Obama's Truman-MacArthur Moment
Journalist Michael Hastings has given Rolling Stone magazine a graphic account of the arrogance, disarray and ineptitude that distinguish what passes for President Barack Obama’s policy on Afghanistan. For those of us with some gray in our hair, the fiasco is infuriatingly reminiscent of Vietnam.
In blowing off steam to Hastings, NATO/U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his top aides seem to have decided that, at this low point in the Afghanistan quagmire, political offense is the best defense for a military strategy sinking from waist to neck deep.
In interviews with Hastings, McChrystal and his team direct mockery at many senior-level officials of the Obama administration. For instance, one of McChrystal’s aides refers to Obama’s national security adviser James L. Jones as a “clown.”
Members of McChrystal’s inner circle also quote the general as saying he was “pretty disappointed” with an Oval Office meeting and describing Obama as “intimidated” by McChrystal and other generals.
Commenting on the controversy Tuesday, Obama said McChrystal and his team had shown “poor judgment” but the President added that he wanted to speak with McChrystal directly before making any decision on firing him.
Two administration officials who are spared harsh criticism from McChrystal’s team are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who were considered key supporters of McChrystal’s insistence last year that Obama boost U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan to about 100,000.
In praise for Clinton, one of McChrystal’s entourage told Hastings, “Hillary had Stan’s back during the [last fall’s] strategic review.” Another aide added, “She said, ‘If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.’”
As for Gates, McChrystal spared his boss from criticism perhaps still expecting support from the chameleon-like Pentagon chief, who will first want to check the surrounding foliage before selecting the best camouflage color.
However, in a statement on Tuesday, Gates said McChrystal had committed “a significant mistake” in the handling of the Rolling Stone interviews.
In Hastings’s exposure of the backbiting over policy in Afghanistan, the bottom line is best articulated by a predicate adjective beginning with the letter “f” and ending with “…ucked-up.”
Some variation of that vulgarism is used repeatedly by the macho McChrystal and his pseudo-macho staffers, whom Hastings interviewed at length.
Hastings’s copious quotes make it seem as if everyone but McChrystal and his merry men are responsible for the fecklessness on Afghanistan.
But their comments also betray a realization that their particular brand of can-do, cut-and-paste counterinsurgency has brought what Thomas Henry Huxley defined as tragedy; namely, “the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”
Defeat in Afghanistan