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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Shinseki Hero, McChrystal Bum

General Eric K. Shinseki was a hero to Democrats and the mainstream media because he publicly criticized the Bush administration on Iraq:

In a contentious exchange over the costs of war with Iraq, the Pentagon's second-ranking official today disparaged a top Army general's assessment of the number of troops needed to secure postwar Iraq. House Democrats then accused the Pentagon official, Paul D. Wolfowitz, of concealing internal administration estimates on the cost of fighting and rebuilding the country.

Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, ''wildly off the mark.'' Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops.

General Stanley McChrystal has publicly criticized the Obama administration's handling of the war in Afghanistan. But unlike Shinseki, McChrystal is being portrayed as a bum:

An angry President Obama summoned his top commander in Afghanistan to Washington on Tuesday after a magazine article portrayed the general and his staff as openly contemptuous of some senior members of the Obama administration....

The article does not mention 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 article 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 Afghanistan is rising sharply and when several central planks of the strategy appear to be stalled.

There is a huge difference between Shinseki and McChrystal. The former was critical of Bush, the latter of Obama.

Drawing that distinction is what's called journalism.

Update: Has Anyone -- Including McChrystal -- Actually Read The Rolling Stone Article?

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A War Plan Designed By Committee

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  1. McChrystall is a lucky, lucky man. He will be long gone and blameless when the Taliban retake Afghanistan.

  2. Embedded reporter Michael Yon (who was "banished" from Afghanistan after critical reporting on leadership there) seems to think that McCrystal is a poor leader and that it is his judgment that is the is indeed questionable. I would argue that either McCrystal is over his head, or that he knows the Obama strategy won't work, but his hands are tied. Either way, if he is critical of The Won's Administration, then he is going to be removed. Perhaps that is his goal, since the effort there is in chaos, according to Yon.

    Afghanistan is a notorious geographic nightmare, and any victory is going to be long, tough, and complex. From Alexander the Great on down to today, Afghanistan has proven virtually "unconquerable." Only with the best leadership, support from the Afghans, and superior strategic planning is there any possibility for success. Obama and McCrystal don't seem to have what it takes. Pray for our troops.

  3. The difference between Shinseki and McCrystal is in this quote from the linked article: General Shinseki gave his estimate in response to a question at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.

    McCrystal called his bosses idiots while talking to Rolling Stone. I'm not aware of many lines of work where bad-mouthing the boss to reporters is considered acceptable.

  4. @Chris - fair enough, McChrystal criticized the boss, not just the policy. But if the boss is the problem, should he have held his tongue anyway? If asked at a hearing what he thought, should he have answered honestly? And if so, would it have made a difference that it was at a hearing not to a reporter?

  5. Sure, I think the military tradition is to suck it up and hold your tongue, even though the political leaders are clueless and getting people killed, etc.
    Having said that, what is the point of holding back when the other side is not? Is there any evidence of "principled opposition"?

  6. Bill,

    Excellent observation as usual.

    If Bush were still in office and had McChrystal made similar remarks about his lack of leadership, the left and its surrogates in the main stream media would be taking an entirely different tack with the story.

    Instead of the it being about an insubordinate general run amok, it would be about an emasculated President who has lost the respect of those he commands.

    These folks are transparent as hell.

  7. Hey genius, I'll show you a difference. Shinseki was breaking from the president on his "assessment of the number of troops needed to secure postwar Iraq." On the other hand, the article on McChrystal "does not mention any serious policy differences with Mr. Obama."

    Oh, there was also the fact that Shinseki was right.

  8. I generally take a dim view of generals who upstage the CIC but sometimes they have to. We do not have a Nazi culture in the military where everyone just follows orders, something that may save our republic at some point.

    We don't know whether it was justified in this case but it sure was in Bush's case. Seeing how badly things are going in Afghanistan, I'm inclined to side with McChrystal although I don't like doing it through Rolling Stone. Are we are about to needlessly sacrifice American lives for political reasons? If so, I think a general has an overriding responsibility to his troops. Even the Nazi officers rose up against Hitler in WWII.

    I read this as a signal that troop morale is not what it should be.

  9. Shinseki said what he did in a meeting he did not attend voluntarily, in which he was answering under oath. He had a choice between saying what he said and perjuring himself to Congress. That's a long, long way from giving an interview to Rolling Stone.

  10. Bush should have cashiered Shineski.

    Obama must cashier McChrystal.

    It isn't a matter of personalities -- it is a matter of Constitutional principle. Here's hoping that Obama follows Truman's example and not Bush's

  11. I have no problem with either general. If you think that the commander-in-chief is going to get your troops killed, I think their duty is to their troops, not some elected official. Army protocal be damned. If my son or daughter was serving in Afghanistan I would thank my lucky stars that McChrystal was their general. Of course, Obama being the lame creep that he is, will probably relieve the general of his command. But then again which general would really be happy with the policy that their soldiers go into Taliban strongholds without being allowed to put bullets in their guns. Obama is guilty of getting our children murdered. Having a temper tantrum because his inadequate policies were brought to light only shows once again that his egocentric personality is destructive to this nation.

  12. Hold, gentlemen. Yes McChrystal spoke out in the Rolling Stone article.

    But according to what I have read, the real reason for his having been called in this time was the rigidity of his leadership style that has put troops at risk and demoralized some troops. Trust me I was a Girl Scout - I also have a student boarder in ROTC who has seen active duty.

    See my post at http://samandimp.wordpress.com
    "Gen. McChrystal May Get Sacked."

  13. I hate to say it, but you have a good point. The defense I'm hearing from my fellow liberals is that Shinseki's criticism came as a direct result of questioning from the Armed Services committee and not in a magazine. True enough, but the reasons given for the need for McChrystal to be fired or resign seem pretty venue-neutral. Not sure it matters where or why a general is insubordinate, he either is or he isn't.


  14. "There is a huge difference between Shinseki and McChrystal. The former was critical of Bush"

    Where did Shinseki do this? He stated his assessment professionally and didn't call the White House 'wimps'. Had McChrystal displayed the professionalism Shinseki did he wouldn't be in this jam.

    If you can't see the difference there you are being disingenuous.

  15. There is a gigantic difference between answering a question at a public hearing, and telling a reporter who asks about Vice President Biden, "Did you say 'Bite Me?' " and characterizing the president as a wimp.

    Gen. McChrystal might be entirely correct in his criticisms, but tone, content, and circumstances of his conduct with Rolling Stone combine to create as clear a case of insubordination as you're likely to find.

    He gave President Obama no choice but to fire him, which might be exactly what he wanted.

  16. '... would it have made a difference that it was at a hearing not to a reporter?'

    Is that a serious question?

    Quite apart from which, Shinseki expressed a professional judgement about a military matter in accordance with his lawful duty. Are you suggesting he should have lied? Maybe there should be a new version of the fifth for serving officers - "I decline to answer on the grounds that I might embarrass my superior officers."

  17. All of you commenters need to go read the article! You're commenting on something you haven't even read. Gerrib, show me the quote from Rolling Stone where McChrystal called Obama an "idiot". It takes a special kind of lefty twit to argue a point with personally fabricated evidence. On the same point, Placeholder, the article clearly states that an advisor to GEN McChrystal made the "Bite-me" remark, not the General himself. Also, the writer refers to the White House as "wimps". At no point in the article does a quote attributed to GEN McChrystal refer to anyone in the White House as a "wimp" or "idiot". You lefty shrills would love for a no-leadership president like Obama to get a chance to dress down a man of honor and accomplishment like GEN McChrystal, but at least use actual quotes attributed to the man before you judge him from your cushy homes far from discomfort or danger.

  18. you guys may want to review this:

    UCMJ Article 88:
    "Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

  19. I'll say this again. Matt, go read the article and respond with a specific example of a quote attributed to GEN Stanley McChrystal that is contemptuous. And if you happen to succeed, which you won't, show me the court-martial convening authority for a four star general that would agree with you.

  20. I think the most enlightening fact of this whole episode is how the left wing of this country would place the entire Afghan War, and 90,000 young men and women, at risk just so their president could show the country that he wears the pants. I don't care if you call yourself a patriot. I don't care how many years you served or what your ORB says. If you think that canning GEN McChrystal, the man who ran the ball for GEN Petraeus in Iraq making victory possible, over comments he never made is an appropriate response for Obama then I'd say this President deserves advisors such as yourself.

  21. go read the article and respond with a specific example of a quote attributed to GEN Stanley McChrystal that is contemptuous

    Come on, McChrystal's fingerprints were all over it.

  22. I do agree. The article does not have a specific quote (the biden one comes close). However, his aides outed him. Tough sh!t on him.

    As a 4-star general, he should not even allow that stuff in his inner circle, let alone condone it, which he clearly did. He came of as a perpetual adolescent. I agree that it absolutely sucks to change horses mid-stream, but, if you were Obama, what would you have done?

  23. There is a world of difference between the two.

    This sentence says it all: "There is a huge difference between Shinseki and McChrystal. The former was critical of Bush, the latter of Obama."

    I don't think "journalism" would mean only drawing that distinction.

    Perhaps being a non-hysterical blogger would mean Mr. Jacobson might be interested to note:

    1) Shinseki was providing his reasoned military advice to members of Congress about the conduct of an impending war. McChrystal was engaged in largely a vanity interview with an entertainment publication

    2) Shinseki was speaking before the war, McChrystal during the war. (Minor point, but Shinseki was speaking outside the theater of combat)

    3) Shinseki did not take petty pot shots at people with whom he was working, McChrystal did

    I greatly admire General McChrystal, but his remarks were beyond outrageous in this instance.

    I think think this post reflects Mr. Jacobson's tendency to see everything in terms of media bias and double standards and damages Mr. Jacobson's otherwise solid analyses. Here he is off the mark.

    **END: Unfortunately, this is going to be a long war. I think McChrystal got it right when he said about this slide "when we understand this slide we will have won the war" image here: http://bit.ly/cO8yq0