|7/8/10 issue of Rolling Stone|
Firstly, I think some serious accolades need to be thrown at writer Michael Hastings. The war in Afghanistan has turned into Heroes for too many Americans: it's something that used to be all the rage on TV and now they've moved on. Only, Heroes has been cancelled, freeing its cast members to pursue more lucrative movie roles while our men and women in uniform continue to try to find something positive to justify the ever-increasing death toll there. Hastings's article was not intended to undermine the operations in effect, or to embarrass General McChrystal. Rather, it reads like what it was clearly intended to be: a frank discussion of what's really happening in Afghanistan.
Perhaps what is so startling about Hastings's work is not even its own content...but the complete absence of anything else approaching its level of honesty in any other media report. Hastings paints a picture of Gen. McChrystal as something of a character out of The Men Who Stare at Goats, combining unconventional computer nerds with gung-ho grunts to not merely kill enemy combatants, but to revolutionize Afghan society itself. A lofty goal, to be sure, but one that perhaps was out of everyone's hands once President George W. Bush justified his invasion of Iraq on the grounds that our national interests rested on the democratization of extremist societies in the Middle East. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, and so it seems that what's going on in Afghanistan--controversial as it is--is a terribly unfortunate by-product of its own spin-off war.
General McChrystal himself comes off in the article mostly the way I think most of us suspect--or even wish--our top military leaders really are. This is a guy who has actively participated in night raids in Afghanistan, an exercise that places in harm's way every one of the soldiers who take out on patrol. I can still remember feeling a sense of admiration for the few managers I had at Cracker Barrel who would actually bus tables and help run the grill when we needed an extra set of hands; I can only imagine how it must have been for low-ranking infantry to stand side by side with their top commander with every chance that one or both of them may not come back alive.
|President Obama and General McChrystal in a photograph from the White House Flickr Photostream|
|From the White House Flickr Photostream|