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June 23, 2010
On the CarpetBy Greyhawk
Reasonable people can conclude, and many have, that the comments in the article are just not at the level where a dismissal is warranted. Everyone can read them, and no one can point to any line uttered by the general that challenges the president's strategy or undermines confidence in McChrystal's willingness to implement it.Schmedlap sounds angry:
Seriously? This is a big deal? I am no McChrystal cheerleader and I consider myself to be a lot more concerned about civil-military relations than most (examples here, here, and here). But this is just a whole lot of nothingAnd he's right, too. He's also offered up this challenge at Small Wars Journal:
I've been trying to find a quote - confirmed or alleged - from McChrystal that is insubordinate. If someone can identify it, please post it. Thus far, I've only seen McChrystal quoted as being disappointed with a meeting with the President because he thought the President was unprepared for it.
It's as yet unanswered. Having read the article, I don't see an answer.
There's irony in the fact that a discussion of how to avoid answering questions on Biden - more to the point, how to avoid a repeat of an event last year where answering a question that didn't even include the word "Biden" led to an epically wrong series of events - has now led to an even more absurd series of events. "Who?" and "bite me" were suggested responses - suggestions made in jest - to reporters, not assaults on the Vice President of the United States. Not much there there, but if you've spent a month with a group of people, need an angle that translates to sales, and your deadline looms - you gotta go with what you got. (And hope others in the business will help - which certainly happened here.)
But in a world where perceptions matter, the truth doesn't. And General McChrystal apologized for the article (which he's rumored to have reviewed and approved - though that task may have actually fallen to another...) at the same speed he does for errant rocket attacks in Afghanistan. (How fast is that? Sometimes too fast... but that's another story...) Certainly that apology doesn't aid the General's defenders (or people who notice the actual truth in the matter) in their cause.
What's left in the Rolling Stone story to get folks riled up? Nothing in the way of news for anyone tracking the war or the direction of the Department of Defense. One - military folks aren't happy with the performance and behavior of their civilian counterparts (not superiors) in Afghanistan. If you want to measure the accomplishments of the leadership of that group, by virtually any standard it's marginally above dysfunctional. A small detail that really surprised me was that Holbrooke phoned McChrystal (maybe he just sent him a picture of himself on a beach somewhere) - I thought the guy was thoroughly disengaged - but that, too, is another story... Two: lots of folks don't think counterinsurgency is a good idea - the same inside baseball national defense story that's been largely ignored for a year, spiced up with an angle that Rolling Stone (or People or countless other publications) can sell. (Unfortunately, that angle is the part that's not true. Though no doubt "anti-COIN" people are shocked, shocked I tell you, at the constitutional crisis precipitated by this profile.) Those two items are issues of paramount importance to our national defense today, obscured by a sideshow of alleged Biden-bashing, to the detriment of all involved.
So, a prediction (really, just a hunch at this point, and the "X" factors in what happens next are Gates and Petraeus...): He's well within his rights to do so (in fact, he doesn't need any excuse whatsoever - this ain't the civil effing service we're discussing here) but unless General McChrystal demands it, the president will not fire his general. But nothing mentioned above will play into that decision. Nothing I've seen written elsewhere, either. And the stated reasons - and the media spin on those reasons - won't address it either. Sorry to throw that spoke in the wheel this late in a post, but that's another story, too - and there are other posts to follow.
Some might see the above as a defense of General McChrystal - it's not. Those who understand the nature of the professional warrior should neither attack or defend them reflexively, and generals are critical (which is why we have spares) and replaceable cogs - I've made that point previously.
While we await the outcome, here's a post from earlier this month, to help pass the time...
Update: McChrystal out - Petraeus in (or down). There's a game-changer... (though not to be confused with a change of direction in Afghanistan).
Next: The Done Deal
Posted by Greyhawk / June 23, 2010 9:51 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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