Wednesday, June 23, 2010

General McCrystal

I figured that I am going to get some folks wanting to know what I think about this so here it is.

General McCrystal was the POTUS' hand-picked commander on the ground in Afghanistan and he resigned today due to some remarks he made to a Rolling Stones reporter about the political leadership.

Short and sweet of it is that General McCrystal made the one mistake you CANNOT make when you are a general and that is make comments like this on public record. The POTUS is the boss and generals must obey the final orders or quit. You can disagree behind closed doors, you can complain, but when you get the word that this is what it is, that's it! Running down your civilian partners (the ambassador), your potential boss (he made some choice comments about the VP), and your boss' staff (White House Clowns was the phrase I believe) is NOT allowed.

This is a very solid rule and generals who have violated it have all been punished. McCellan and MacArthur are two of the big ones historically that come to mind but there are others as well. Generals must not cross into political realms, or if they do they must be doing so with the full backing of the POTUS (Petraus was doing this some in Iraq during the surge, but he had briefed the plan and the POTUS was on board along with all the other team). The bad thing about this is that with the Joint environment we now fight in, politics is becoming a bigger issue for generals. You are expected to deal with politics when overseas, but not with the US? Hard to keep the two separate.

McCrystal blew it, and he is gone. And that is the right thing to do.

Now, how does this hurt us? And hurt us it does, there is no silver lining to this.

First, the man with the plan who was hand picked to fight the COIN strategy and the mini-surge and had planned and overseen it and was to fight it all the way through is gone. That will hurt. Second, we are pulling General Petraus out of CENTCOM Command to take command in Afghanistan. That is actually a demotion for him as he goes from combatant commander to theater commander and furthermore he now will not be finishing off Iraq and running other things that need attention. Third, it effects the POTUS. He did the right thing, but McCrystal was HIS handpicked choice for whom he removed someone ELSE in order for him to take over. That doesn't help the POTUS' image in terms of things military and Joint (getting the Civilian/Military Team working together). Fourth, the Afghans liked McCrystal, and he was about the only guy over there that they did like and could deal with (dumb comments or not, the ambassador is not exactly high on Karazi's list).

This really brings home a major point, the US Army just doesn't have a whole lot of bench when it comes to COIN operations (Counter-Insurgency Operations). We have to demote someone to fill the gap because we have no one else who can step up. But we could do worse than Petraus so I can't complain about that.

Things just got much harder for us. Not impossible, just harder.

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