by Kay B. Day
Rolling Stone’s advance of an article with controversial remarks by Gen. Stanley McChrystal about President Barack Obama’s prosecution of the war will be on the screen for days to come. Apparently the general opened up to a freelancer and held little back when it came to deriding vice-president Joe Biden and ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry. Eikenberry retired from the US Army as a Lieutenant General.*
But war correspondent Michael Yon had begun to ask questions about the leadership in Afghanistan weeks ago.
The Washington Post said McChrystal “is quoted in an upcoming profile in Rolling Stone magazine as saying that Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, had ‘betrayed’ him by sending a diplomatic cable to Washington last fall dismissing Karzai as ‘not an adequate strategic partner.’ The cable came as McChrystal was recommending that President Obama increase U.S. forces and ties with the Afghan government.”
Long before Rolling Stone published the story, war correspondent Michael Yon had also levied criticism at McChrystal. Yon came under fire from some milbloggers for his dispatches, and at least one military blog came close to character assassination because of what Yon wrote about McChrystal.
Yon has consistently turned out major stories about the war that others missed, such as the Canadian Brigadier General who not only fired his weapon negligently but also was accused of having an affair with a female staffer. The military and media lagged in that coverage.
Yon also pinpointed a serious blunder that left a vital bridge unsecured in Afghanistan, leading to deaths and injuries for soldiers and civilians.
In a dispatch on Yon's Facebook Fan Page where approximately 35,000 fans read his posts, he wrote: “If a Colonel under General McChrystal's chain of command publicly dismissed General McChrystal in a major magazine, McChrystal would be forced to fire him or appear weak and not in control.”
The military doesn’t take kindly to public criticism that runs bottom to top.
Apart from Yon, however, many conservatives have been troubled by the prosecution of this war in accordance with demands from the left and from media, and complaints about the dilution of the Rules of Engagement have been raised in some quarters. Troop deaths rose sharply this year in Afghanistan, but national media, sympathetic to Obama, rarely make note of that. When President George W. Bush was in office, however, troop deaths were noted daily and above the fold.
A general feeling among national security conservatives is that even before Obama took office, leftwingers and allied media had actually prolonged the war and endangered troops just as they did during the Vietnam era. Another general feeling is that Obama lacked the experience to manage the war, even if his Democrat political base would permit it. The president is already behind the timetable he claimed he’d meet on troop withdrawal during his campaign.
Perhaps as a result of the attention Yon receives from branded media and from fans, it’s fathomable why some bloggers would launch personal attacks.
It appears Yon’s criticism of the general was prophetic. Yon also wrote on Facebook: “Unless McChrystal basically denies the article, he must be fired. If he is not fired, I will start calling him President McChrystal because Obama clearly is not in charge.”
Obviously Yon was ahead of the curve.
Yon’s embed was recently canceled and he has been filing dispatches from Thailand. His widely acclaimed book ‘Moment of Truth in Iraq’ has just been released in paperback.
[Ed. Note: Yon actually began to crit the general sometime in April.]
[Correction: Thanks to my readers I have corrected Eikenberry's rank! Sorry about the unintentional demotion.]
The article Stanley McChrystal: The runaway general has been released online; the link I'm providing goes to MSNBC after the network received permission to reprint it from Rolling Stone.
Michael Hastings lacks no skills as a writer; he pretty much wrote what he saw and connected it all in a fast-paced narrative.
I was very young when the Vietnam War was at its pitch. Having read this article and having read countless books, articles and milblogs, I am once again struck by the similarities between that war and our current situation. I am reminded that to win in the traditional sense of winning a war, mercy is usually reserved until the opposition concedes. I am also reminded of what the enemy there knows--Americans have little appetite for a prolonged war.
I would take issue with one statement in Hastings' article I might call "unrounded," for lack of a better word. I'm not taking issue with Hastings, but with Gen. McChrystal. Hastings wrote, "Winning hearts and minds in COIN is a coldblooded thing," McChrystal says, citing an oft-repeated maxim that you can't kill your way out of Afghanistan. "The Russians killed 1 million Afghans, and that didn't work."
The general missed an important element in the Russians' defeat. Largely through the efforts of one Democrat congressman, the US was arming the mujahideen and even training them covertly. We spent millions of dollars to help them defeat the Russians and as soon as it was over, we left. I've often wondered if there would be the level of insurgency in some of the remote tribal areas now had we not intervened. But we might ask ourselves, considering that history, who is playing the role in Afghanistan that we assumed in the Russian defeat.
I'd also say we need to either face the brutal reality of war and let our men and women fight, or we should bring them home now. We have to admit at some point you can't earn someone else's freedom. They have to do that for themselves and they will do it only if they want it.