Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander in Afghanistan, has put on quite a show of insubordination in the past month or so in an attempt to cram his escalation plan down the throat of the America public. He has waged open information warfare in the media, right wing and otherwise, against President Barack Obama. I wonder how much longer Obama will up with it.
More to the point, I wonder if he can stand up to it.
The main thing to remember about McChrystal is that he’s part of the “King David” Petraeus court, and Petraeus is now a de facto Praetorian governor as head of Central Command (CENTCOM). McChrystal was his handpicked choice to replace Gen. David McKiernan, who apparently didn’t spend the night in Petraeus’s tent often enough.
About halfway through Sept., media leaks suggested McChrystal might resign if he didn’t get his way on the Afghanistan escalation. Then he leaked his grim assessment of Afghanistan to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post that warned the mission in Afghanistan would fail if he didn’t get more troops assigned there.
He did his 60 Minutes gig, a puff piece designed to make him look like a thoughtful, sensitive superman (he barely eats or sleeps, he runs six miles every morning, and he’s a great guy). In the 60 Minutes infomercial he cried that since he took command in Afghanistan he’s only talked to Obama once. That’s how things are supposed to work; Petraeus is in between Obama and McChrystal in the military chain of command, something you need to use in the military to avoid rampant chaos. Petraeus, of course, is used to ignoring the chain of command. It barely existed in the Bush/Cheney administration.
As commander in Iraq, Petraeus consistently went behind then CENTCOM chief Admiral William Fallon’s back to get what he wanted directly from the White House. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the Middle East assassination team that McChrystal ran as a three-star, appears to have been taking orders directly from Dick Cheney, who as vice president had no legal standing in the military chain of command at all. Journalist Seymour Hersh called the JSOC “an executive assassination ring.”
McChrystal has gotten a near total pass on his involvement with the Pat Tillman cover-up, as well as for his involvement in torture. This guy is used to getting away with anything and everything he feels like doing. No wonder he doesn’t care what his boss, the president, thinks about him.
At a speech to a war-centric think tank in London, McChrystal derided Vice President Joe Biden’s proposal to adopt a low footprint counter-terror campaign. Obama apparently took McChrystal to the woodshed over that, but didn’t seem to do much good.
A Dexter Filkins’ October 14 New York Times Magazine article “Stanley McChrystal’s Long War” was an even bigger piece of war pornography that the 60 Minutes infomercial was. “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal stepped off the whirring Black Hawk and headed straight into town. He had come to Garmsir, a dusty outpost along the Helmand River in southern Afghanistan, to size up the war that President Obama has asked him to save. McChrystal pulled off his flak jacket and helmet. His face, skeletal and austere, seemed a piece of the desert itself.”
Filkins is gargling on McChrystal’s precious bodily fluids. He has turned into a bigger camp follower of McChrystal than Thomas E. Ricks has been of Petraeus.
McChrystal flew in unannounced to a NATO summit and sweet-talked Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen into endorsing his cockamamie counterinsurgency plan.
The biggest problem with McChrystal’s surge plan is that won’t work, any more than the surge in Iraq did. As Boston University professor and retired Army officer Andrew Bacevich notes, Iraq “is bizarrely trumpeted in some quarters as a ‘success’ and even more bizarrely seen as offering a template for how to turn Afghanistan around.”
Afghanistan is a far more complex problem than Iraq, and Iraq is plenty complex. Gen. Ray Odierno, now commander in Iraq, says the insurgency there may go on for another 15 years. The insurgency in Afghanistan may go on for another 50 years. As Bacevich says, the war there is one “we can’t win.” I couldn’t agree more.
That suits the long war cartel just fine. As tax dollar rip-offs go, it’s as good as the bank bailout. Defense contracts for all my Facebook friends!
McChrystal says job one in Afghanistan is to protect civilians, yet we keep killing them, and we’ll continue to kill them. Among the harshest untruths of our counterinsurgency doctrine is the myth that you can separate the civilian population from the insurgents. You can’t. Insurgents are not formal military forces who leave their families and deploy as major maneuver units. They live where they fight; they have nowhere else to go.
Our war on terror never really had much to do with terror. The neocons, who wrote the template for the foreign policy collision with the brick wall of destiny that we are presently on, merely wanted to turn America into a 21st century version of ancient Rome. Like Rome, we are about to become captives of our Praetorian Guard, our military elites, the likes of Stan McChrystal and his mentor Petraeus and their puppet boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
As renaissance political scientist Niccolo Machiavelli noted, the ascendency of the Praetorian Guard caused the fall of Rome. As he noted in The Art of War, the Praetorian Guard became “insolent and formidable” and “put many emperors to death and then disposed of the empire as it pleased.”
We’re at a perilous point in the American experiment. Unless Obama can get control of our Praetorians, our republic will become, once and for all, a militaristic oligarchy. That would sadden our founders no end.