Tags
Recent Comments
Receive "The World According to Tom Barnett" Brief
Where I Work
Where I write
Buy Tom's Books
  • Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Emily V. Barnett
Search the Site
Subscribe to Blog
Monthly Archives
Powered by Squarespace
« Chart of the day: It's not easy being gay--in the Gap | Main | The PNM-Wikistrat connection »
1:40PM

"Runaway general"? Hardly. Runaway mouths?  Definitely

I just read the Rolling Stone piece and found the tone of disrespect somewhat stunning.  The media immediately references my piece on Fox Fallon from 2008, but I'm more impressed with the differences than similarities-- as in, Fallon disagreed with the president on substance while McChrystal's gripes strike me as stylistic (e.g., Obama struck him as uncomfortable before brass) and superficial.

Fallon never said anything disrespectful of his superiors in front of me, nor did his staff.  The admiral just fundamentally disagreed on the possibility of going to war with Iran and wasn't shy about sharing that opinion in the press, which he did repeatedly prior to my piece (which he later said misrepresented his views while quoting him accurately--to the tune of over 1,500 words).

Here, McChrystal does just the opposite:  never really disagreeing with his superiors while openly disrespecting them.  I say "openly" because he and his staff did it repeatedly in front of a reporter they knew was there to report on what he saw and heard--just like I did.  

Is that enough to get him fired?  That's Obama's call.  The fact that McChrystal is quoted both directly and in a secondary manner (through his staff) making truly derogatory remarks about so many principals (VP, NS adviser, our AMB in-country, Holbrooke) is problematic going forward, but firing the right guy for the right job when he agrees with your policy is likewise a hard choice for the president.

In the end, it all comes down to the relationship itself.  A magazine story can damage such a relationship but it cannot define it. Fallon was on thin ice with the White House when my story appeared, making it the final nail in the coffin. If Obama's relationship with McChrystal is solid, the Rolling Stone story won't be enough to trigger his sacking. But if it was already fragile/strained, then it may become the excuse.  But my guess is that McChrystal and Obama-Biden are on an entirely different trajectory over Af-Pak than Fallon and Bush-Cheney were over Iran.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (16)

"McChrystal does just the opposite: never really disagreeing with his superiors while openly disrespecting them."

He certainly acts and looks that way. It may be awhile before we learn the real consequences of his role in this situation.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlouis Heberlein

Tom,
Forgive; this is off-point.
Fallon and your grasp of grand strategy, plus his decision to voice concern about a US / IRAN war, and your influential article - may have been the straw (incremental factor) that kept us from that disaster. My "cognitive dissonance" on the subject began to break with Koppel's Inside Iran, 'The Most Dangerous Nation' (Dec 06), and crumbled after reading "The Man Between War and Peace".
TCH

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTCH

General Mattis is soon to be looking for a job, is he not?

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Brooks

The "Rolling Stone." How about "House & Garden?" Is there that much extra time in the general's day? His staff also has time to sit around and chat? I can see a four star reaching a point where he opens up and says what he thinks. Nobody is getting five stars anymore. But the staff? They must have a McCrystall ball they are looking at that shows someone else in the White House in a couple of years.

Poor judgement. Letting staff talk to reporters...very poor judgement.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTed O'Connor

And now the media has gone from McChrystal being
fired to McChrystal has resigned. Runaway mouths.
...is right on...why can't the media just
wait until they get the "FACTS"....and why aren't they ever held
responsible?????

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia O'Malley

So when it comes to the US' response to a NBC attack, certain recourse will be disallowed, but ridicule members of the administration and...“All options are on the table,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s future..." [Quote from a related NYT article]

For what it's worth, I too would groan in exasperation if I received an E-mail from Holbrooke.

Seriously though, this talk of potentially firing him is a bit silly, and would just reinforce certain perceptions of this administration. A nice scolding will do, then get back to work.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAfghaniman

McChrystal approved Pat Tilman's Silver Star for bravery in combat when he knew Tilman died from friendly fire. <http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0610/Tillman_mother_sought_to_warn_Obama_of_McChrystal.html>

Good Riddance.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgina Bailey

It feels like no one wants to be holding the bag that is 'Afghanistan 2011' .

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJavaid Akhtar

I think the best thing for Obama to do would be to acknowledge their differences publicly, and then pointedly challenge McCrystal to resolve the Afghanistan war. At least to make significant strides.

Win, win.

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Maybe the real problem is not with McChrystal, but with the policies of the current administration. Perhaps our fighters in AfPak live bad policy every day and are getting frustrated. A deep frustration can make the most level head person run off at the mouth.

Let's assume McChrystal is not the root of the problem. Where does that take us?

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjoe Michels

Fastest way to get an audience with the boss is to do exactly this.
Does not matter where you work or what field it is.

It took 70 or so days for the General to get into see Pres. Obama last time. Maybe he couldn't wait that long this time.
As a career move this is almost always suicidal. Time will tell.

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark

What bothers me is the poor judgment to let a reporter (from "Rolling Stone" no less!) to see these people with their hair down. If I were President, that would be my 'crisis of confidence' in McChrystal.

I think Obama should give him a Presidential Letter of Reprimand and publish that plus a photo of a 4-star General with his heels locked in front of the President. Then if he still has confidence in McChrystal, let that be the end of this incident. (If he doesn't have confidence in McChristal, regardless of the reason, then McChristal should be replaced.)

dave (retired USAR Major, who's had his heels locked a few times...)

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Emery

Does anyone remember how IKE exploited Patton PR problems to distract German brass at a critical time?

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlouis Heberlein

The Rolling Stone article comes across as an attack on COIN as a point. If you can believe the content of the article you would think that the problem with COIN as practiced in Afghanistan is that they are trying to conduct the SysAdmin function with Leviathan forces.

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Berman

I agree with Stuart. I found the article a weird mish-mash of attacks on COIN, a weird civilian-geeky sort of I-dig-stone-cold-killers and an out of left field hatred for the alleged wimps in the White House whom so many considered trigger happy with drones. It was just an incoherent flow, in my opinion--as in, real crap passing for good writing.

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom Barnett

Alcohol and hostile media don't mix. I was only an enlisted person, but I figured that they taught people with high security clearances to always be careful about espionage and intell collection in spaces where alcohol is served? Especially in foreign counties? Loose lips sink ships. How much would have a foreign government paid to learn the General in charge of theater of war (and his staff) have such low attitudes of the civilian leadership?

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSeerov

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>