McChrystal's Gone; Afghanistan's Not
I lost a wager yesterday. Amato was certain Obama had no choice but to fire McChrystal after the now infamous Rolling Stone feature showed the Afghanistan War disaster was being run by a gaggle of arrogant, insubordinate, disloyal overgrown frat boys.
Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany's president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.
"The dinner comes with the position, sir," says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn.
McChrystal turns sharply in his chair.
"Hey, Charlie," he asks, "does this come with the position?"
McChrystal gives him the middle finger.
..."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."
...Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn't go much better. "It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."
That sounds fucking gay to me.
Amato thought right from the start that Obama would have no choice but to fire McChrystal. My take was that Obama is a wobbly leader who wants everybody to just get along and will always compromise to avoid a noisy kerfuffle. Who wants to face another firestorm from a bunch of drooling militarist psychopaths looking for charged, politicized excuses to force him to abandon his timeline? But I was wrong. Obama did the right thing, and I'll be happy to take Amato out for a nice raw vegan dinner-- probably at the new place in Echo Park, Mooi Food.
Alan Grayson was one of the first members of Congress to call for McChrystal to resign after the Rolling Stone story leaked. Actually, he first called for McChrystal's ouster last October. But, of course, Grayson knows that what's really important is ending the war-- and ending it now. “The ultimate issue is not McChrystal’s job. It’s McChrystal’s strategy. We need peace, not an endless war... We have to make our decisions on war and peace based on what's right for America, not what's right for the generals, or Halliburton, or Blackwater. Not what's right for the military-industrial complex. But rather, what's right for us." Grayson hits it out of the ballpark again.
Another Florida Democrat, this one a career naval officer running for Congress, Doug Tudor, is more concerned about the way forward in extricating the U.S. out of this no-win conflict than about McChrystal per se. He said McChrystal's firing was bittersweet. "I was proud to see President Obama assert a basic tenet of our republic-- civilian control of the military. I was saddened to see him recommit our country to the same failed strategy of counter-insurgency in Afghanistan. In the President's words, 'This is a change in personnel, but it is not a change in policy.'"
Tudor knows what he's talking about when it comes to this war far more than most people already in Congress. He deployed to Afghanistan 33 times. He worked on the personal staff of three commanders-- General Tommy Franks, General John Abizaid and Admiral William Fallon. I was in Afghanistan long before Tudor-- and under very different circumstances-- but our impressions of the place-- and of what must be done-- are pretty much identical:
Though I have traveled throughout the world, Afghanistan is without a doubt the most desolate, undeveloped country I have ever seen. As a member of our traveling team used to say as we flew from Islamabad, Pakistan to Bagram, Afghanistan, "This is the only time you can fly for two hours and go back nine centuries."
The policy President Obama affirmed today is called counter-insurgency. Counter-insurgency is a very complicated strategy where we try to win "hearts and minds" via military action and overall nation-building. In other words, if we kill bad guys and build roads, the overall population will decide to support us.
Counter-insurgency won't work in Afghanistan. Anyone who believes it will does not understand the lives, time, and money that must be committed. I also contend supporters of counter-insurgency do not actually support the vast investment America must make. Counter-insurgency will cost America trillions of dollars, thousands of lives, and an untold amount of international goodwill.
When elected to Congress, I will vote against any and all funding that continues the war in Afghanistan. Plain, simple, and period!
I like the clarity. You won't get that from most candidates for office-- and certainly not from the Blue Dog shill Debbie Wasserman Schultz has running against Doug in the primary. But it isn't only Grayson and Tudor who are offering clarity (and hope). Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI): "The comments of General McChrystal and his aides were very troubling, and the president’s decision to accept his resignation is appropriate. But I continue to have strong concerns about our misguided policy in Afghanistan. The massive, open-ended military operation in Afghanistan will cost a hundred billion dollars this year with no end in sight. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continues to operate and recruit around the world. After nine years, it is time to give the American people, as well as the people of Afghanistan, a timetable to end this war so our nation is better able to focus on the global threat posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates.”
Regardless of empty-headed TV talking heads with silly questions, Grayson knows how to get his points out. Ignore the foolish questions, but pay close attention to what Grayson wants to say: