I haven’t read these articles largely because I found the concatenation of headlines on The Washington Post’s online frontpage so off-putting, but I thought the agglomeration was worth noting. What I recall from yesterday was that a Rolling Stone piece was published in which General Stanley McChrystal and to a greater extent his staff was revealed to have said a whole bunch of unprofessional stuff about various senior officials of the United States government and other NATO member states. McChrystal apologized, the vast majority of conservative media figures agreed that what he’d done was inappropriate, and politicians on the Hill in a rare outbreak of bipartisanship agreed that we’d seen a major breach of discipline that Obama would be within his rights to handle through firing the general or not as he saw fit.
But now suddenly it’s political peril time at high noon for Barack Obama! We have this long-time joke in the blogosphere about how everything is good news for Republicans, and here you see it again I guess.
Back in the real world it seems obvious to me that the Obama administration’s actual McChrystal-related problem is simply that the situation in Afghanistan is deeply problematic. The hoped-for improvements in governance and the credibility of Hamid Karzai’s regime have not emerged. The population in much of the country remains pro-Taliban, anti-Karzai, and anti-ISAF. This is a big problem. And the portrait that emerges in the Rolling Stone article is of a military command that knows it’s not really making progress but doesn’t see the door open to any alternative policies. It’s a huge problem—much bigger than the question of what to do or not about one general.