Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Planning to Fail in Afghanistan, pt 7: Why We Fail

Reading through the Rolling Stone  piece on McChrystal's comments I was struck by one passage - it was something so prophane and shocking that I could scarcely believe what I was seeing, but it was right there, in black and white:

The assembled men may look and sound like a bunch of combat veterans letting off steam, but in fact this tight-knit group represents the most powerful force shaping U.S. policy in Afghanistan. While McChrystal and his men are in indisputable command of all military aspects of the war, there is no equivalent position on the diplomatic or political side. Instead, an assortment of administration players compete over the Afghan portfolio: U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not to mention 40 or so other coalition ambassadors and a host of talking heads who try to insert themselves into the mess, from John Kerry to John McCain. This diplomatic incoherence has effectively allowed McChrystal's team to call the shots and hampered efforts to build a stable and credible government in Afghanistan. "It jeopardizes the mission," says Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who supports McChrystal. "The military cannot by itself create governance reform." [ITALICS ADDED BY ME]

I lied before when I said this was shocking. Its not. But its a god damn shame none-the-less. And it answers every question that every historian is going to ask about Afghanistan someday, and every question some future president is going to ask as he goes to survey some smoking crater somewhere in the U.S. and ponder his response. 

It's too bad we can't get Tea Parties organized to give a damn about Afghanistan or America's neglect when it comes to assembling a coalition to win in Afghanistan, but I just don't see it happening. Whomever said that war was just natures way of teaching Americans about geography really hadn't spent much time with "Americans"(outside politics and academia, perhaps).

If McChrystal resigns tomorrow - and I think he has to - he should do so with his head held high. Better to walk out the front door of the White House then get thrown under the proverbial bus when Obama starts sinking in 2012. I think this Rolling Stone interview was a bone headed move but I also think General Stanley McChrystal has served his country honorably for over 30 years and has more than earned both his retirement and the nation's gratitude.

Our military did not fail us. Our civilian leaders failed them.  

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