Flying at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic is about as detached from earthly concerns as one can get. Seat bound and strapped in found me staring at Lady Gaga's two gun M16 brazier photo on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, reminding me that the world below is full of strangeness and requires a reality disconnect from time to time. Michael Hastings' article in Rolling Stone, "The Runaway General", also requires the previous description pulsating off the front cover.
The article, and General Stanley McChrystal's outing by President Obama, is history. Having spent the last three summers at the US Army War College's invitational strategic seminars I have been privileged to meet and discuss our national and international strategic thinking with the cream of our warrior officer elite. Recently, I attended an assembly to hear retired General David McKiernan deliver a speech on civilian/military counter insurgency operations (COIN) in theatres of conflict the very day Gen. McChrystal was relieved of command by Mr. Obama. An ironic moment indeed, considering Gen. McChrystal replaced Gem/ McKiernan in Afghanistan last June 2009. The ripple of mixed emotions concerning Gen. McChrystal's pending fate was palpable and as varied as Hastings' piece. Some did not see how Gen. McChrystal could stay in command of the ISAF, others felt Mr. Obama would be foolish not to keep the best anti-terrorist war fighter doing what he does best. Many were less concerned over Gen. McCrystal's fate than they were over the morale of the troops under his command and the fact that many in the audience would soon be deployed to Afghanistan in the middle of a struggle between the White House and the war zone's top field commander. The bad news for Gen. McCrystal came after 12 noon. Mr. Hastings' article pointed out a litany of less than flattering comments about certain White House fat cats, chief among them Vice President Joe Biden, Richard Holbrooke, Karl Eikenberry and retired General Jim Jones. Gen. McCrystal's staff made the ribald statements about the Obama insiders where war fighters commonly blow off steam off the record; in bars and pubs. Hastings sucked up the banter of fighting men who have felt the sting of battle, killed their enemy and witnessed their comrades die because civilians decide if we fight where and how long.