A War Gone Badly Wrong

Tariq Ali · Will McChrystal run for president?

General Stanley McChrystal's kamikaze interview had the desired effect. He was sacked and replaced by his boss General David Petraeus. But behind the drama in Washington is a war gone badly wrong and no amount of sweet talk can hide this fact. The loathing for Holbrooke (a Clinton creature) goes deep not because of his personal defects, of which there are many, but because his attempt to dump Karzai without a serious replacement angered the generals. Aware that the war is unwinnable, they were not prepared to see Karzai fall: without a Pashtun point man in the country the collapse might reach Saigon proportions. All the generals are aware that the stalemate is not easy to break, but desirous of building reputations and careers and experimenting with new weapons and new strategies (real war games are always appealing to the military provided the risks are small) they have obeyed orders despite disagreements with each other and the politicians.

Obama's surge was always supported by Stan and Dave but not by General Eikenberry, the ex-boss of both men and currently ambassador in Kabul. His view has been vindicated by the stalemate and the price being paid. All the media-hyped advances are illusory. US and Nato casualties are rising each week; most Europeans and many North American citizens are opposed to the war and favour withdrawal; different factions of the Taliban are preparing to take power; Iran has been alienated by the sanctions and will not play ball any more; the Northern Alliance is a busted flush, its leaders busy, like the Karzai brothers, making money. And lithium reserves notwithstanding, it is becoming more and more difficult to sustain a Nato presence in the country. Pakistan's military is in permanent talks with the Taliban leadership and a desperate Karzai has asked the US to remove Mullah Omar and the old Taliban leaders from the list of 'terrorists' so they can travel freely and participate in the life of the country. Eikenberry's response: we are prepared to consider each request on its merits but no blanket amnesty. That too will come.

In the US the mid-term elections loom ahead and Netanyahu is expected soon at the White House to help shore up AIPAC support for the beleaguered Democrats. The talk in Washington is that losses will lead Obama to get rid of Gates at the Pentagon and Rahm at the White House. What nobody appears to have noticed is that McChrystal wears a lean and hungry look. Would he be willing to go for the Republican nomination?


  • 24 June 2010 at 7:14pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    At least he's save us from Palin. Sounds as if he's played Obama for a dummy.

  • 24 June 2010 at 8:01pm
    pinhut says:
    "Would he be willing to go for the Republican nomination?"

    Such a move would permit his animus towards Obama as open to accusations of being founded on partisan difference with the administration, making him appear decidedly unprofessional.

    Obama hinted that his military career was over, so let's see, the power is there to dismiss him, which for an officer, reading up on this, is equivalent to a dishonourable discharge. If Obama lets him walk away with his career achievements intact and with dignity, expect not to see him popping up on a Republican ticket anytime soon.

  • 25 June 2010 at 7:32am
    Geoff Roberts says:
    This is worth reading

  • 25 June 2010 at 8:17am
    ge1pt says:
    Of course there is always the other, slightly more nuclear option, not of running for president, but being the power behind any future rightist coup d'etat (no matter how apparently constitutional) against Obama. May seem far fetched at the moment but the political and economic conditions brewing up against the "uppity n***er" don't rule it out.

  • 25 June 2010 at 8:44am
    A.J.P. Crown says:
    McChrystal won't get the opportunity to run for the GOP; that's just a wacky idea, Tariq. But look at the war, here's my prediction: Patraeus won't be any more successful than McChrystal with the counterinsurgency strategy. This is now the longest war in U.S. history; more than a thousand US lives have been lost and more to the point it's costing American taxpayers trillions of dollars. It will take eighteen months to play out, but by the end of 2011 Obama will be withdrawing.

  • 25 June 2010 at 12:59pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    What I'd like to know is, why on earth did he choose Rolling Stone? Is he a lefty in disguise? Why not Mother Jones? New York Times would have been more appropriate, but then perhaps Rolling Stone is all the Obama reads.

    • 26 June 2010 at 1:02am
      pinhut says: @ Geoff Roberts
      Mother Jones? May as well ask the general to wear sandals and grow his hair out.

      RS has Matt Taibbi, occasionally a worthy heir to Hunter S. Thompson, and this article reads like some good old Gonzo in places.

      The thinking has divided along the lines of :

      1) Nobody could be that stupid, McChrystal wanted the information out there, as a prelude to resigning


      2) McChrystal is that stupid, and never realised the likely repercussions...


      3) Obama planned the whole thing, in cahoots or not, with RS / McChrystal, etc

      I'm going for a variation on 2, which is simply that for these dyed-in-the-wool military types like McChrystal, he just didn't realise there was anything particularly controversial in the remarks, it was just locker-room banter. While the interview itself is damaging, there's no mention in the story of any sort of unprofessionalism resulting from the general's thoughts, it was more along the lines of how many of us complain behind the management's back about their incompetence.

  • 26 June 2010 at 2:47pm
    Pennywhistler says:
    In one place this article is called "A War Gone Badly Wrong". In another it is titled: "Will McChrystal run for president?". That is confusing, as Mr. Ali has done nothing to connect the two notions.

    Then things start to get strange. "Iran has been alienated by the sanctions and will not play ball any more". This can only mean that Iran was once "playing ball" with US policy in Afghanistan and just now gave up because of the new UN sanctions. Huh??

    Then even stranger: "In the US the mid-term elections loom ahead and Netanyahu is expected soon at the White House to help shore up AIPAC support for the beleaguered Democrats." Who threw Mr. Netanyahu into the conversation? What does he have to do with the mid-term elections?

    Oh. I see: "The talk in Washington is that losses will lead Obama to get rid of Gates at the Pentagon and Rahm at the White House."

    Unless Netanyahu will take over for Gates, this is all non-sequitor. Or is it: "I lost 40 seats in the House, so I am firing Sec. Gates."? None of this makes any sense.

    The fact is, there is no such talk in Washington concerning Gates, and "Rahm" (who is not on a first-name basis with Mr. Ali has already announced that he is leaving.

    Some collection of insights, this.

  • 27 June 2010 at 9:54am
    A.J.P. Crown says:
    Some collection of insights, this.
    Ms Pennywhistler, I call Tariq by his first name and he calls me Arthur. Rest assured that I wouldn't in a million years call you by your first name and you should always refer to me as "Sir Arthur". But this is all a non sequitur. Or is it? No, you're right, it is.

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