Rolling Stone has published its big Stanley McChrystal "insubordination" piece online now, and he just trashes Barack Obama throughout the whole thing! Well, not really. There's a bigger thing getting trashed here called "the War in Afghanistan."
We learn much about top Afghanistan military leader Stanley McChrystal in this piece, and let's get the most important info out of the way: his favorite beer is Bud Light Lime, and his favorite movie is Talladega Nights. How has this man not been fired already?
He also does not like going to dinners in France, even if they're to convince France to stay in his Afghanistan war.
"I'd rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner," McChrystal says.
He pauses a beat.
"Unfortunately," he adds, "no one in this room could do it."
With that, he's out the door.
"Who's he going to dinner with?" I ask one of his aides.
"Some French minister," the aide tells me. "It's fucking gay."
This is McChrystal's inner circle. French dinners are fucking gay and Joe Biden's name should be "Bite Me," which does not really work as a joke. You'd think that if it didn't work so well as a joke, you wouldn't risk a direct violation of military insubordination code with a national reporter sitting in the room, on-the-record.
Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. "I never know what's going to pop out until I'm up there, that's the problem," he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.
"Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says with a laugh. "Who's that?"
"Biden?" suggests a top adviser. "Did you say: Bite Me?"
"Stan" McChrystal voted for Barack Obama, but he was disturbed when the president promoted him without knowing who the fuck he was.
Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn't go much better. "It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."
Poor Stanley McChrystal also struggled when he had to convince Barack Obama to give him power for something stupid. (Barack Obama eventually did this, of course.)
Last fall, with his top general calling for more troops, Obama launched a three-month review to re-evaluate the strategy in Afghanistan. "I found that time painful," McChrystal tells me in one of several lengthy interviews. "I was selling an unsellable position." For the general, it was a crash course in Beltway politics – a battle that pitted him against experienced Washington insiders like Vice President Biden, who argued that a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan would plunge America into a military quagmire without weakening international terrorist networks. "The entire COIN [counterinsurgency] strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people," says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. "The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.
And here's pretty much the biggest problem with the Afghanistan war, Washington, Stanley McChrystal, and 21st century anxiety in general:
In private, Team McChrystal likes to talk shit about many of Obama's top people on the diplomatic side. One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a "clown" who remains "stuck in 1985." Politicians like McCain and Kerry, says another aide, "turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it's not very helpful." Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal's inner circle. "Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review," says an adviser. "She said, 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.' "
McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal," says a member of the general's team. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He's a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto. But this is COIN, and you can't just have someone yanking on shit."
At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry. "Oh, not another e-mail from [U.S. special envoy Richard] Holbrooke," he groans. "I don't even want to open it." He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance.
"Make sure you don't get any of that on your leg," an aide jokes, referring to the e-mail.
There are too many people here trying to keep their jobs and compete for the spotlight. They all seem to not really know each other, and when things get bad, they turn to hating each other or talking to freaking Rolling Stone reporters. This is not the best atmosphere for a successful 18-month "winning the hearts and minds" quickie campaign, and when the next decision comes, they'll all probably settle on adding more troops for another 18-month campaign.
It's bizarre for McChrystal to give this profile knowing that he wants to keep fighting the war.
[White House photo by Pete Souza, via AP]