Washington is reeling today from a Rolling Stone magazine profile of
General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan,
which portrays him as sharply critical of his overseers in the White
House and his diplomatic partner, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl
Eikenberry. You can download the article here
President Obama has called McChrystal, who issued an apology
, to the White House on Wednesday
to explain his comments. Personal strife within an administration is
never a good thing, but this episode could be especially damaging.
- The Article's Damaging Quotes Most come from
McChrystal's staffers, who say McChrystal was "pretty disappointed" in
Obama, who they call unprepared to discuss the war and "uncomfortable
and intimidated" in planning meetings. McChrystal jokes at one point,
"Are you asking about Vice President Biden? Who's that?" One staffer
calls National Security Adviser Jim Jones a "clown." McChrystal says of
Ambassador Eikenberry, "Here's one that covers his flank for the history
books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so.'" An aide says of
Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, "The Boss says he's like a wounded
animal. Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to be fired, so
that makes him dangerous."
- Pre-Existing Suspicion Between
McChrystal and White House The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains,
"Even though McChrystal voted for Obama and told him so during their
first meeting, he sensed that a number of senior White House aides
didn't really believe that the former commander of the military's
special missions unit during the Bush-Cheney years was suddenly on their
side. National Security Adviser James Jones, who is a bit of cipher to
McChrystal's team, may or may not have been one of these aides. No one
in the West Wing bought all that liberal internet chatter about JSOC's
alleged crimes -- but no one really didn't buy it, either." Ambinder
says of McChrystal, "He was tired of being perceived in the press as a
neoconservative killer, Dick Cheney's hired assassin, or disloyal to
President Obama and his staff."
- Unfortunate Distraction Will
Hurt Everyone Andrew Exum, a former adviser to
McChrystal who was interviewed for the Rolling Stone article, sighs,
"Folks on the left are going to be screaming for POTUS to sack
McChrystal for insubordination, and folks from the right are going to
seize on this as evidence the Obama Administration is screwing up the
war and not supporting his generals. Meanwhile, in Kabul, you have a
commander dealing with a mess (that he made for himself, it must be
said) that has nothing do with the Taliban or Afghan corruption."
- Fallout Will Be Mostly Political The New York Times' Dexter Filkins writes, "The article does not portray any
serious policy differences with Mr.
Obama, who chose General McChrystal to take charge of a major escalation
of American troops and materiel, in hopes of reversing the
deteriorating situation here. Still, the piece seems destined to raise
questions about General
McChrystal's judgment, and to spark debate over the wisdom of Mr.
Obama's strategy, at a time when violence in the country is rising
sharply and when several central planks of the strategy appear stalled.
Two important American allies, the Dutch and Canadians, have announced
plans to pull their combat troops from the country."
- This Has Precedents The Wall Street Journal's Peter Spiegel writes, "The
article, titled 'The Runaway General,' has already caused nervousness
inside the Pentagon, where memories are still fresh of another
blistering profile that got a top commander in hot water: an August 2008
cover story in Esquire on Adm. William
'Fox' Fallon, then commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and
Central Asia. The article eventually played a part in Fallon's
resignation two years ago."
- Will McChrystal Be Fired? The
Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman doubts it.
"It's perilous for Obama to fire McChrystal now, with only a year
remaining before the July 2011 date for beginning to transition to
Afghan security responsibilities and consequently beginning troop
reductions. But it's going to be on McChrystal to repair the trust with
the White House this profile has clearly damaged. If McChrystal keeps
his command, that Rolling Stone reporter got the general's last big
- ...He Should Be Central Asia expert Joshua Foust writes, "Basically, either
Obama or McChrystal are going down over this. It should be McChrystal -
he broke the law. Obama needs to fire him. The issue is a uniformed general mocking the vice
president. That is a direct violation of Article 88 of the UCMJ.
He should not be allowed to continue to serve
after that lapse of judgment/insubordination. Kandahar or no, if McChrystal gets to keep his job
after publicly mocking the VP, he has shown he is untouchable."
He Won't Be The American Prospect's Adam Serwer writes, "Prediction: Left
calls for McChrystal firing for insubordination, Obama wins back manly
pundit love by punching hippies in the face. Substantive question of why general thinks he
should be getting open-ended deadline to fight war americans want over
will go unaddressed."
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.