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June 22, 2010


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Couple of things, Murr:

First, I don't think Patton or any of those guys could get away with what they got away with these days, in the age of instant information transferal and the 24-hour news cycle. They'd be sacked (or at least called to DC and wrist-slapped) as soon as word got out, and word would get out instantly.

I think McCrystal is exactly the guy you describe here:

"a man of both broader mind and more modest ego, who serves the civilian leadership honorably unless and until the orders he is receiving are reckless, pointless or both?"

I don't know that he thinks his "orders" are reckless or pointless, but it's obvious that he feels that his orders are being compromised daily by the ass covering civilians and political operatives in Washington.

I have a lot of respect for him, like you said, for not saying he was quoted out of context or any bullshit like that.

He said what he said, he meant what he said, and he realizes he probably shouldn't have said it out loud, and apologized for it.

But he did manage to call attention to the games people play in DC, while people die overseas.

I think he knows exactly what he's doing, right down to apologizing without taking anything back.

Steve C.

Agree with everything you say here, Steve, except I can't figure out if you're theorizing that he gave the journalist the quotes as a kind of pre-meditated Machiavellian move--"he knows exactly what he's doing"--or he said stuff that "he realizes he probably shouldn't have said out loud."

Isn't it one or the other?

And if it's the Machiavelli move, I'd really hope that a man of McChrystal's importance has better, and more constructive channels for expressing his beefs than an article in Rolling Stone.

Personally, I do think McChrystal has some thinking to do about his mission, and whether it a good one that's being compromised, or a misguided strategy that's compromised at its very core.

I don't actually think it DOES have to be "one or the other". Heaven knows I'm no expert on the military [though I DO respect them, and am grateful to them and their families everyday for doing what the rest of us can't or won't, and thereby allowing us to sit around and debate "theories" and "concepts" while they are fighting and dying to protect that right for us!] but it would seem to me that the two mind-sets you and Steve identify here would be quite possibly warring contstantly inside the head of the soldier responsible for ALL the soldiers fighting a losing war that the folks in Washington are happy to use as political capital-making opportunities and posturing while sitting comfortably on the safe side of the world.

As to your comment about hoping "that a man of McChrystal's importance has better, and more constructive channels for expressing his beefs than an article in Rolling Stone,"? As someone who's been, more than once, in a position where I felt squeezed between the proverbial "rock and a hard place" [although let me hasten to clarify that NEVER have I faced the sort of rock and hard place McChrystal deals with daily]and that nobody who SHOULD be listening actually WAS listening, I'd suggest that sometimes, all it takes to get you to release the information you've been forced to swallow in an ill-advised [but you usually realize that only in hind sight] blurt, is for someone - ANYONE! - to ask.

Maybe it's as simple as: Rolling Stone asked him at the right moment.

All good thoughts, Kristen. But if you're right, our Afghanistan operation is being run by a man who no longer knows his own mind on the subject, who is no longer sure of himself.

He needs to be relieved, I'm afraid. In more ways than one.

Oh, I'm not suggesting he isn't going to be removed, and just because I understand what led him to make the choices he made doesn't mean I don't think he should have to live with the likely consequences of that choice.

However, if you guys there in the U.S. REALLY think that anyone else is going to have any more success creating a democracy in Afghanistan, then there's this bridge I'd love to talk to you about - it's a real beauty!

Relieving McCrystal of his command won't solve the myriad problems. Forget about the fact that the entire war is a problem that will never be solved.

The administration's approach to the problem is fraught with disaster as well.

It's the downside to the "Team of Rivals" approach Obama favors . . . getting a bunch of people who have different opinions together to discuss things and set policy.

Sometimes, you end up with a policy where half the people (or more) in the administration don't agree, and do everything in their power to subvert it, which is what I think is happening here.

McCrystal had had enough of it, and either a) consciously decided to make it public; or b) self-consciously let it become public.

Either way, he has to step down, obviously. But that won't solve any of the real problems, unfortunately.

Steve C.


Very well written. A fresh take from a true writer's angle. Thanks for the the flip side :)

I got nuthin' on the politics around this story, not being From There, and all (though I am fascinated by it all).

...But, on another tangent, these words of yours bring up something I've been wrestling with this very week:

"One of the things I still allow myself to be proud of is that I can see other people and represent their views. So most of my subjects like my word paintings, which makes me feel good about me, and about them."

So my client has concerns with the "drama" and "colour" I've injected into a corporate story I've written, which includes paraphrasing on some direct quotes. I feel confident I've captured the essence of what I've heard in many, many interviews, and that I am giving voice to my sources, in ways that will make them happy, and be authentic. But she indirectly questions the ethics of that, I can tell.

Although I am a fan of the article in IABC's Code of Ethics that urges us all to "seek the truth and speak the truth," we all know - as does Gen. McChrystal, that "speaking the truth" means different things to different people, and at different times. (I like, too, that he didn't fault RS for the word painting they created.)

But when is it okay to take license with our word paintings, Dear Abbie?

To clarify: You're making up phrases and putting them between quote marks and saying people said them?

That, I don't do. I do everything right up to the hairy edge of that, but I don't do that.

If I said they said it, they said it.

It's a line I'm afraid to cross, because once it's crossed I'm not sure where the next line is.

Perhaps Ann Landers will have a different opinion?

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