General McChrystal, I Salute You

“…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.

I have made the statement to a couple of people that the person living inside me, is a mix of Cher, Stevie Nicks, and Hillary…I just don’t seem to be quite bold enough to let them all out at once! (Or, sometimes, at all!) Well, in this same fantasy world of mine, the ideal male version of me would be General Stanley McChrystal.

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.

My personal research into Stanley McChrystal leaves me more or less awestruck. Continued reading only added to, and compounded, all the above images and impressions.

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.

What would be the word, the phrase that would describe the kind of sadness that I feel? I can’t find it.

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.

It has been my privilege and honor to lead our nation’s finest.”



The Bad News is… (con’d.) – or, ‘Hard is not Hopeless’

I love it when a succinctly-put phrase, or a concise, hard-hitting sentence or two, breaks it all wide open and I’m struck by genius. I really love that. (And of course I mean the ‘genius’ of another…my IQ isn’t that high!)

In the process of re-reading, reviewing & organizing papers and notes, in order to begin this post, I read such a statement that I must’ve missed the first time around. Following the trend of thought & logic presented by former West Point professor and Yale graduate Frederick W. Kagan, concerning the necessary ingredients for victory in Afghanistan, I found this most enlightening (to me) conclusion: ” That does not mean the problem lies with our overall “footprint” in Afghanistan, but rather that we should rethink where (emphasis mine) to put our feet……Understanding this principle is vital, because if we misinterpret the nature of the “footprint” problem we might come to the erroneous conclusion that success requires fewer forces rather than more—or, as some senior leaders are increasingly suggesting, that our presence is the problem.” (Frederick W. Kagan, “Planning Victory in Afghanistan )

Alternative viewpoints can be invaluable. Alternative viewpoints conceived our American democracy. Such viewpoints engender conflict, struggle and ultimately require compromise in policy, as was with our Constitution. These are good things.


This will probably be my last post on Afghanistan (for awhile, at least). (I hope I’m not hearing cheers out there!) Anyway…in my recent readings & writings, I’ve noticed similarities and/or parallels of sorts, between the above-quoted Frederick Kagan’s viewpoints, and ensuing AfPak developments. My intent with this post is to point them out.


“Afghanistan is not now a sanctuary for al-Qaeda, but it would likely become one again if we abandoned it.”

” Allowing Afghanistan to fail would mean allowing these determined enemies of the United States to regain the freedom they had before 9/11.”

I continue to be completely unable to comprehend how so many Americans appear to not get this, as dwindling support for our military presence here would seem to suggest. With sharpened Taliban fighting skills leading to greater Taliban control (Bad News, Pt.1) of this critical area, it should be obvious that insurgency dominance is equivalent to a wide open door for al-Qaeda. “Birds of a feather…”, right? Though all indications evidence al-Qaeda & its key leaders to be primarily Pakistani-based, as well as the removed head of the Taliban government, from these havens contacts are maintained between the two organizations, and insurgent activity is supported in both southern & eastern Afghanistan. Give up Afghanistan, and you’re giving bin Laden free reign. Do that, and America will be looking at a disaster scenario far worse than 9/11.

At the time Mr. Kagan wrote this article (2/09), I don’t recall just how committed the U.S. was to success in Afghanistan. Apparently not enough, though –The Pakistani leadership appears convinced that America will abandon its efforts in South Asia sooner rather than later…”, resulting in continued Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban operating in their territory. Such support ensures a certain level of control over the insurgents, which is desirable for the Pakistanis, especially if they are unsure of American reliability in this endeavour. Until it is widely believed that the U.S. will remain in the fight until the insurgency is defeated, doubt about our commitment will continue to fuel the insurgency.” Locally, the Afghanistan populace, fearing Taliban retaliation, may hesitate to commit to us if they doubt our commitment to them. Kagan concludes that “we must make it clear that we will do what it takes to win” in order to gain the trust and cooperation of the people of both countries.

Based on previous patterns of American retreat/abandonment in Middle East crises/attacks, from 1983 through 1992, Kagan also theorizes that, by duking it out in Afghanistan, a ‘changed…global perception’ of American fortitude would vastly improve our own security, homeland and abroad.

(All quotes are from F.W. Kagan’s article “Planning Victory in Afghanistan”)


I have a number of points yet to make here, and hope to publish another post or two in this vein of thought, before finishing up with AfPak subject matter. However, this may take awhile. For over a year I have been struggling in situations that have become, finally, intolerable, remaining in them for several reasons, one of which was to continue with ‘God, History and You’. I can no longer do this. GH&Y is not shutting down, but it is necessary to let it go a bit, for a season, while I attend to other matters. Posting will be sporadic, if that…! (although that’s nothing new, really, is it?!) I may be off the radar for a time. Hopefully, once issues are settled, I’ll have a renewed focus.

The Bad News is… (Part 1)

“The point is that the Taliban, who have had a very clear aim and means from the very beginning, have been able slowly and steadily to get better at what they’re doing.” (Washington Post)

This remark was recently made by an unnamed European official, whose country’s armed forces are combating the Taliban alongside U.S. troops. Concurring with this statement, top U.S. commander in the AfPak arena General Stanley McChrystal evaluates the situation as ‘serious’. The Taliban are fighting smarter.

They have shifted their focus of attack to small bases and checkpoints, manned by Afghan forces, isolated and easy to infiltrate, thus obtaining intelligence. Gone are the more large-scale confrontations with American troops, from several years ago, which resulted in large numbers of insurgent fatalities. And the confrontations themselves are more sophisticated in method, observed to be similar in style to U.S. Army Rangers training, which equips soldiers for small scale engagements in ‘austere’ surroundings. They are considered by one U.S Army general to be developing into a more ‘disciplined force’.

Among their newly acquired skills – being able to estimate response times for U.S. fighter jets, helicopters, and artillery cannons. “They know exactly how long it takes before . . . they have to break contact and pull back,” one Pentagon official said. Sounds like split-second timing in a hair trigger situation… Using our own tactics against us, the Taliban is taking full advantage of the recent restraint (for the purpose of protecting Afghan civilians) ordered on the use of U.S. air power and also night-time attacks. They have increased their night-time operations, and apparently feel much safer gathering in more populated locales now, perhaps blending in like chameleons, knowing air strikes are much less likely to occur.

Not only has the Taliban fighting style evolved, their geographical areas of control have expanded as well, providing the insurgency with more training ground, and that ground being closer to the actual combat. It has been considered, as well, that the services of professional fighters from Central Asia & other Arab countries are being used.

Opinions differ, though, as to the reason(s) for Taliban ascendancy in the area. The deputy commander of Marines in the Helmand province believes that increased usage of roadside bombs plays more a part in insurgent victories than tactics of any other sort. Playing to their strengths… And the effects of corruption in public office, ethnic tensions, unemployment and the absence of state justice systems in rural regions are strong contributing factors to increased Taliban control, creating unrest & dissatisfaction to which the extremists can offer “solutions’. In neighboring Pakistan, “there is widespread hope that adopting a strict code of law based on the Koran will transform a society where corruption is rampant.” (link) The Islamic militants offer a ‘Robin Hood’ approach, according to Amnesty International, even gaining trust at first, and initially seem to be defending the weak & poor, but that defense soon becomes ‘quick…harsh justice’, and with the ‘defending’ comes increased Taliban dominance.

Possibly more potent to Taliban victory than any sharpened skill or evolved strategy, however, is the simple fact of morale. Said one senior official, “The number one indicator we have out there now is that they think they’re winning (italics mine). That creates an attitude, a positive outlook, and a willingness to sacrifice.”


Sooo….as I was reading my source article, and writing the above, the following statements from my post “Afghanistan – a New Approach?” came to mind.

“…an intensified military effort to root out corruption among local government officials…” is a large part of its aim…

“…considers corruption at local government levels to be as much a threat to Afghan peace and freedom as any top Taliban commander.” (Seeing as how corruption in government has been cited as a prime factor in the Taliban gaining influence, the wisdom of the goal to uproot it is readily apparent.)
“Strong emphasis is being placed on partnership, Afghan and U.S/NATO troops living, training and carrying out missions together, throughout every level of rank.” (Akin to fighting fire with fire, this tactic of partnering mirrors the Taliban working in tandem with ‘professional fighters’ from other countries)


So we’re seeing, then, some better news here. Seems to me that McChrystal is right on the money in his strategic assessments & plans. I know he’s got my vote.


In Part 2, a little more along these same lines. Then, I’m hopping the time capsule back to the days of our Founders to see what’s going on…lately I swear I’m hearing Jefferson quietly reminding me I’ve left him in the dust, I just got a rather antiquated-looking letter from a John Adams, & Ben Franklin actually somehow faxed me! I must get back to my true loves, the Founders! They are calling!

Tell Me This isn’t Another Iraq…

President Obama has signed the order authorizing an additional 17,000 troops to be deployed to Afghanistan.

This deployment will begin in May, and will increase U.S. forces there by fifty percent, in addition to the 32,000 NATO troops already present. The White House has acknowledged that the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and American homeland security is threatened by al-Qaeda as a result of this. Taliban attacks, as well as U.S. and NATO casualties, in the Afghan/Pakistani area are higher than they have been since our war on terror began in earnest. A request for 30,000 more troops had been made previously, by the U.S commander in Afghanistan, and former President Bush had authorized them, but only 6,000 arrived this past month.

I personally am gratified to see President Obama taking this action, and I would say I’m greatly reassured as to his more aggressive approach towards combating terrorist activities, except that Obama has also stated that he wants to “limit U.S. objectives” in Afghanistan, according to the Washington Post. What does this mean? I would think, as per the title of this post, the president wants to do exactly that. Meaning, Afghanistan can’t become another Iraq, and let’s make sure it doesn’t. Let’s be careful how involved we get, and how we get involved.

Though Obama promised to withdraw our troops from Iraq in a clear, methodical manner, he has yet to begin that process, nor has he received any specific withdrawal plans from military planners. This signifies, to me, that perhaps a more cautious tone is prevailing here. Perhaps campaign promises were a bit too brash…? We are talking the security of not only the United States but the world, really; human lives, bloodshed and human suffering are the issues here. I would not want to be the leader with that responsibility on my shoulders. I cannot even imagine that kind of weight. Even so, I am glad to see that President Obama may be applying the brakes slightly, regarding U.S. troop evacuations, and yet I would also think it wisdom to consider our options in a regretfully necessary Afghan occupation.

Unbelievably, the response of the Afghan citizenry sounds just like the latter years attitude of the Iraqi public. They want us out. Or at least, less. A recent poll indicates only 18% are happy about an increase in U.S. troops there. Rising civilian casualties are, understandably, a source of resentment, and the coalition forces are gradually losing support for this reason, according to yesterday’s U.N. report.

This sound familiar to anybody?

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates Americans are divided roughly 2 to 1 as regards increasing our military presence in Afghanistan, the scales tilting against it. About one-third of us support troops increase; the rest, either let it be, or send some home…

Again, familiar ring…..?

AND YET…”…most Americans consider winning in Afghanistan essential to victory in the broader fight against terrorism…” ( Washington Post )


(Source: Washington Post)