Following the devastating Rolling Stone piece in which Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his aides trashed half of official Washington, the general feeling in the twittersphere seems to be that McChrystal, who is flying to Washington DC today to meet with a “furious” President Obama, is seriously fucked. The Guardian’s reporters, however, disagree:
The official was unable to say how long the general would be away, but did say that McChrystal believed he had largely “sorted” the situation after immediately calling the people he had attacked in the profile to apologise.
Earlier today, McChrystal attended a meeting with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, Eikenberry and Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative who McChrystal also belittled in the magazine article.
A US diplomat said that while “the story sucked” and that McChrystal “running amok” was embarrassing, the row would not affect policy or the way the men worked together.
Two things are going to happen following this debacle. Either high-ranking field officers are going to clamp down hard on in-depth journalist access to their aides or else high-ranking field officers are going to clamp down hard on their own aides.1 After all, in the Rolling Stone piece that’s caused McChrystal all the heartburn, it wasn’t primarily McChrystal’s own words that were the big problem. It was lots of juvenile taunting from his aides, much of it apparently during social gatherings where they had been drinking. And there’s a simple lesson there: anyone who lets a reporter follow them around to a bar where they plan to drink the evening away is an idiot. It doesn’t really matter what the ground rules are or even whether there was some miscommunication about what could and couldn’t be quoted. It’s just stupid.
Anyway, my guess is that after already firing David McKiernan last year Obama really can’t afford to assign a third general to Afghanistan, so McChrystal’s job is probably safe. But this sure isn’t going to help his credibility with Hamid Karzai or anyone else he has to work with. McChrystal had an almost impossible job already, and now it’s just gotten that much worse.
1Especially considering that this is the second time this has happened in two years. Remember Fox Fallon?