So, I read Michael Hastings' "The Runaway General" for the first time...Submitted by dwalters on Mon, 07/08/2013 - 18:53
After watching the recent Corbett Report episode concerning the untimely demise of the investigative journalist, Michael Hastings, I decided to read Hastings' most (in)famous piece The Runaway General. As I read, I noticed that Hastings had published a second article, titled Hastings on McChrystal: To Fire, or Not to Fire?, just minutes after publishing the former. Upon consideration by the President, Obama made the following statement in regards to firing General Stanley McChrystal in which he referenced the "article":
My impressions after reading The Runaway General are that General McChrystal is a man of grit who is rough around the edges and that was faced with an unwinnable situation in Afghanistan. Based on the information in the article, I personally may have fired the general but not for the reasons Obama did. Based upon Obama's statement, the general was presumably forced to resign because he did not mesh well with the diplomats on the political side of the war. However, it seems it was the flawed counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy that was to blame for that friction.
According to my miniscule knowledge of COIN, it seems that the military was faced with a very daunting dual mandate - to wage war and to act as diplomatic intermediaries in rebuilding the physical and political infrastructure of the nation. In essence, the strategy seems akin to "kill them, but kill them in such a way that they will like us." A quote from my father, who worked in dirt excavation most of his life, comes to mind:
"I can make water run up hill on paper, but I can't do it out here on the ground."
If anyone was aware of the impending failure of such a strategy, it was likely General McChrystal. I doubt any general enjoys backseat drivers of the political persuasion when it comes to battlefield operations. So, why would anyone expect a different reaction when political involvement is amplified through a strategy such as COIN. In my humble opinion, rather than firing him, Obama should have had a private conference with the general and discussed ways to not only improve relations between the politicians and himself but also ways to exit from the longest war in our nations history. If sound reason prevailed, the COIN strategy would have likely been abandoned in favor of a traditional military role, and the realization would have been made that the US will likely fair no better than the Russians did in Afghanistan. After all, the war should have been over once Al Qaeda fled to Pakistan.
It was not Hastings fault, but McChrystal was likely fired not because of the information revealed in The Runaway General alone but more likely because of what Hastings said in the second article posted that day. Quoting:
If Obama doesn't fire McChrystal — and until this week, I thought he never would — then it appears to prove one of the issues raised in our story. That Obama can, in fact, be pushed around by the generals, and that they can more or less get away with whatever they want.
In his widely read book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie gives the reader some powerful advice. The title of chapter 12 is When Nothing Else Works, Try This. "This" is to "throw down a challenge." Challenges place people's pride on the line.
One year I was worried that some neighbor kids - three young brothers - would mess with my garden. To prevent the problem, I told the older of the three that he was in charge of keeping people out of my garden and to let me know if he saw any violators. Of course, I wasn't worried about anyone else except him and his two little brothers. The advice worked seamlessly. I didn't have any problems with my garden.
In saying what he did, Hastings challenged Obama. Obama's pride was placed on the line. Obama didn't have to take the course of action that he chose. He's a grown man - and supposed to be a leader of men. It shows weakness that Obama is subject to such persuasion. He could have easily said something similar to:
It has come to my attention that General McChrystal has acted in such a way that is disrespectful to myself and other representatives of the United States. I have seriously contemplated seeking the resignation of the general after learning of his behavior from a recent article; however, I am not a man that cowers to generals or journalists. As the elected leader of this nation, it is crucial that I make decisions according to reason.
After a long and productive discussion with General McChrystal, we have come to an understanding. The recent revelations have come to be a blessing. They have offered a unique opportunity to confront the difficulties that America faces in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. More than anyone else, General McChrystal is aware of those difficulties. We have taken this opportunity to chart a new course - a course that will allow America to wind down its military involvement in the region while increasing diplomatic efforts to promote not only economic trade but the exchange of ideas that may better lay a foundation of liberty for the people of Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan are a hardy people. Not only did the Russians learn this lesson, but now, so have we. This is not an admission of defeat. We succeeded in our original goal of driving Al Qaeda from the country. Osama Bin Laden has been dealt with, and now, it is time to begin our exit. May the people of Afghanistan continue to protect their land well - not only from foreign occupiers - but also from radical elements that may try to use their great country as a training ground for stateless militants in the future. I wish them the best.
God bless America. Obama out.
Hastings was not to blame for the firing of General McChrystal. Obama and his handlers made the final decision. Nor did Hastings force the general to behave the way he did. If a man is big enough to act in a certain way, he should be big enough to face the potential consequences for those actions. If Hastings' death was related to the firing of the "runaway general," it was undeserved. Telling the truth should never be punished. Don't shoot the messenger - or blow up his car.
If Hastings' death was related to the latest story he was going to cover (supposedly concerning the CIA), the perpetrators should discontinue their actions if they are so egregious that they feel it is justified to murder journalists in cold blood to protect them.
Supposing it was a murder, which it very well could have been, I'm sure the murderers think of themselves as true American patriots. They are mistaken, and should read the 1st Amendment of the Constitution which they swore to defend. To the contrary, they are enemies of the Constitution.
May Michael Hastings rest in peace (1980-2013).