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Bard Blog on McChrystal's Firing

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When appointed to turn around the (seemingly) losing war in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal was greeted in sentiments best expressed by Hamlet:

"The time is out of joint, oh cursed spite! that ever [you] were born to set it right."

McChrystal was known for his selflessness, taking one meal a day, and that on the fly, sleeping little, if ever. He lived the ascetic life of a Cassius, or Jack Bauer. And he shared their courage; as the Bard says, "Fearless minds climb soonest unto crowns." (Richard III) -- in this case, stars (four of them).

The general relished the Afghan challenge, and the authority it gave him. He sensed, "How sweet it is to wear the crown." (Henry VI, Part III).

President Obama seemed impressed by McChrystal. When together, his body language seemed to say, "I would not wish any companion in the world but you!" (The Tempest).

Then things went amiss -- rebellion in the south, incoherence in many allie capitals, corruption and incompetence in that capital (Kabul), concern and impatience in this capital (Washington). As Claudius learned, the hard way: "When sorrows come, they come not as single spies in the night, but in battalions. One woe doth tread upon another."

When the general's Rolling Stone indiscretions appeared, President Obama called him back, to ask, "How camest thou in this pickle?" and then to boot him.

Clearly, McChrystal didn't heed the advice given in Shakespeare's classic play about mishaps in war, Troilus and Cressida -- "Lay thy finger on thy lips!" -- or given by that superb military commander Henry Vth: "Men of few words are the best men."

To McChrystal, we can only counsel: "Be cheerful. Wipe thine tears. Some falls are means the happier to arise" (Cymbeline).

Instead, though, he must be thinking the same as another military officer dismissed for indiscretion, Cassio in Othello :
"O, reputation, reputation, reputation!
O, I have lost my reputation!
I have lost the immortal part of myself,
And what remains is bestial.
My reputation, Iago, my reputation!"