"I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome. I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened."
-- General Stanley McChrystal, "clarifying" his position as stated in the most recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine
Chances are by now you've heard that McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has been summoned to the White House for a figurative ass-kicking following comments he made in an interview with Rolling Stone. In the article, he's painted as a consistent and vocal detractor of the Obama Administration's policy in Afghanistan, saying, among other things, that he feels abandoned by the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner in the region, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. The piece also claims that McChrystal has seized control of the war "by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House," and continues to push for a more hawkish approach to victory than, say, the route suggested by Vice President Joe Biden, whom McChrystal's aides publicly insult.
Needless to say, the right-wing feedback loop is about to be cranked up to 11; if you can't already predict the kind of commentary we're going to be inundated with over the next several days -- with the far-right incongruously lauding the work of that commie rag Rolling Stone for the first time in history -- you just haven't been paying attention over the last decade or so.
What interests me most about this, though, is how it's going to be yet another example of the Obama administration getting it from all sides. The right will demonize him for supposedly not listening to the generals on the ground and, one would imagine, refusing to dust off and nuke the entire site from orbit, just to be sure; the left has already spent the past several months beating him up for increasing troop levels in Afghanistan in the first place -- for ostensibly being too warmongering.
Back in December of last year, I wrote a piece for this site and the Huffington Post that caught me the usual amount of crap for supposedly being an Obama apologist. It was written in response to those on the left who somehow felt betrayed by the president's decision to militarily press forward in Afghanistan.
"Welcome to the Suck" (Originally Published, 12.1.09)
A show of hands -- who's really shocked that President Obama made the decision to commit 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan?
If you raised your hand, you're either incredibly naive or you weren't listening particularly closely during last year's presidential campaign. It's not so much what Obama said then as what he didn't say: He talked a lot about withdrawing from Iraq -- a war that was arrogant, unabashed folly from day one -- but to the best of my knowledge never mentioned pulling out of Afghanistan. Those on the left who are now gnashing their teeth at how cheated they feel -- how their dreams of a great progressive utopia have been sacrificed on the altar of Obama's attempts at centrism and the fruitless appeasement of his political enemies -- would be wise to remember all the times they conveniently held Afghanistan up as an example of a supposedly "just war" in an effort to contrast Bush's Iraq adventure as the ultimate "unjust war." As in: "Why aren't we focusing all our attention on Afghanistan, the Taliban and bin Laden, instead of wasting time, lives and money in Iraq? Huh? Huh?"
The fact is that Afghanistan, and by proxy Pakistan, remains the main front, if there is such a thing, in the war against the entity that attacked us on 9/11; it's where we should've been concentrating every ounce of our military and strategic effort all along, before we allowed a bunch of neo-con assholes bent on remaking the Middle East in our image -- or at least Halliburton's -- to distract us in Iraq. Afghanistan is an unfinished fight and, as much as it hurts beyond belief to say this, it's one that will result in a whole lot of American kids having died in vain if we don't at the very least attempt to tie it up in as respectable a bow as is possible in a place that exists at the ass end of the world.
Would it be nice to pull all the troops out and bring them home and would we all love to see that more than anything? Abso-fucking-lutely. Is it realistic, given not simply the fight we started there eight years ago -- the fight we had every right to start -- but the way we abandoned Afghanistan 25 years ago, silently intervening in that country's war against the Soviets then leaving it to pick up the pieces on its own in the aftermath? No, it isn't. It's common knowledge by this point that we helped to create Osama bin Laden and the Taliban through our arming of Afghanistan's mujahadeen in their holy war against the Soviet invaders. If you still subscribe to what Colin Powell once cynically referred to as the "Pottery Barn" rule of nation building -- "You break it, you bought it" -- then Afghanistan has been our war for almost three decades.
And that's something the conflict-addicted jerk-offs in the media need to remember before they giddily jump on what we're already seeing is a rapidly advancing meme in the wake of tonight's address by Obama: that with this escalation, Afghanistan is no longer Bush's war but "Obama's War."
That's horseshit. It was never really Bush's war, and it certainly isn't Obama's war; it's America's war. The Reagan administration was at one time as knee-deep in the impenetrable caves and valleys of Afghanistan as the Soviets were -- the difference being that the U.S. wasn't on the ground attempting to conquer the Afghans -- and because of its negligence post-Russian invasion, our tenuous erstwhile allies evolved to become our greatest threat in the Middle East and Asia, if not on the entire planet. Our decision to attack Afghanistan and attempt to drive out the enemies that we'd ironically created was the right one -- especially after 9/11. The eventual result of this conflict likely won't be a perfectly stable state, and it damn sure won't be one that's free of corruption, not with the Karzai government in charge. But if the Taliban really were allowed to regain a measure of legitimate control within the Afghan borders -- particularly with Pakistan being the bubbling cauldron of crazy that it is -- then we'd have spent the past eight years there for almost nothing.
As painful as it is to accept and as much as it seems antithetical to what many believe they were promised during the campaign, Obama knows this. He made a tough choice -- the least terrible one from a series of options that were all terrible in some form.
Let's just pray we really can push forward and get out with as few lives lost as possible.
Although that may be the naivest hope of all.