McChrystal and the Afghan Drawdown

The first thing that occurred to me about Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s ill-advised Rolling Stone profile is that it pretty much guarantees that the July 2011 drawdown schedule will stick. For that reason alone, it might make sense for the Obama administration to fire McChrystal, not immediately, but on the installment plan, by letting him run out the clock until then.

The second thing that occurred to me — and this gives you an idea of how badly the leaked quotes reflect on the state of civil-military relations between McChrystal’s command and his civilian superiors — is the parallel between the Afghan war effort and the French national soccer team. McChrystal has already apologized for the poor judgment that led to the profile. But that’s similar to the French team captain saying that the real problem was not its starting striker insulting the coach, but that the locker room exchange was leaked to the press. When one of McChrystal’s top advisers, in discussing the general’s first meeting with President Barack Obama, says, “The boss was pretty disappointed,” and by “the boss,” he means McChrystal and not Obama, there is a serious problem.

It’s very hard to see how McChrystal comes out of this with his command, let alone his career, intact. But as I said at the outset, if the Obama administration really is serious about the July 2011 deadline, as it again claimed to be just last week, then McChrystal could be more useful in Afghanistan, where he will be politically incapacitated by the self-inflicted gunshot wound in his foot, than in semi-disgraced exile.