Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool..."

"...than to open it and remove all doubt."

There are many different ways to lose a job. And there are many phrases that end up being synonymous with "I quit." As Gen. Stanley McChrystal demonstrates.
In the eight-page article, released to reporters on Monday ahead of publication, McChrystal appears to belittle Vice President Joe Biden and accuses Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, of undermining his war plan within the administration.

Asked by the Rolling Stone reporter about what he now feels of the war strategy advocated by Biden last fall – fewer troops, more drone attacks – the article reports that McChrystal and his aides attempted to come up with a good one-liner to dismiss the question. “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal reportedly jokes. “Who’s that?”

Later in the article, McChrystal turns more serious when asked about cables sent last fall to Washington by Eikenberry. The cables called into question the major troop increase advocated by McChrystal’s team and the U.S.’s backing of Afghan President Hamid Karzai – views that the ambassador had not previously raised with McChrystal or his staff.

“I like Karl, I’ve known him for years, but they’d never said anything like that to us before,” McChrystal is quoted as saying. “Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.’”
I am not at all up on the ins and outs of what we're currently doing in Afghanistan, and have no opinion about McChrystal as a strategist, tactician, leader, general or anything else. I am up on Joe Biden, and you'd have to search far and wide to find someone who is more contemptuous of him than I am. And I've got no difficulty with McChrystal's description of Eikenberry's cables. Politicians play political games, setting themselves up to benefit whatever happens whenever possible, and covering their flanks as best they can always. So I assume that McChrystal is 100% accurate with all of these comments.

That said, he cannot make those comments and remain in that position. It is completely unacceptable for a general to allow himself to be quoted demonstrating that level of contempt for the civilian leadership that out-ranks him on the chain of command. The contempt may be appropriate, the comments may even be mild, and shared by every member of the service in Afghanistan - the general cannot be quoted as making them. He has to go.

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