I think Spencer Ackerman has the best take on the substance of the story of the day, though I’d be a lot more skeptical than he is that General McChrystal can survive this kind of insubordination:
The amazing thing about it is there’s no complaints from McChrystal or his staff about the administration on any substantive ground. After all, McChrystal and his allies won the argument within the White House. All the criticisms — of Eikenberry, of Jones, of Holbrooke, of Biden — are actually just immature and arrogant snipes at how annoying Team America (what, apparently, McChrystal’s crew calls itself) finds them. This is not mission-first, to say the least.
In fact, you have to go deep in the piece to find soldiers and officers offering actual critiques — and what they offer is criticism of McChrystal for being insufficiently brutal. Everyone of them quoted here is a mini-Ralph Peters, upset because McChrystal won’t let them “get our fucking gun on,” as one puts it. I have a lot of respect for Michael Hastings, the author of the profile, but there are many greyer shades of on-the-ground military perspective than that, and I’ve seen them up close. But Hastings does a good and insightful job of showing that McChrystal is stepping into a diplomatic vacuum and acting as an advocate for Hamid Karzai despite Karzai’s performance in office.
To add something to this, in the rhetorical construct that happens in progressive writer/blogger circles there’s a thing called “the war in Afghanistan” of which one is either a “supporter” or not, and people are perhaps “critics” of “the war” or not. Thus a blow to a key “supporter” of “the war” is clearly a victory for the “opponents.” But in the rival military discourse, as best I can tell not prosecuting a military campaign in Afghanistan simply isn’t under consideration. There is rather a strategy which has supporters and critics, and one likely scenario in which the critics of the strategy prevail is a shift to a dynamic in which the use of force becomes less constrained. That’s hardly the only alternative to the status quo, but it’s certainly a possible course and not one I’d like to see adopted. I think that if you read some of the latest work from my colleagues Colin Cookman and Caroline Wadhams you’ll see that the non-military aspects of what we’re doing in Afghanistan aren’t at all on course for success at the moment and in a fundamental sense this is the problem.