General McChrystal’s Rolling Stone article was the ostensible reason for his getting sacked but an even more important factor may have been press reports attributed to him and his staff that were leaked earlier in June. They painted a bleak picture about how the war was going. The much touted Marja offensive was a flop and the forthcoming push within Kandahar was being postponed for lack of support from the Afghan side. Presumably McChrystal was preparing the ground for an effort to persuade Obama to retreat from his deadline for future troop drawdowns. Or could he, just possibly, have been telling an unwelcome truth? In either case, he was “off message” for the political managers in Washington. The Rolling Stone article can thus be seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back, rather than the prime cause of his dismissal.
Petraeus has been more adroit, assuring his Congressional inquisitors that yes there is a problem but my goodness, of course I fully support the President’s deadline. This sounds like typical political pandering to a power elite in Washington so mesmerized by its own importance that it has become almost oblivious to what is actually going on in the rest of the world. Calling a circle square, and vice versa, has been elevated to a fine art in our nation’s capital. And particularly during the period preceding an election that is even more important than usual.
In my opinion the offensive in Marja has been a dismal failure and just about everything else about our so-called war in Afghanistan has gone sour. There’s a lot of evidence to this effect and very little on the other side. Even the American public is beginning to sense that things aren’t going our way. Is it possibe that pretty soon we’ll see a gradual, subtle series of moves toward disengagement? Is it possible that Obama himself is inching laboriously in that direction, despite his fervent public proclamations about staying the course? Could the clever, highly articulate Petraeus be in effect a kind of accessory in this? One can only hope.
It is not born losers who fold a losing hand at poker, saving the resources they need to stay in the game. The losers are the ones who are too stubborn to fold.