McChrystal and The Tragedy of Outsized Egos

The history of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the current administration will be spun and rewritten by the usual suspects regardless the facts. McChrystal’s departure and the interview that lead up to it seem to be more about personalities – well the General’s personality rather than politics. There were some public missteps McChrystal last year – Media Pushes ‘Rift’ Between McChrystal and Obama, General’s Remarks Took on Controversial Life After NY Times Pieces, Cable News Coverage By Spencer Ackerman 10/5/09. Who said what has a way of becoming amplified and distorted simply by reporting it and since the media loves an easy and combative narrative, that spin, intentional or not gets a lot of play. This was all around the time McChrystal was submitting what was supposed to be a confidential report on Afghanistan and what he thought was required to wrap up what he thought would be a successful conclusion of an effort that started during the Bush administration in 2001. Despite all the alleged tension between McChrystal and the White House he was upbeat about the decisions the Obama White House had made, McChrystal: ‘A New Clarity of Mission’ in Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal Rallies the Troops in Response to Obama’s Military Strategy

Gen. Stanley McChrystal today welcomed President Obama’s announcement that he would send more troops to Afghanistan.

The U.S. commander also told reporters that Afghan President Hamid Karzai supported the decision. “The president was very upbeat, very resolute this morning,” he said.

In a confident but sometimes sobering address to his commanders around the country this morning, McChrystal said he believes that the war in Afghanistan is at a turning point.

Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, he said, “I don’t think we’re at the end, or the beginning of the end. We’re at the end of the beginning.” He asked for a moment of silence for the war’s dead and injured.

He then gave his commanders a rousing pep-talk, saying the president’s speech had given them a “new clarity of mission…providing their Afghan partners with the time, space and capability to defend their country.”

“Success is defined by the people. In counter-insurgency, it’s about what people think at the end of the day…there will be more long nights, more long days, more memorial services…but also more Afghans with a chance.”

Speaking off-camera later to reporters, McChrystal said, “The challenges are significant. There’s no way to get around that. Sometimes it looks almost insurmountable, but it isn’t.”

McChrystal indicated that while he supported the timeline he was keen to stress that it was far from absolute. “It’s not an 18 months and everybody leaves. The president has expressed on numerous occasions a long-term strategic partnership with Afghanistan and that includes all manners of assistance. So the concept is as ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] capacity rises, the requirement for coalition military forces goes down.”

Talking about the troop numbers he seemed happy with the 30,000 the president has agreed to. “I think it is sufficient & it’s exactly what we need.” However, he quietly chided NATO countries: “I’m hoping all the coalition partners will look and see what they can do to expand their capabilities.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen issued a statement today in response to Obama’s announcement suggesting that NATO members would meet these responsibilities: “As the U.S. increases its commitment, I am confident that the other allies, as well as our partners in the mission, will also make a substantial increase in their contribution.”

The General got everything he needed, in his own words, than things do not go as planned. McChrystal is known for two things – being extremely smart and having a huge ego. Not bad things necessarily, in a heart surgeon or a General. In McChrystal’s case it might have been exasperating to have had a large say in the new strategy for Afghanistan, be the mission commander and have most of what he requested, than fight to what appears not to be a loss or a win, but a stalemate. Egos like McChrystal’s do not turn inward and ask hard questions of self – in this case it turned outward, letting loose in Rolling Stone. U.S. Troop levels in Afghanistan ( not including NATO forces) by 2003 were 5,200. By 2008 they had reached 23,700. These numbers are Boot on the Ground – not support personnel. By the end of 2009 there were 50,700. Including support, but not civilian contractors there are currently 94,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan. More personnel than are currently in Iraq. Seeing the words in print and realizing the implications McChrystal admitted ” I’ve “Compromised  the Mission”. The Night Beat: Obama Borrows the Military Back

First, though a lot of officers who hitched their careers to McChrystal are indeed quite angry, no one has resigned, the CIA’s station chief remains in place (though he’s quite close to McChrystal) and McRaven isn’t going anywhere. Second, it is meaningful and endearing that so many people are loyal to McChrystal. They revere the man. Third, such behavior, while in one context explicable, is precisely an argument in favor of President Obama’s decision to remove McChrystal. The war is about more than one man. No deviations from the mission are acceptable. There is politics in war, and there are now numerous ways to complain; there is no question that after eight years doing God knows what in service to the country, frustrations had built up. But for those who talked to Rolling Stone, no matter how well-intentioned they were, no matter what they’ve done, their decision to open up to the magazine suggests that they had not learned, or had forgotten, the cardinal rule: your power is a trust that has been established by civilian politicians accountable to voters, and it is maintained by these politicians.

There is a frat house quality about the whole affair. The leaders of the frat house developed an attitude in which they could not possibly be wrong, though all the evidence around them suggested otherwise. These are the type of guys that are smart enough to do both great work and to create the rationales that deflect blame from themselves.

Even more about McChrystal: now it can be told. The story about him voting for Obama is not contrived. He is a political liberal. He is a social liberal. He banned Fox News from the television sets in his headquarters. Yes, really. This puts to rest another false rumor: that McChrystal deliberately precipitated his firing because he wants to run for President.

The verdict is not in on whether McChrystal was an angel, but he was and still is a brilliant soldier and only human. This was not his first mistake, but as he himself acknowledged maybe his worse in terms of putting people and egos ahead of the mission. The link to Ambinder at the Atlantic is worth reading in full. Explained among other things, is why McChrystal is called The Pope.

As Barton Un-unapologizes, Texas Voters Take Notice

As the saga of Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) apology to BP took yet another strange turn today, a new poll shows the voters he represents think he was wrong — and that the entire episode has negatively affected their opinion of him.

Public Policy Polling released the results of a poll this morning that showed just 18 percent believed Barton was right to apologize fow what he believed was a “$20 billion shakedown” of the company; 65 percent thought BP did not deserve the apology.

[  ]…Republicans hoped that would be the end of the story, but it was not to be so. Hours after apologizing to his colleagues, Barton’s Twitter account retweeted an American Prospect story titled “Joe Barton was right.” A media firestorm erupted, with Politico’s Ben Smith referring to the tweet as an “unapology.” The tweet has since been deleted and an aide has claimed responsibility for posting it, claiming he had retweeted the item without thinking.

The apology flap appears to have had a negative effect on Barton’s popularity in the state. The PPP poll shows more people view him negatively than view him positively…

If Barton wants to be a lobbyist for the oil industry he is free to do so, but he should resign and stop living off tax payers while pretending to be an honorable representative of the people.

Conservative media defend BP against “shakedowns,” “show trials,” and environmentalists at least 62 times

Media Matters has identified at least 62 recent instances of media conservatives defending BP, 38 of which occurred on the Fox News Channel, Fox Business, the Fox Nation, or the talk shows of Fox News hosts. There were at least 21 criticisms of BP’s escrow account as an Obama “shakedown” or “slush fund,” 10 attacks on President Obama for supposedly “demonizing” BP, 15 examples of conservatives deriding investigations of the company, 12 claims that environmental regulations are responsible for the spill, and five absurd conspiracy theories about the spill.

Conservatives seldom take responsibility for anything – the Iraq fiasco, wrecking the economy – now they refuse to let corporations take responsibility for their actions. If America is in the mood for the ultimate in Daddy politics by all means vote Republican; they’re the dads that will let you get away with anything.

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