The Rolling Stone article: As bad as advertised

posted at 9:30 am on June 22, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Via Chris Cillizza on Twitter, Politico has the PDF of the Rolling Stone article [update: RS article up now at this link] that has created a firestorm for General Stanley McChrystal — and it’s at least as bad as advertised.  Michael Hastings paints a damning picture of a military leader who seems to have built a toadying entourage, whose disdain and contempt for the political leadership of the country drips from every page, and who doesn’t seem to mind who knows it — until it hits the presses.  The most damning criticism comes not from McChrystal, however, but from one of his aides (language warning throughout post):

Taking the advice of both the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he also fired Gen. David McKiernan – then the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan – and replaced him with a man he didn’t know and had met only briefly: Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It was the first time a top general had been relieved from duty during wartime in more than 50 years, since Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.

Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn’t go much
better. “It was a 10-minute photo op,” says an adviser to McChrystal. “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

That is the kind of revelation that either a commander of a theater of war saves for his memoirs, or resigns to make to Congress. During the war, however, the expectation is that all sides refrain from airing this kind of dirty laundry. McChrystal appears not to know that. Worse yet, these and other anecdotes from his inner circle appear to show that McChrystal either tolerates or actively encourages disrespect for the civilian leadership that runs the US military. Here’s another example, one a little more clear:

Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. “I never know what’s going to pop out until I’m up there, that’s the problem,” he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and
his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”

“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

And another:

McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. “The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” says a member of the general’s team. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He’s a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto. But this is COIN, and you can’t just have someone yanking on shit.”

At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry. “Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke,” he groans. “I don’t even want to open it.” He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance.
“Make sure you don’t get any of that on your leg,” an aide jokes, referring to the e-mail.

Only one in Obama’s administration gets much respect — and you’ll be surprised who receives it:

Part of the problem is structural: The Defense Department budget exceeds $600 billion a year, while the State Department receives only $50 billion. But part of the problem is personal: In private, Team McChrystal likes to talk shit about many of Obama’s top people on the diplomatic side. One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a “clown” who remains “stuck in 1985.” Politicians like McCain and Kerry, says another aide, “turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it’s not very helpful.” Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal’s inner circle. “Hillary had Stan’s back during the strategic review,” says an adviser. “She said, ‘If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.’ ”

Some will say that we have had plenty of brilliant generals who won wars while being difficult and opinionated. That is true, but even those generals understood to keep their opinions within a tight, private circle — and knew not to encourage insubordination among their staff. George Patton wound up getting fired for airing too many of his opinions about de-Nazification and the Soviets publicly while administering post-war Germany; Douglas MacArthur, one of the most self-centered military leaders in American history, succeeded brilliantly until he publicly challenged his Commander in Chief on war strategies. Being right, or at least mostly right, didn’t do either Patton or MacArthur much good in the end, nor should it have.

So far, McChrystal hasn’t earned enough leash by winning anything. Regardless of what one thinks of the current C-in-C, Obama is still the man elected by the people to run the executive branch and the military. The picture this article paints is one of a lack of discipline and respect, and the White House has every right to demand an apology and replace McChrystal with someone who understands better the subtleties of overall command and its politics.

Will Obama fire McChrystal? It’s hard to say, mainly because of the critical juncture we face in Afghanistan and McChrystal’s deep involvement in all phases of the effort. But after reading the Rolling Stone article, which McChrystal has yet to deny, it would be very hard to blame Barack Obama if he canned McChrystal over it.

Update: Byron York says that McChrystal’s disdain for civilian leadership was a powderkeg waiting to blow:

I just got off the phone with a retired military man, with more than 25 years experience, who has worked with Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the Pentagon.  His reaction to McChrystal’s performance in the new Rolling Stone profile?  No surprise at all.

“Those of us who knew him would unanimously tell you that this was just a matter of time,” the man says.  “He talks this way all the time.  I’m surprised it took this long for it to rear its ugly head.”

Byron also points out the corner into which Obama has painted himself:

Obama is in a bind with McChrystal.  There’s no doubt Obama would be fully justified in firing his top general.  But at the same time Obama has committed himself to a rigid timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Changing commanders could complicate that enormously.  Right now, because of his own policy decisions, the president has no good choice.

Not unless he can convince David Petraeus to return to field command.

Update II: Rolling Stone has now published the article on line at this link, which I’ve also added above.


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The shame of it all is that many of our sons’ and daughters’ lives could be spared had we the stones to declare the enemy to be THE ENEMY.

We’re playing word games and they’re blowing our people to pieces.

This is insane.

hillbillyjim on June 22, 2010 at 8:32 PM

I am at a vocabulary loss here. You are the second talking head to use the word insubordinate. I always thought that meant refusal to follow orders. McChrystal may have been disrespectful but not insubordinate. The second thing here is that Obama is surrounded with yes men/women. He NEVER wants to hear the other view point. Mc was politically stupid and probably can’t work for the unicorn any longer but lets keep our collective eyes on the ball here.
Afghanistan is turning out to be a disaster and perhaps Mc decided that now is the time to get out and make the strongest statement he could about the lousy conditions, knowing he would be fired. There is something I learned in the Marines as an officer and that was sometimes a sergeant has the right to yell back at you if you are wrong and are about to lead men to their death. Mr. Thinskin needs to get over it and deal with the issue.

inspectorudy on June 22, 2010 at 8:43 PM

hawkdriver on June 22, 2010 at 8:11 PM

nice work. ACOM on your next OER….

ted c on June 22, 2010 at 8:43 PM

ted c on June 22, 2010 at 8:43 PM

I will receive exactly two more OERs. I’ll get a Change of Rater OER and a retirement OER. And as a W5, I don’t even get blocked anymore.

hawkdriver on June 22, 2010 at 8:52 PM

hawkdriver on June 22, 2010 at 8:52 PM

hope your transition goes well. I knew a W5 aviator at HAAF that retired w/n last 2 yrs. He then turned up at Belvoir as a contractor….flying of course.

ted c on June 22, 2010 at 8:57 PM

He then turned up at Belvoir as a contractor….flying of course.

ted c on June 22, 2010 at 8:57 PM

FUnny you should say that. I wasn’t even looking and an Instructor Pilot and Platform Instructor job just fell in my lap within the last week. I think the hawks nest will be doing pretty well.

hawkdriver on June 22, 2010 at 9:15 PM

hawkdriver on June 22, 2010 at 9:15 PM

just when you thought you were getting out, they bring you right back in, right?

I’ll probably end up with a similar deal.

ted c on June 22, 2010 at 9:35 PM

Oh, Lord.
You live in my town. Meh.
I hope your idiocy isn’t contagious, but it very well might be.
I can only wonder what lucky corporation has you an “attorney” and if our local judges appreciate your briefs with cites from Wikipedia…

Jenfidel on June 22, 2010 at 5:36 PM

Jen, what law school did you go to?

Jimbo3 on June 22, 2010 at 9:38 PM

You’re not the only game in town if you’re anywhere in the DFW metroplex, which is where I live. And I wouldn’t get your hopes up for a Senate take-over. Based on current polling, it just won’t happen, ted.

Jimbo3 on June 22, 2010 at 5:20 PM
well jimbo, life has a funny way of catching up with you–so just remember that jimbo…the next time you want to disparage the military and our knowledge about the CoC and taxes jimbo, because the next guy putting a tube in your chest after your dumbass gets hit by a truck just may see that “I’m Jimbo3 and I’m a dumbass” tattoo on your shoulder and remember who the hell you are and treat you just right. Ya gots that jimbo? good.

ted c on June 22, 2010 at 5:26 PM

Here’s Section 9.012 of the AMA’s Code of Ethics :

“Under no circumstances should physicians allow their differences with patients or their families about political matters to interfere with the delivery of high-quality professional care.”

What part of that do you consider optional when you treat patients?

Jimbo3 on June 22, 2010 at 9:44 PM

What part of that do you consider optional when you treat patients?

Jimbo3 on June 22, 2010 at 9:44 PM

who said i was a physician?

ted c on June 22, 2010 at 9:46 PM

Regardless of what one thinks of the current C-in-C, Obama is still the man elected by the people to run the executive branch and the military.

But Obama is not running the executive branch in a democratic fashion, now is he? The man is trying to ruin this country and even a president does not have the right to switch U.S. to socialism.

Moreover, Morrissey, it is common enough to compare Patton and MacArthur as being similar. But those who have studied both know the two generals had very little in common. Patton was an excellent leader and revered by the men of the Third Army. He used bluster purposefully as a tool to motivate his men. And he valued his men`s lives. Nor was he a liar. MacArthur lied when it suited his cause. Patton did not. Patton could have very well ended the war in Europe earlier had he not been hamstrung by Ike and pestered by that do-nothing general Bradley. Moreover, Patton knew the threat the Russians posed and was well aware they were no true allies. And he was proven right, was he not? He was an intelligent prescient man who served his country out of patriotism. He wanted no public office. Morever, Patton never returned from Europe. He was killed in a most tragic automobile accident. He was a true hero in every way. (Unlike MacArthur.)

Back to McChrystal. He showed poor judgement here, but at least he was stating the truth about Obama. Obama, as you repeatedly repeat here on Hotair is the liar here. And he is not adhering to his own Constitution.

McChrystal is a minor matter compared to the Obama Regime. Make no mistake about it.

You focus on McChrystal while Obama ruins the country. Obama will be a historical figure. Historically bad. His presidency may by used in the future to describe what a president is not. A manual to be studied by future presidents. Compulsory reading.

McChrystal will on the other hand receive very little mention in future histories.

Certainly the dems and libs and Obama want us to focus on anything but what they are doing to this great nation.

Unfortunately, McChrystal gave Obama yet another kinda crisis to deal with.

Meanwhile the crapfest goes on.

Stay focused.

And study your history before making such simple statements.

Sherman1864 on June 22, 2010 at 9:56 PM

McChrystal told the inconvenient truth about Obama and people in his Administration. It was impolitic, but it was not insubordinate in the sense of refusing to follow orders.

I personally appreciated seeing McChrystal’s words because they reflect a “no B.S.” assessment. I have become increasingly concerned that Afghanistan may be winnable, but not with Obama as Commander in Chief. We might keep in mind what really matters: that we have our best in Afghanistan. With the lives of our military men at stake, I really don’t give a rat’s ass about how McChrystal was impolitic.

Phil Byler on June 22, 2010 at 10:12 PM

Let’s face it, McChrystal is right.

But he should have resigned first.

He also shows a lack of judgement for having voting for Obama.

Anyone with any discernment at all knew this would be the path Obama would take regarding the War on Terror.

scotash on June 22, 2010 at 10:24 PM

I look forward to seeing you as a patient someday Jimbo….don’t worry, it won’t hurt me a bit—

ted c on June 22, 2010 at 4:33 PM

–If you’re not a physician, then are you a dentist?

Jimbo3 on June 22, 2010 at 10:31 PM

i’ll keep you wondering jimbo….stay healthy….

ted c on June 22, 2010 at 10:39 PM

just when you thought you were getting out, they bring you right back in, right?

I’ll probably end up with a similar deal.

ted c on June 22, 2010 at 9:35 PM

If I was unclear, I’m still retiring. The new IP job is as a civilian. And it’s about the same as the retirement check. So, I just about double my income after I retire.

I hope your deal works out as sweet.

hawkdriver on June 23, 2010 at 12:10 AM

I find it hard to be too critical of McChrystal for his comments, and for the environment of ‘bash the President’.

Perhaps in previous wars and with previous administrations there was an agreement to bite the tongue – but when you see the CIC repeatedly smear President Bush (whom much of the military loved), repeatedly smear America, repeatedly smear it’s citizens, repeatedly smear entire state populations (Arizona) then I think an example has been set.

Why should McChrystal keep his mouth shut when the CIC is running around trashing the entire country and the previous CIC? When that same CIC and his administration is nothing more than an incompetent group of idealogues who ignore facts for fantasy I think McChrystal is REQUIRED to speak up.

I stand an applaud this brave man. I’ve already seen him called a racist by the idiot Obots. He wasn’t a racist when he voted for Oilbama, but now that he has gotten a chance to work with and know Oilbama he has changed his mind – so obviously he’s gotta be racist, right? Judging a man by his actions and character = racism in 2010.

Mr Purple on June 23, 2010 at 4:45 AM

If I was unclear, I’m still retiring. The new IP job is as a civilian. And it’s about the same as the retirement check. So, I just about double my income after I retire.

I hope your deal works out as sweet.

hawkdriver on June 23, 2010 at 12:10 AM

i know–i caught that, and it sounds just like what my buddy did. Retired on Tuesday, signed a contract for a civilian job on Wednesday as an IP? or maintenance pilot or something.

ted c on June 23, 2010 at 8:03 AM

I liked the article, actually. Good read and very informative.

And I understand that McCrystal was aware of the comments from his aides. LOL*

This is funny if it weren’t so serious.

AnninCA on June 23, 2010 at 8:41 AM

Gen. Stanley McChrystal is doing what needs to be done. When your commander-in-chief is AWOL and clueless, won’t take your calls, and men in the field are dying then it is absolutely your duty to do what he did. Shame he apologized. I would have told Obama to shove it and fire me and stick by every single word I said. Men are dying because of our clueless leader. If Obama can’t lead on an oil spill and decides the best approach is a few rounds of friggin’ golf, then why would anybody believe for a second that he is competent to run a war where lives are at stake.

I’m disappointed in you Ed. Your statement “That is the kind of revelation that either a commander of a theater of war saves for his memoirs, or resigns to make to Congress” would have been true in other times, but not the times we find ourselves in today. This level of incompetence requires exposing, and the more in the military who do it, the better. Obama is angry because he is realizing the military is not in his back pocket to use as he wishes. Remember who he sided with when the military marched out the Honduras president for attempting to stay beyond his constitutional term. It would be wise to keep in mind that when the leader of the free world sides with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez in condemning the action that you have what is called some very interesting and telling information.

Good for you General! Keep up the good work and please don’t apologize. Make him fire you, write a book and do us all a favor and expose this fake wannabe in the White House. That is a duty that must be executed. Stand by your oath and stand tall.

gmerits on June 22, 2010 at 9:51 AM

Ditto, ditto, and ditto. The frustration level of not having a capable CinC must be excruciating when you see soldiers dying in a war that can’t be won under these circumstances. He will not fire McCrystal. McCrystal will resign unless he is asked to stay.

Nalea on June 23, 2010 at 9:03 AM

McChrystal voted for Obama? A f***ing military man voted for that f***ing America-hating, domestic terrorist-mongering, crypto-commie slimebag?

F***, McChrystal. His political idiocy is a far greater sin than his lack of discretion.

DrZin on June 23, 2010 at 11:02 AM

“Lack of discipline,” “disrespect,” “voted for Obama” Funny how some things just go together.

themediansib on June 23, 2010 at 9:36 PM

If this happened to Dubya, the media would spin it as an out of control command because of the evil Bush. The mocking of the President would be highlighted and the agenda would be that the military just doesn’t respect Bush. It would be all about Bush and nothing about the General. The media would drag out all sorts of background bio and color & quotes, establishing the awesomeness of McChrystal.

PC14 on June 23, 2010 at 11:24 PM

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