24 hours later…. thoughts on McChrystal

Hmmm…. which magazine should I peruse online this AM…. maybe TNR?  The National Interest?  Nah, I’m not in the mood for deep thinking.  I’ll just look at Rolling Stone, that won’t take much intellectual heavy lifting…. oh, look, a profile of General McChrystal…. hmmm…. um…. holy cats. Since everyone and their mother has their take ...

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Hmmm.... which magazine should I peruse online this AM.... maybe TNR?  The National Interest?  Nah, I'm not in the mood for deep thinking.  I'll just look at Rolling Stone, that won't take much intellectual heavy lifting.... oh, look, a profile of General McChrystal.... hmmm.... um.... holy cats.

Since everyone and their mother has their take on this Mongolian clusterf**k imbroglio already, I'm not going to bother linking to the rest of the blogosphere.  Instead, just a few measured and a few off the cuff reactions: 

1.  Doris Kearns Goodwin makes the case in today's New York Times that Obama doesn't have to fire McChrystal, pointing out that Union General George McClellan was far ruder to Lincoln, and yet was not fired.  This is historically true, but I'm not sure it's really the best example.  To put it gently, McClellan was a lousy, timid general -- by letting him stay on, Lincoln accomplished little but to prolong the war. 

Hmmm…. which magazine should I peruse online this AM…. maybe TNR?  The National Interest?  Nah, I’m not in the mood for deep thinking.  I’ll just look at Rolling Stone, that won’t take much intellectual heavy lifting…. oh, look, a profile of General McChrystal…. hmmm…. um…. holy cats.

Since everyone and their mother has their take on this Mongolian clusterf**k imbroglio already, I’m not going to bother linking to the rest of the blogosphere.  Instead, just a few measured and a few off the cuff reactions: 

1.  Doris Kearns Goodwin makes the case in today’s New York Times that Obama doesn’t have to fire McChrystal, pointing out that Union General George McClellan was far ruder to Lincoln, and yet was not fired.  This is historically true, but I’m not sure it’s really the best example.  To put it gently, McClellan was a lousy, timid general — by letting him stay on, Lincoln accomplished little but to prolong the war. 

2.  I find myself in agreement with Tom Donnelly and William Kristol

McChrystal should not be the only one to go.  Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and “AfPak” czar Richard Holbrooke should likewise either submit their resignations or be fired by President Obama.  Vice President Biden and his surrogates should be told to sit down and be quiet, to stop fighting policy battles in the press.  The administration’s "team of rivals" approach is producing only rivalry.

They’re right (see also David Ignatius).  McChrystal did himself no favors in the RS article, but he’s hardly the only Afghan policy heavyweight to be tarnished by the essay.  Eikenberry poisoned the well with his press leaks last year, and Holbrooke is, well, Holbrooke.  A clean sweep might be the best move Obama could make. 

3)  Speaking of neoconservatives, it’s worth noting that, contra Josh Rogin’s take, GOP policy wonks are reacting the way you would expect a loyal opposition to react.  That is to say, sure, they’re making hay of the problems with the Afghan strategy, but they’re also quite firm in saying that Obama should dire McChrystal.  See Kristol,  Eliot Cohen, John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham

This should not be terribly surprising.  Neoconservatives have been pretty clear all along about civilian control of the military, and McChrystal’s gaffes cut right to the heart of this issue. 

4)  One final point:  beyond the descriptions of McChrystal and his aides acting like jackasses in Paris, the RS article was of little use.  It presented a slanted portrait of COIN and it’s advocates, and seemed determined to paint McChrystal in the worst light possible.  As Blake Hounshell observed, it failed to note that at this stage it’s impossible to evaluate the COIN strategy, because these approaches tend to have "darkest before the dawn" qualities. 

What do you think?

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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