The straw general

by Brian Clarey

Rolling Stone’s controversial opus about Gen. Stanley McChrystal, “The Runaway General,” which dominated the news cycle almost a week before print publication and fully 48 hours before it was even posted online, may have been shocking to some.

Really, though, it was not such a big deal. The military has always had a strained relationship with the civilians to whom they must ultimately answer. Gen. McChrystal has been a malcontent with disrespect for authority dating back to his days at West Point. And Rolling Stone may be a “leftist” media organization — just like all the rest of us, no doubt — but it has been an anti-war publication from the very first issue. No big surprises here. The biggest shocker for us was that the general’s favorite beer is Bud Light Lime — we didn’t think anyone drank that crap.

And for the record, we don’t think McChrystal’s assessment was entirely off the mark. Perhaps Obama is in over his head — he never served in the military, and his strengths are in domestic issues. Not to mention that Afghanistan is a clusterflunk of a war.

Even the aftermath was predictable. You’re darn right President Obama sacked Gen. McChrystal, the same way President Harry S. Truman gave Gen. Douglas MacArthur his walking papers after far less scathing criticism.

America has no tolerance for wimps. It’s why Jimmy Carter and George Bush 43 only lasted one term apiece in the hot seat. If Obama really wanted to save face, he should have televised the dismissal in C-SPAN and made it one of those angry, finger-poking type of firings that at least a couple of us here have endured.

So the Rolling Stone story — which is quite good, by the way, and has much more to recommend it than McChrystal’s smack-talking, most of which happens in the first tenth of the piece — takes the news cycle, once again obscuring the most pertinent question about Afghanistan, the one the American people should be asking themselves and their leaders each end every day: What, exactly, are we doing there?

Fighting terrorism? That can’t be; even McChrystal admits that for every insurgent we kill over there, 10 will rise to take his place. Are we trying to prop up a stable government? Let’s get real: Afghanistan is ungovernable, run by violent tribes that have been warring with each other for centuries. They don’t even recognize international boundaries up in those mountains. Are we searching for bin Laden? Please.

The latest dispatch has us securing rich mineral deposits there, but we question the timing of that news, coming as it does just as we are about to make a surge.

The fact is that we have spent $279 billion in Afghanistan so far in this longest war in American history — longer than Vietnam, longer than the world wars, longer than the Revolution. And even after all that, essentially nothing over there has changed, while here at home we continue our downward spiral. Perhaps what Obama should have done after firing McChrystal was not name Gen. David Petraeus as his successor, but to pull everyone out and focus on our myriad and pressing domestic issues, something he actually knows about and could conceivably make a difference in alleviating.

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