Tuesday, June 22, 2010

McChrystal called on carpet

I almost feel sorry for General McChrystal. It was his job to "win" the Afghanistan war. Nobody knows what that means. Nobody knows how. He was given 18 months to accomplish the undefined impossible.

And now the cat's out of the bag that he and his people think the civilian leaders who gave them the assignment are less than top-notch. Since I believe that the best people in the Obama Administration, including the President, understand that in Afghanistan they've inherited a deadly conflict with no rational purpose or happy end, I don't blame McChrystal for feeling he'd been pushed out on a limb to take a fall.

At the same time, I hope Obama agrees with James Fallows and fires the unhappy general. The issue here is civilian supremacy over the military. Does the United States still have that? Or are we so enamored of our imperial capacity to impose our will by force around the world that we let generals dictate to Presidents? I hope not. Mistreated military forces sometimes turn on their ostensible commanders; I've been concerned about this ever since President George W fell into the all-war-all-the-time trap.
It won't be much noticed in the U.S., but the Brits are also going through a major shake-up of Afghanistan leadership. According to the Guardian,

Britain's special envoy to Afghanistan, known for his scepticism about the western war effort and his support for peace talks with the Taliban, has stepped down just a month before a critical international conference in Kabul. Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles has taken "extended leave", a spokesman for the British high commission in Islamabad said today.

The project is unraveling before our eyes and politicians -- U.S., U.K., and Afghan -- can't put Humpty-Dumpty together again.

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