“…promotion cometh neither from the east, nor the west…God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” (Psalm 75: 6,7)
I did not, of course, know General Stanley McChrystal personally…would that I had…
I spent most of my day this past Wednesday pulling up online information about the man. I read the entire Rolling Stone magazine article “The Runaway General”, and I count it as recommended reading for anyone interested in current events. (In fact, I’ve decided that, from now on, the Rolling Stone politics pages will be showing up in my browser on a regular basis.) Keeping anxious tab on breaking news alerts, I pretty much expected that this former Special Ops commander, who led the team that captured and eliminated Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was going to be relieved of his Afghanistan command. How could tables turn so quickly? The course of history changes in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.
McChrystal “…hates fancy restaurants, rejecting any place with candles on the tables as too “Gucci.” He prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux.” (While I don’t exactly hate fancy restaurants, and I don’t even like beer…although that lime thing
sounds good…what I’m saying is, I can so relate!) McChrystal has been dubbed ‘a snake-eating rebel’ ,‘the general from the dark side’ (Peninsula Peace & Justice Center), and likened to a Jedi knight (Newsweek) He was right there with his men, on Iraqi nighttime raids and dangerous missions, and the strength of their loyalties to one another would seem to be evidenced in McChrystal’s declaration that “All these men…”I’d die for them. And they’d die for me.”
Valued for his “new thinking and new approaches” (by Secretary of Defense Gates) and his early-on formulation of the Af-Pak expanded war concept and its concomitant strategies, McChrystal was seen as a rising star. In a May,2009 piece, the New York Times describes McChrystal as having “an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists…”, as being “a warrior-scholar”. At one point, he was given “the authority to carry out actions unilaterally anywhere on the globe” by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
I find it interesting that his predecessor, General David McKiernan, was also fired, making room for McChrystal. Granted, motive differed, but…McKiernan’s dismissal was “the first time a top general had been relieved from duty during wartime in more than 50 years, since Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.” (Rolling Stone) So Obama also has a predecessor in this…
On the subject of motives, my thoughts run like this: while it is insisted that personal insult did not play a part in Stanley McChrystal’s relief-of-command, I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced that’s true. Reports indicated the President’s response to be one of strong anger. I’ll have to double-check, but I may have seen the word ’furious’.
If I had been consulted, my counsel to the President would have been along the lines of a Scripture I’ve seen advising, essentially, blowing off the bad-mouthing of others (concerning yourself) because each of us has been guilty of the same thing at some point. (I can’t find that verse right now, but I’ve recently read it.) That sounds too simplistic, doesn’t it? Well, as foolish as it might’ve been, I was considering emailing the White House. But upon further thought…I don’t see how the leader of the free world could EVER allow such mocking insults to be overlooked. Not publicly. Not now, at this time in history, when the world image of America and her president needs to be a strong and decisive one. I don’t believe this nation can afford to look wimpy, and, unfortunately, mercy can be interpreted as weakness. Columnist Chris Cillizza (The Fix) writes “President Obama’s decision to relieve Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his oversight of the Afghanistan war Wednesday was painted by his allies — and many in the media — as a prime example of strong and decisive leadership“, mirroring my sentiment. According to Thursday’s Washington Post, the “importance of preserving the authority of the commander in chief” tilted the scales of White House justice. The removal of General McChrystal “calmed fears within his (President Obama’s) own party that he might look weak if he refused to confront the general.”
Sadly, I agree.
McChrystal was not a saint, of course. Reading about his part in the cover-up of the tragic ‘friendly-fire’ death of Pat Tillman, the abuse that took place on his watch at a secret detention and interrogation center near Baghdad, Camp Nama, left another kind of heaviness in my heart. And, as it turns out, some of the men under his command weren’t all that taken with him, after all. (See ’Revolt of the Troops’) Though earlier in this post, mention is made of McChrystal as a Jedi Knight, I began to think, this man sounds more like Darth Vader…
But we are, and have been, in perilous times. Times which of necessity mandate extreme measures. Harsh and difficult decisions have to be made. This is not la-la land in which we live. We are America at war. Thank God that we have these men and women in position to make those difficult choices that preserve our freedom.
Winding down to a close, I want to present what I see as extremely significant information and compelling evidence of not only the right man having been on-the-job, but also a reason for hope in Afghanistan and beyond . The following are quotes taken from a Washington Post article about an uprising of the Afghan villagers of Gizab, against the Taliban –
“For the first time in this phase of the conflict, ordinary Afghans in the violence-racked south have risen on their own to reclaim territory under insurgent control. “
“One U.S. commander called it “perhaps the most important thing that has happened in southern Afghanistan this year.”
“Several rank-and-file fighters, and even a few mid-level leaders, have put down their weapons and reintegrated into the community.”
“The Taliban thought this place was untouchable, and what the people here showed them — and everyone else — was that they could stand up and break free from that grip,” said Brig. Gen. Austin S. Miller, the top U.S. Special Operations commander in Afghanistan.”
“The uprising appears to have been the result of a combination of Taliban overreaching, U.S. encouragement (emphasis mine) and local resentment. “
A big deal is not being made about this incident, it seems. But it IS a big deal.
General McChrystal’s official resignation statement sounds not at all like the man I’ve been getting to know. It cannot have been easy to walk away from all that he did and believed, with the apparent humility and graciousness evidenced in that statement. Perhaps he was ‘strong-armed’ into the language he chose. Regardless, McChrystal concluded his mission, finally, with the words and actions of a true hero. He bowed out of the picture, without accusation, preserving intact an appearance at least of unity. He did this for the good of his country and the mission.
“This morning the President accepted my resignation as Commander of U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. I strongly support the President’s strategy in Afghanistan and am deeply committed to our coalition forces, our partner nations, and the Afghan people. It was out of respect for this commitment — and a desire to see the mission succeed — that I tendered my resignation.