Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The accidental gorilla?

I know it was just a momentary lapse, but I got a kick out of this mistake in the transcript of Tuesday’s confirmation hearing to make Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal the commander of the war in Afghanistan: SEN. UDALL:  In a sense you’re distinguishing as well between the big “T” Taliban and the little “t” ...

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I know it was just a momentary lapse, but I got a kick out of this mistake in the transcript of Tuesday's confirmation hearing to make Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal the commander of the war in Afghanistan:

I know it was just a momentary lapse, but I got a kick out of this mistake in the transcript of Tuesday’s confirmation hearing to make Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal the commander of the war in Afghanistan:

SEN. UDALL:  In a sense you’re distinguishing as well between the big “T” Taliban and the little “t” Taliban.  You talked about the hard-core Taliban elements that you believe are irredeemable, but you alluded to those Taliban who joined the fight because that’s what Afghans do in the spring, join the fight because it’s the only way they can provide for their families.

GEN. MCCHRYSTAL:  Absolutely, sir.  Like Admiral Stavridis, I’m a friend of David Kilcullen, and I think a lot of what he says about the accidental gorilla is true.  And so I think what we’ve got to do is eliminate the people who do it for other than just absolutely strong ideological reasons.

More substantially, I also was struck by an exchange with Adm. James Stavridis, nominated to become commander of NATO and the top U.S. officer in Europe. It hadn’t occurred to me that his ethnic Greek heritage would be of concern to certain members of NATO. But apparently the Turks have wondered a bit:

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA):  . . . Admiral Stavridis, I was in your ethnic home, as you know, over the last week, and had the opportunity to observe what’s going on in Greece, particularly with regard to what’s happening with the migration of folks out of Afghanistan and Pakistan through Turkey, through Greece sometimes staying in Turkey, sometimes staying in Greece, causing some problems there.  But Turkey obviously is a very strategic country right now.  It’s European orientation, NATO membership and enduring relationship make it a bridge of stability between the Euro-Atlantic community and the nations of Central Asia and the Arabian Gulf.  How would you describe our relationship with Turkey today?  And how would situation in Northern Iraq with the PKK and the KGK threaten that relationship?

ADM. STAVRIDIS:  Thank you, Senator. It’s probably worth nothing that although I’m ethnically Greek, my grandfather was actually born in Turkey, and came through Greece on his way to the United States. So I have I think a cultural understanding of both of those nations. Turkey is an incredibly important friend and ally to the United States. I would categorize our relationship at the moment, from what I can see before going to theater, if confirmed, and actually meeting with our Turkish military counterparts, from all that I can see it is a strong relationship.  We are conducting a great deal of information and intelligence-sharing with our friends.  We recognize the threat to Turkey posed by the Kurdish separatist movements.  And I believe it is both an important and a strong relationship and one that I intend to focus on if confirmed.

ucumari/Flickr

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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