Westmoreland was an utter failure, and I do not mean to suggest that McChrystal is the same. Yet at the time the square-jawed Westmoreland appeared on the cover of Time, he was seen as something of a savior — the man who would lead America out of the swamp of Vietnam. When he addressed Congress in 1967, his speech was interrupted 19 times by applause. A bit more than a year later, he was gone — replaced by Gen. Creighton Abrams, who, we are told in Lewis Sorley’s “A Better War,” could have won if he had only been given the chance.
I am no more familiar with McChrystal than I was with Westmoreland. I do know, though, that from time to time the media swoons for a soldier, especially a handsome one (Westy had matinee idol looks), and McChrystal — as lean, if not as hungry, as the ambitious Cassius — fits the bill. As with that other celebrity soldier, David Petraeus, McChrystal is a fitness buff, the sort of disciplined man less-disciplined men admire both out of senses of awe and insufficiency. Discipline and dedication are not to be belittled. Still, I cannot imagine Gen. Dwight Eisenhower putting out his cigarette and going for a four-mile run — not unless Mamie was coming after him with a cleaver.