There’s a deeper, long-term problem hidden here. Our military nurtures brilliant tacticians and operators, but no longer produces strategists. It hasn’t given us a serious global thinker in 50 years. We’re great at solving battlefield problems, but poor at grasping the greater context of war.
McChrystal’s a mighty tactician and a fierce operator. But, elevated to strategic command, he couldn’t think beyond the Army’s minimum-violence/maximum-aid counterinsurgency doctrine — which just doesn’t work. His solution to failure? Try harder. Send more troops. He’s a hero out of his depth.
McChrystal is performing superbly in the lethal counter-terror mission at the heart of the “AfPak” crisis (the term “AfPak” acknowledges the relative non-existence of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan). He’s terrorizing al Qaeda in Pakistan’s wild northwest.
But he’s floundering in Afghanistan itself, where he’s trapped himself in other men’s bad ideas. We promoted a superb field officer above his competence level when we tried to turn this warrior into a strategist.