This has been a hellacious week. I suppose it looked pretty bad from the US side of the pond. Well, it sucked here. Losing the General wasn’t cool. Oh, I know that he stuck his foot in it up to his knee. I also see where none of that had to happen. It reminds me a fable I told my ANP mentees (Afghans love a good analogy or fable) once about a man who was getting ready to cross a river when a snake asked him to carry him across the fast-flowing waters. You know how it goes… the dying snake-bit man saying, “You promised you wouldn’t bite me!” You also remember the snake’s reply: “You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.”
McChrystal should have seen that snake. Okay, got it.
Now I’ve got to continue to do my job in this war while some truly insufferable people gloat. A couple of writers are now claiming prescience, bathing in the wonder that they are, the sound of all else around them drowned out by the roar of their own awesomeness. No one gave a crap about what Hastings had to say about the strategy of the war two weeks ago. Immediately after McChrystal’s resignation was accepted, Rolling Stone emailed the masses of its readers to trumpet yet another article by Hastings. You’ve no doubt read it.
In the new article, Hastings can scarcely contain his own wonderment at the man he snake-bit. This snake didn’t die in the same raging waters. No, this snake used the body of the man who agreed to carry him as his bridge to better things. Hastings, a relative nobody with a strong anti-war sentiment, has managed to turn this into a little bit of money and a bully platform for his uninformed opinions. I could disassemble the child’s thoughts, but I don’t need to. His only education is in writing, and he’s done a mediocre enough job of it that he had to behave without integrity to sell the biggest story of his life. He has the political/strategic/COIN knowledge of a writer with no integrity. He’s not a pundit, he’s a liar and a cad. There is no reason to take his “analysis” of the progress of the war seriously. His gloating and the audacity to even offer an opinion that is so ill-informed that he should be embarrassed of it, now that’s harder to swallow.
His assassination is complete, but while he will always be known as the writer who brought down a general, no one can possibly respect him for his treachery. McChrystal will always be remembered as the man who picked up a snake because the snake promised that it wouldn’t bite him. Hastings will always be remembered as that snake. He was the snake who was taken at his word when men who have spent their lives in honorable pursuits trusted it. He did not lie to lightweights. He lied to some of the best men that this country could produce. They have paid dearly for it.
It was clearly agenda-driven reporting. Hastings’ profanity-laced rant against the war and the strategy at the end of the article should leave no doubt as to his bias. Based upon Hastings’ clear bias, I believe that it was his intent to cause damage and create chaos. He expresses surprise, but that is feigned. It is clear that he opposes our nation’s efforts in Afghanistan. He never counted on Petraeus. The move of, in essence, demoting a General to take the job of a subordinate just isn’t done. The man who is 1-0 couldn’t possibly be brought in as the closer, could he? No, clearly not. With the character assassination of McChrystal, the effort would be thrown into disarray, and there was Hastings to be its clarion.
*needle scratching across a record*
Well, the unprecedented has been done. GEN Petraeus has been appointed, I’m sure not without consultation. There will likely not be massive changes, but GEN McChrystal was GEN Petraeus’ padawan. The true Jedi of COIN is about to step once again into the shoes of campaign commander. Hastings’ fallback position will be that he did the nation a service.
Don’t pick up that snake. He’s already bitten one good man.
I was recently asked if I am still optimistic. Yes. I am. Hastings did us no service, but the answer to that void is powerful. GEN McChrystal’s resignation was a distraction, true. But in the days surrounding the end of his tenure there are initiatives that continued that he had a hand in, or generated by direction. The key troop-contributing nations here are making giant strides towards training units in COIN more effectively. These efforts will begin to bear fruit in a short time. I’m still talking months, but the fruit is already forming. Wait till the critics get a load of what’s on the way. Common operational frameworks have been developed that will permit more unity of effort. Units are going to begin to arrive that have already learned these frameworks and are prepared to speak a common operational language with their Afghan and civilian counterparts. This is powerful stuff. This is the stuff that I’ve been saying is needed for a long time. These are game-changers. Yes. I’m optimistic.
These are efforts that GEN McChrystal directed or endorsed. GEN Petraeus carried these messages to the Secretary of Defense, who has directed that the actions be taken to make it happen. GEN McChrystal’s efforts will not have gone in vain, and GEN Petraeus will continue to reinforce and refine what GEN McChrystal has set in motion.
So, while there are a couple of gloaters out there, and gloating is hard to take, their disservices to our national objectives are merely noisy distractions. The disservice that they have done to an honorable man and a good commander are things that they will have to live with. Hastings is young. He will live with his infamy for a long time. It will go well for him only in certain circles. Small circles that will get smaller. Low integrity is like that. Being a jerk is its own reward.
As for others who gloat and claim prescience, their gloating is opportunistic and, again, being a jerk is its own reward. None of that matters. Noise-makers. Noisy gongs. None of this changes what units and agencies are beginning to accomplish. The progress is, in large part, due to GEN McChrystal’s efforts. As opposed to previous commanders, I have never heard a subordinate criticize the General. To the masses who get their news from TIME and Rolling Stone, GEN McChrystal’s legacy will be that he was bitten by a snake that he was unwary enough to pick up. But here in Afghanistan, and in the Army, the legacy he leaves is that he began to turn the rudderless ship. He worked to establish the mechanisms that will bring a lot of good here and even at home. GEN Petraeus will, no doubt, refine and put his mark on Afghanistan. He will no doubt continue to make his mark on the Army. But GEN McChrystal left his imprimatur on a lot of enduring programs and changes that have begun to change both behaviors and results. No one can ever take that away from him.
Not even a snake.