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Can You Hear Me Now?

June 22, 2010

General McChrystal clearly isn’t a dummy and the quotes used in the Rolling Stone article have been given to him pre-publication for a fact check and he didn’t object to their publication. It results that McChrystal intentionally provoked the White House with his frank comments. Surely, he is aware that this may well lose him his job. So why did he do it? Either he wants to go — but then, why not simply resign? — or he is so frustrated that he saw no better way to make the White House improve the situation than to publicly criticise them.

Of course, McChrystal can’t control the White House’s reaction to his comments. But maybe he hopes for certain outcomes and is willing to accept the price of likely having to leave. And those “certain outcomes”, the French Cowboy would guess, are changes of attitude and of personnel other than McChrystal himself. Already the first calls for ambassador Eickenberry and AfPak czar Holbrooke to be fired should McChrystal be sent his way are being made. Is it unreasonable to assume that this — or at least a radical change in these two persons’ way of doing things — is the actual goal McChrystal’s aiming for?

There are four possible scenarios: should Obama decide that only McChrystal has to leave, then he might be fine with it as he prefers this over having to continue as before. Alternatively, should Obama send other people, like Eickenberry and/or Holbrooke, packing along with McChrystal, then from McChrystal’s view there’s at least the hope that things will be better for the new Commander. Thirdly, now that McChrystal has his attention, Obama might decide to listen to the General and make changes according to his opinion while keeping him in his position. And lastly, the Rolling Stone piece might lead to no changes of policy or personnel. After such a disclosure of infighting, though, McChrystal may have to decide to resign on his own as his staying could hamper winning the war.

The French Cowboy supposes that McChrystal hopes that he can keep his position and that changes of personnel and/or policy will be made in reaction to his public complaints. If it were otherwise, the General could have just resigned and then criticise even more openly. (Besides, he also wouldn’t bother with apologies.) McChrystal must be very frustrated and former communication must have been utterly fruitless. Else, criticism of the kind reported in the RS story would be too risky a strategy to get the White House’s attention. Sure, the General’s not the type who keeps his opinion to himself. But, again, he’s no dummy either. He knew what he was doing when he gave RS the nod for publishing the quotes.

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