politico, which claimed it was getting away from that when it was founded.
posted by homunculus at 3:54 PM on June 28, 2010


U.S. Troops Face New Threat: Afghanistan’s Toxic Sand
posted by homunculus at 3:55 PM on June 28, 2010


Rolling Stone and the Plight of the Not-Quite-Good-Enough Magazine
posted by homunculus at 6:51 PM on June 28, 2010


Matt Taibbi tears Lara Logan a new one.

"Lara Logan, come on down! You're the next guest on Hysterical Backstabbing Jealous Hackfest 2010!"

(I'm not sure anyone is following this thread anymore, but thanks for the recent links homunculus)
posted by Trochanter at 8:57 AM on June 29, 2010


Re: Rolling Stone and the Plight of the Not-Quite-Good-Enough Magazine

I'm going to subscribe. I probably won't read any of the articles on She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but somebody's got to support the great work these young guys are doing.

Also, I don't know what "Matt Taibbi quasi-anger-journalism" is, but "The Great American Bubble Machine," and "Wall Street's Bailout Hustle" need to be read. And yer fuckin' right he's mad. How can you not be?
posted by Trochanter at 9:23 AM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I don't know what "Matt Taibbi quasi-anger-journalism" is, but "The Great American Bubble Machine," and "Wall Street's Bailout Hustle" need to be read. And yer fuckin' right he's mad. How can you not be?

His schtick is ranting against (perceived) injustices. He's a good writer and I like his stuff, but angry editorials do seem to be his default mode.
posted by zarq at 9:45 AM on June 29, 2010


It seems to me that you've got to be blind not to "perceive" these injustices, and until things change (which, I gotta tell ya, I just don't know) anger journalism should be journalism's default mode. Screw the "quasi".
posted by Trochanter at 10:36 AM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that you've got to be blind not to "perceive" these injustices, and until things change (which, I gotta tell ya, I just don't know) anger journalism should be journalism's default mode. Screw the "quasi".

I disagree. Objectivity should be journalism's default mode. Editorials can be as angry as they like. But we already have a channel here in the US devoted to non-stop emotional, editorial rhetoric and it's biased as hell. We need more aggressive journalists, who aren't afraid that they may lose access in exchange for asking a tough question. That doesn't mean they should feel free to rant.
posted by zarq at 10:53 AM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there were no ground rules laid out
For this statement alone Lara Logan needed taking to task. This is all further proof if needed that the US industrial military complex and imperial war machine owns most mainstream media.
posted by adamvasco at 11:57 AM on June 29, 2010


The thing is, speaking objectively, the system is really, really fucked right now. If the system is reported on objectively, isn't this what you get? Taibbi might insert himself and his indignation into his pieces, but in terms of the reporting, are they biased? Has he left out half the story?

I hate the non-stop emotional, editorial rhetoric that comes out of Fox, but it's the half-truths, the untruths that make them evil.

There's a place for "Just the facts, Ma'am" journalism, but that's not the status quo. The status quo seems to be to paraphrase a press release, get a quote from a Democratic flack, get a quote from a Republican flack, (both of whom are granted anonymity for some god damned reason) file your story and shower up in time for the Correspondent's Dinner.

Anyway, I think we both like reading these guys, and I hope they are able to keep writing.

Cheers zarq
posted by Trochanter at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Total coincidence: I just found this at Salon.
posted by Trochanter at 12:35 PM on June 29, 2010


Taibbi might insert himself and his indignation into his pieces, but in terms of the reporting, are they biased? Has he left out half the story?

Sometimes they are and he does, yes. But in those cases he's not really reporting. He's editorializing. So he can get away with it. A "real" news article would require that he also discuss the other side's perspective and include direct quotes from folks involved in whatever issue or event he's reporting on. He'd also include analysis from outsiders who (hopefully) would counter spin from either side by providing a wider perspective.

But he's hardly ever wrong in his analyses. You're right. I do like him a lot and he's on my must-read list. Plus I agree that we need more of him. (...although don't get me started on his opinion of the World Cup!...) ;)

BTW, If you haven't seen them... during the last election cycle, Taibbi did some fascinating profiles on Bill Maher's show of Democrats and Republicans at debates and conventions. They're worth looking for on Youtube.

There's a place for "Just the facts, Ma'am" journalism, but that's not the status quo.

Totally agree. I'm squarely against that status quo. A great deal of journalism used to be about investigative reporting and analysis. Not "gotcha" journalism, but real honest-to-goodness work that looked at a story from multiple angles and didn't give us simplified garbage. The industry needs to once again embrace that part of its nature.

There's heavy, heavy irony in what I'm saying, by the way. I'm a publicist. It's my job to pitch story ideas and experts to journalists in the hopes that they will think them interesting enough to run with. But I've been frustrated for a long time over a particular problem that I keep running into: reporters are overworked, underpaid and given unreasonably short deadlines. So they tend to rely far too heavily on packaged information, and not enough on their own footwork. Many of them also try to divide complex ideas into two-sided debates or simply stir up fearmongering, because that's what attracts attention. Science and medical reporters tend to do that less, primarily because they really do have to understand the greater ramifications of the stories they report for the good of their audiences. But still, it's a pervasive problem.

Cheers! :)
posted by zarq at 7:29 AM on July 3, 2010


NYT: Mentor Says McChrystal Is ‘Crushed’ by the Change in His Circumstances
posted by zarq at 7:31 AM on July 3, 2010


Just found this: "Robert Gates Tightens Rules For Military And The Media Following Rolling Stone's McChrystal Profile" sorry it's from HuffPo.

Okay. What the fuck's up with that? Are we saying McChrystal didn't deserve to be fired and the whole problem was that the press was out of control? Because if McChrystal did deserve to be fired, and it wasn't just PR wanking, didn't the system work?

It seems to me that the press being on a leash is a bad thing. It's a result of post-Viet Nam "the-press-lost-us-the war" military thinking. Well we've had the press on a leash for ten years in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and how are we doing?

If I might editorialize for a moment: FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!!

Should this be an fpp?
posted by Trochanter at 9:01 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think a certain amount of leash for reporters makes sense, as it can minimize risks to our troops. But go for it. Seriously. This story has now gone from "General shoots his mouth off to the press and gets canned" to "Sweeping change made for all armed forces regarding military transparency."
posted by zarq at 9:46 AM on July 3, 2010


Speaking of the media: The Legacy Media And Torture

NY Times's excuse for not calling waterboarding "torture" doesn't hold water

Bill Keller's self-defense on "torture"
posted by homunculus at 10:06 AM on July 3, 2010


Democracy Now had an extended interview with Michael Hastings the other day.
posted by homunculus at 10:10 AM on July 3, 2010


a certain amount of leash for reporters makes sense

Yup. You can't say, "I'm here with the troops in Kabul, where in ten hours fifteen seconds the largest offensive of the war will commence. I'm standing near the ammo dumps on the west end of the compound, where, let me tell you if an IED went off, like, POW!!"

I put the story on the front page. It's a newfilter post, but I hope it will stimulate some discussion. And rage.
posted by Trochanter at 10:34 AM on July 3, 2010


and thanks homunculus. will read.
posted by Trochanter at 10:41 AM on July 3, 2010


From watching 'Kill TV' to leading undercover night raids, the two-star general was on a brutal, bleak journey.
In the Name of Pat Tillman: Good Riddance to Stanley McChrystal .
posted by adamvasco at 4:13 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Petraeus emails show general scheming with journalist to get out pro-Israel storyline
posted by homunculus at 2:04 PM on July 6, 2010


Rise of the four-star deities
posted by homunculus at 2:17 PM on July 6, 2010


You see the Mondo Weiss link and you think, "Yeah, it was time for McChrystal to go." So, NATURALLY, Christopher Hitchens has to wade in on the other side.
posted by Trochanter at 4:24 PM on July 6, 2010


Spongy little Hitch yearns for a dead-eyed Yankee Scipio to methodically administer flat-palmed slaps to his suety, tear-runneled cheeks.

'O sir, o pater, please sir, no no o no.'
posted by Haruspex at 6:19 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


GEN James Mattis has been selected to take over Petraeus' previous position as head of CENTCOM. Here is some context on him, taken from Tim Ricks' book Fiasco.
posted by lullaby at 1:34 PM on July 8, 2010


Unlikely Tutor Giving Military Afghan Advice
posted by homunculus at 3:11 PM on July 17, 2010


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