This episode threatens to prolong this pointless war unless Petraeus unequivocally sticks to the departure plan. Already, in remarks to reporters, I am hearing wiggle room.
No matter what you think of Gen. McChrystal after the Rolling Stone article and the fiasco that ensued, he knew how to work in Afghanistan. Here are a few things he got right.
What is baffling is that McChrystal didn't provide one substantive reason for his contempt of civilian leadership and, if anything, it's we who should have contempt for Obama for trusting McChrystal in the first place.
We only got to read about McChrystal & Co's imprudence because the RS reporter was a freelancer, not a Pentagon beat reporter desirous of maintaining his relationship with an important source.
Obama has stated on the record that replacing a general with another general does not mean a change in strategy. Is there a strategy? Yes -- infinite war; but the Pentagon won't allow that to be spelled out.
President Obama and the U.S. people haven't faced up to the ugly truth that, in Afghanistan, the U.S. has routinely committed atrocities against innocent civilians. By ducking that truth, the U.S. reinforces a sense of exceptionalism.
No matter his diplomatic wrongs, there is one piece of him we need to keep in Afghanistan: his emphasis on civilian protection.
If getting American troops out of Afghanistan in the shortest feasible time is still the president's aim, I don't think he can expect much support from the new man he's put in charge there, Gen. David Petraeus.
Over the past couple of decades, power brokers within the military increasingly have been subverting established official procedures, bucking authority, and exploiting ambiguity.
Obama had something much more conventional in mind: Nation-building, like we tried in Vietnam, cast in the guise of counter-insurgency. McChrystal embraced it. Who knows what he really thought?
A cast change may not be enough when the real problem is with the material. ...
What we achieved in Iraq was to turn the Sunni populace by paying them "protection money" to stop shooting at our soldiers and shoot the people we directed them to. Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.
General Stanley McChrystal is out. But the disastrous counterinsurgency campaign he put in place is still grinding away in Afghanistan. That's got to change.
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!"
McChrystal is more honest in his assessments than either Obama or Petraeus. The President is accustomed to throw the mantle of success over failure through glib talk and spin.
I called for McChrystal to go in October, 2009. I called for him to go yesterday. And now, he's gone. But this isn't about McChrystal's job. It's about McChrystal's plan -- the plan for endless war. The question is whether America is turning away from war. And we are. Slowly.