Deep thought

I don’t care that Gen. McChrystal and his aides got drunk and talked smack. I care that they were dumb enough to do so on the record with a reporter, and I care that McChrystal is behind schedule on in implementing his plan to win in Afghanistan. Neither speaks to his competence, or his staff’s competence.

It’s disappointing that it’s easier to fire someone for doing something boneheaded but inconsequential than to screw up professionally.

Look, McChrystal and Vice President Biden were on opposite ends of an internal administration debate about Afghanistan last year. McChrystal wanted lotsa troops and to engage work on societal infrastructure, cutting off oxygen to the Taliban and al Qaeda, so we could then declare victory and go home. Biden wanted to kill a bunch of Taliban and al Qaeda and then declare victory.

McChrystal won the fight, so we sent more troops and are trying to win hearts and minds, etc. Not being a military expert, and not having had the advantage of getting to dial up every military expert in the world to pick his or her brains, I won’t second-guess the decision President Obama reached after extensive consultations.

But this plan is McChrystal’s baby, and failures and retrenchments in Marja and elsewhere in Afghanistan suggest that he was overly optimistic. Since he proposed and defended that plan, his future should rightly be tied to its success. If Biden was right, and McChrystal was wrong, McChrystal should get canned, ideally replaced by someone Biden agrees with.

McChrystal’s future should not be tied to the question of whether or not his aide made a stupid comment: “Biden? Did you say: Bite me?” Drunk brats will do that, and if Biden was really as wrong as McChrystal and his aides seem to think, a bit of derision might even be justified (though not proper within a military chain of command).

Plus, firing him for being wrong about Afghanistan would let us have a useful national discussion about what we expect from the Afghan war, instead of a debate about how free senior military aides should be to talk trash on a bus across Europe.


  1. #1 Norwegian Shooter
    June 25, 2010

    “McChrystal is behind schedule on in implementing his plan to win in Afghanistan”

    It’s not McChrystal’s plan. It’s President Obama’s plan. I don’t care how the plan was created and argued over, but it is now Obama’s plan. He is fully behind it, as his appointment of Petreaus and statement that the policy isn’t changing clearly show. He has to take responsibility for the policy’s shortcomings and its current failure “to change the Taliban’s momentum.” (5 minute mark)

    Agreed on the need for useful national discussion. But that unlikely event requires Obama be held responsible for his decisions to fully endorse COIN and deepen our engagement in Afghanistan going back to the campaign.

    PS It’s Biden’s turn now? This isn’t recess on the playground.

  2. #2 SLC
    June 26, 2010

    Re Norwegian Shooter

    Excuse me, it’s McCrystals’ plan that, after careful consideration and much deliberation, President Obama endorsed.

    The irony here is that McCrystal, who is considered a brutish individual by the liberals, has been heavily criticized by nutcases like retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters (who apparently exaggerates his rank by inferring that he was a full colonel) for not being brutish enough.

  3. #3 Pierce R. Butler
    June 26, 2010

    Obama found a way to remove McChrystal without opening up any kind of debate about overall US occupational strategy.

    Isn’t he oh so clever? :-P

  4. #4 Rob Knop
    June 26, 2010

    Josh, Josh, Josh. You want decisions about who’s in government and about policy to be based on reasonable and considered debates and thoughtful discussion, rather than on flash-in-the-pan scandals and popular but empty soundbytes? That’s just not how we do things in America!

  5. #5 Norwegian Shooter
    June 28, 2010


    Endorsed, approve, bless, whatever. The buck stops with Obama. If the plan is wrong, blame goes to Obama. Agreed?

    There is no irony in being attacked from either side. This is my pet peeve, but look up irony in the dictionary.

  6. #6 SLC
    June 29, 2010

    Re Norwegian Shooter @ #5

    Yes, we are in agreement that President Obama will take the credit if the plan succeeds and the blame if it fails. However, it’s still McCrystals’ plan.

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