Obama Sacks Stanley McChrystal

American General fired

Membership of a military cabal is a very strange thing.  Even though these men came from ordinary families for the most part, after exposure to military indoctrination, they morph into something other than the common run of society.

They become soldier ants in our colony as if the hive had somehow sprayed them with transforming hormones.

It’s a very strange phenomenon.

Here in Ireland, a country that has never attacked anyone, we have a military with a strong culture of discipline and adherence to authority, as one would expect, and yet we have almost no ruling class.  The officers in our military come from among the people, as do the lower ranks, and in fact they all have far more in common culturally than in most other countries, though of course we have striven to create artificial class differences in the interest of deference.

Unlike the rest of society, it worked in the army, where the culture of obedience and deference is palpable, even when a highly-competent NCO is reporting to a 21-year-old imbecile of an officer.  I never understood that, and the best of our senior officers never bought into it either, but it’s there.

Creating a military brotherhood requires the dislocation of our society’s norms, and it requires a concomitant decision by the people who join the brotherhood to set themselves outside, though not above, the norms of society.  After all, these are the people who will be asked, in an extreme situation, to forget about their children, partners, parents and siblings and perhaps to go out on the streets water-cannoning their neighbours, or worse.  That’s what you buy into when you join the military.

Military people are different even though they might spend their spare hours watching football matches with friends or swamping pints of beer or doing all the silly things the rest of us do.   When things go wrong, their  programming kicks in and suddenly they’re in the zone, no longer your friend, your brother or your father.

They’ll shoot you, brother or not.

Now, take the never-ending conflict in Afghanistan, where no invading army has ever prevailed.

Afghanistan is a tribal place entirely alien to the understanding of European and American culture.  In many ways, it’s vile.  Afghan tribal society treats its women abominably.  It places little value on broad education.  It takes its guidance from a medieval desert religion.  It murders teachers.  Ignorant tribal chiefs are the final arbiters of great issues.

The Taliban are brutes who, in their ignorant stupidity, blew up the wonderful Buddhist statues of Bamyan, and dynamited the lapis lazuli mines for short-term gain.

Extremely wealthy Afghan chieftains pump heroin westwards, aided and supported by the CIA, to facilitate oil pipelines across their land.

Nothing in Afghanistan is clean and therefore it was no surprise that those who planned the 9-11 attacks should have used it as a base, but it was an act of utter stupidity by the Bush administration to launch a pointless war and invasion against this chaotic land, and an even bigger error to install a bunch of crooks as a proxy government.  People like Hamid Karzai are the same as the insiders who hijacked western economies, and yet they somehow managed to gain the backing of the US government.

The United States sent an army into that place after the attacks of September 2001, and it was understandable that they might do so, but it was also pointless.  Nobody has ever won a war in that insane mountainous region. Not the British.  Not the Russians.  And now, definitely not the Americans.   Afghanistan will wear them down, even if they’re right.

Stanley McChrystal was supposed to be different, and in many ways he is.  McChrystal is a Special Operations guy.  He could kill you with his little finger.  He commanded units in Iraq that abused prisoners and assassinated perceived enemies at will.  His people took out al-Zarqawi.  Many were disciplined for brutality.  He was Colonel Kurtz.

McChrystal is a trained killer and he was put into Afghanistan to kill.  His first act as commander of NATO operations, was to demand more men, and he got them by expressing a highly pessimistic view about the number of personnel on the ground.  It forced the President to act but it wasn’t a wise move, politically, and although Obama gave him what he wanted, McChrystal’s days were numbered.  Killers don’t always make good politicians.

On the other hand, killers — members of the military cabal trained to obedience — don’t understand nuance.  They see only what they see and sometime they make the unforgivable mistake of telling it as they see it.

In a moment of madness, McChrystal and his staff gave an interview to Rolling Stone in which they laugh at the Vice President Joe Biden, a man with no role, Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan and Richard Holbrooke.  These are people most of us might laugh at, but most of us are not in uniform.

McChrystal was sacked, but the world can feel at ease, since McChrystal has been replaced by David Petraeus, soldier-philosopher and future presidential candidate.

However, nobody has yet stated exactly why American and British soldiers are in Afghanistan.

48 thoughts on “Obama Sacks Stanley McChrystal

  1. He let the cat out of the bag in an interview with, of all highbrow magazines, Rolling Stone. None of those officially supported American think tanks could have been as frank. So much for the informed views of the intelligentsia.

  2. Re. #2 and #3, of course I was being ironic in using highbrow to describe Rolling Stone magazine. I normally reserve that appelation for magazines the ‘public intellectuals’ write for such a The New Republic, The National Interest or the New York Review of Books (but not the popular intellectually stimulating Mad magazine, which I highly recommend to those wishing to broaden their horizons). Rolling Stone is indeed serious. And what a scoop for the editors that they carried a frank interview with a top army officer who has just been replaced for expressing his views of the war and the administration so frankly.

  3. “However, nobody has yet stated exactly why American and British soldiers are in Afghanistan.”

    Apart from the pipeline? I suppose to get Ben Laden and depose the Taliban, if it weren’t for the 6 month wait before sending troops into the area Ben Laden was supposed to be in, and then there was that business with holding back while the Taliban were air lifted out, so perhaps not…
    Stopping heroin production? No, that went up…
    To free the Afghans? No, I ‘m only kidding…

    It is a toughy alright.

    Ah! Could it be it’s central location, bordering as it does on Iran and Pakistan, and being just a stones throw from China?

  4. what exactly did he say that pissed off Obama and co so much anywho? (too lazy to put on long pants and go to Easons..)

  5. In fact, Genghis Khan invaded and subdued the entire central Asian region, including modern day Afghanistan. And had a pretty fun time with the local ladies, but all accounts.

    But I guess that just reinforces the point. If you only precedent is Genghis Khan, you’ve got problems.

  6. Cynical Joe, “If your only precedent is Genghis Khan, you’ve got problems” that’s the comment of the day right there.

  7. When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.

    — Kipling

  8. In Canada, we (the people) are also wondering why we’re there. Specially when, every other day, one of our young people is blown up by a roadside bomb. We’re fed up of having dead heroes coming home in caskets draped with the Canadian flag. If anybody can explain this war to me in a satisfactory manner, I’ll be glad to travel everywhere in my country, rent halls and tell my fellow Canadians why we’re fighting in Afghanistan. No one politician has ever given us an acceptable reason yet.

  9. Well one of the reasons is right there in the OP…. to delay the emergence of a situation where Afghanistan will play host to jihadis with an eye on moving west again. Another reason, I suspect, is to keep them tied up in Afghnistan and deny their dubious skills to the Pak ISI who are gagging to redirect them back into Kashmir.
    A day spent with cadets would disabuse you of the notion that they’re imbeciles btw.

  10. @ lapsedmethodist


    Life During Wartime?

    This aint no party. This anit no disco.

    No time for lovey dovey.


    As Mr Byrne syays at the end of the clip……

    “Thank you. Does anybody have any questions?”

    I do.

    What’s a cadet?

    And what do cadets know about the Middle East and Jihad?

  11. A cadet is a junior officer in training . Is, or is on his on his way to being, a 20 year old imbecile, according to the OP. I disagree, based on local knowledge.

  12. If you’re going to quote me, at least quote what I actually said. I was going to ignore it the first time but since you repeat it, please point out where I said cadets or any other officers are imbeciles. I referred to a situation where an NCO might be dealing with a specific imbecile, and if you think that can’t happen, you’re deluding yourself.

  13. “However, nobody has yet stated exactly why American and British soldiers are in Afghanistan.”

    What is a greater mystery for us in Sweden, is why we have 500 soldiers in Afghanistan. under the command of NATO, of witch we are not a member, and we also, have bodies, and boys coming home in wheelchairs

  14. Why don’t you ask your government why you have 500 soldiers in Afghanistan? I believe such things are possible in Sweden.

  15. @ lapsedmethodist

    And the second question.

    “And what do cadets know about the Middle East and Jihad?”

  16. I’m amazed at Lapsedmethodists defensive reaction to a minor passing comment in a much wider discussion. Did I unwittingly strike a nerve?

  17. One could unwittingly step on a bug.

    I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.

    What I find interesting about this is.

    McChrystal is (obviously) not the village idiot.

    He chose the precise medium. The Rolling Stone.

    He gave his detractors (Hopey McChange and the boys) the opportunity to discredit him.

    They took it.

    Now he’s out of Afpakistan and Hopey is left holding the baby.

    The USA is not the happy freedom loving nation building entity we are led to believe.

    It’s in deep debt and deep shit.

    McChrystal’s deliberate action is, to my mind, a message that the core of the USA is breaking apart.

    When was the last time the Commander In Chief dismissed a General while a war was in progress?

    The US military are very unhappy.

    McChrystal is a soldiers’ soldier.

    These guys are pissed off.

  18. The Rolling Stone was also the outlet that put the tag “Vampire Squid” on Goldman Sachs.

    McChrystal knew this.

    He’s not an idiot.

    But if I were him I wouldn’t be getting in a small plane any time soon.

  19. Worrying isn’t it.

    MacArthur was born in 1880.

    Fired by Truman on 11th April 1951.

    59 years of US history have passed without the CIF having to take such action.

    Worrying isn’t it.

    Did McChrystal actually want to win the Afpakistan war?

    Was he being stopped?

    MacArthur knew.


    Or did McChrystal know the stupidity of attacking Iran? And just wanted out?

    Worrying isn’t it.

  20. It was a minor comment all right. So minor that I wonder it was made at all. Pardon the fec outa me if I took it to be a generic sneer rather than a hypothetical case whereby maybe one junior officer out of many would qualify. Also pardon me if the comment seemed – just seemed – to be in line with the drivel posing as comment in what passes for the Fourth Estate in this country when discussions about the DF come up. The Sunday Tribune must have heaved a great sigh of relief when they discovered they could relegate Lt Gen Dermot Early to the sports pages.
    PS. The military are in Afghanistan to kill Taliban. They should stay. Eventually the Dragon will run out of teeth. How’s that for nuance?

  21. For anyone who missed it there is an absolutely brilliant reading of the Rolling Stone article on BBC Radio 4 by an American actor. Really catches the whole tone of the piece. Fascinating. Check out this link: www.http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00t2rf4 If it does not work (it’s the iPlayer) go to http://www.bbc.co.uuk/radio4, poke around for the schedule and you will see the iPlayer listed under the heading “The Runaway General” for Sunday evening, June 27th.

  22. I seriously doubt it. No-one seems to be willing or able to put manners on the Pakistanis. Through their ethnic/cultural ties with the Pustuns they’re able to influence large tracts of Afghanistan. That’s why, in my opinion, the Americans/NATO should be in the North and pushing south instead of in the South offering themselves as targets. In the North they’d have natural allies in the Hazara and Tajics who loath the Taliban. But I’m not a general or a pol, so wtf do I know !

  23. More or less. Squeeze them between India and Afghnistan. When their eyes start to water advise them to straighten up and fly right. Use the gazillions that they get from the Saudis to run useless madrassas for something constructive.

  24. Right.

    Do you think it will be necessary to kill all Pakistanis, or just enough to teach the natives a lesson?

  25. @lapsedmethodist

    “Squeeze them”

    “When their eyes start to water”

    “straighten up and fly right”

    Are you insane or are you just a cadet?

  26. Not neccessary to kill Pakistanis at all… whatever gave you that idea ? The only Pakistanis that ” need ” to be killed are the taliban-like insurgents who infiltrate Indian held Kashmir. Pakistan will learn from being squeezed that it’s influence is regarded both locally and internationally as malign.
    If you knew, which I doubt, Kashmiris from both the Indian side and from ” Azad” or Free Kashmir you’d know that those in Azad Kashmir always advise those in Indian kashmir never to vote to join them; that’s its an impoverished dump.
    A strong India on one side and a strong Afghanistan on the other will force Pakistan to draw in its horns and stop exporting jihad paid for by the Saudis.

  27. I gather that there are several interpretations of the term Jihad. One refers to a religious struggle, while another involves inflicting unprovoked violence on foreigners. Is that the one you refer to?

  28. Lapsedmethodist. ” If you knew, which i doubt, Kashmiris from both the Indian side and from Azad ”
    Why would you doubt that ?
    The UK, primarily the West Midlands is heavily populated by people originating from ” Azad Kashmir ” So its very feasible that several people on this site know someone from there, Argueably these people, mostly Marpuris have variant views on whether they are Kashmiri or Punjabi, Their origins are debated more on ethnicity than nationality .
    Pakistan will never release it’s hold over the Mangla dam as it is too valueable to them, yet the ” Azad Kashmiris recieved no renumeration for it, bit like our Corrib gas, Therefore southern Kashmir or Azad Kashmir will remain disputed.

  29. And a third which involves provoked violence. Although that needs examining as Islam is right, and we are wrong and therefore just by being we could be sad to provoke. It’s a bitch really. No wonder the bishop said ” kill them all and God will know his own ” back in the days of the Cathar heresy ! I’m for a moderated approach though.
    They’re Mirpuris, Norma and their opinions aren’t worth two balls of blue. If you want to consider what the Pakistani Taliban have wrought in Kashmir you’d be better served by looking at what has happened to the Pandit Brahmins. If you can find a Talibani who gives a shit about dams I’ll bare my ass in Patrick St and I’ll give you a week to drum up a crowd. How’s that?

  30. Lapsedmethodist. Strangely enough i’m just not interested in looking for Talibani.
    Even less interested in your bare ass.
    Not too fond of crowds.
    Useless at drumming.

  31. I didn’t overlook your question. I merely pointed out that an answer affirming one of the two interpretations you noted was likely to be irrelevant given that by merely existing we are in effect offending muslims. Whether they respond to this offence by inner struggle or violent struggle is moot for either way they’ll degenerate in places like Afghanistan to failed state status. There isn’t any “unprovoked” violence, in other words.

  32. What’s strange about that !! The many Westerners you speak of didn’t know they existed until 9/11 when they began to bone up on the subject, finding all the nitty gritty bits in the Koran rather like fundies find tasty bits in the Old Testament. Also, many are Americans and they don’t count. Why don’t Americans count, you ask ? Well you see there’s a dollar to be earned out of ——-aphobia. In this case Islamophobia.

  33. I don’t remember specifying which Westerners I spoke of.

    There was anti-Islamic sentiment in the West long before 9-11.

  34. I don’t know where this mythical West of yours is. Certainly in the British and French empires the Muslim was favoured over the Buddhist or the Hindu. The British even clasified cultures as either feminine or masculine and Muslim and protestant were regarded as masculine while Catholic, Hindu and Buddist were feminine. The Middle east may have coloured perceptions lately, but there’s little longstanding anti- Muslim sentiment that I know of that would have dictated political policy.

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