The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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McChrystal's secret strategy

There’s been a lot of noise about Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Obama-badmouthing candor with Rolling Stone, but besides perhaps Colson Whitehead (“I didn’t know they had truffle fries in Afghanistan“), Andrew Fitzgerald at Current has distilled it to its essence better than anyone on the net: first substance (“Focusing on the few controversial remarks misses the point of this RS McChrystal piece. Really tough look at Afg.”), then snark (“Let’s say McChrystal is fired… How long before he shows up as a commentator on FNC? Is it months? Weeks? Hours?”).

When I saw this last tweet, I had an epiphany. All the commentators and journalists were wondering how McChrystal could have let this bonehead, 99%-sure-to-cost-your-job move happen. Did he think he was talking off the record? Was he blowing off steam? Did he think no one would find out? And if he wanted to trash the administration publicly, why in the world would did he give this info to Rolling Stone? I mean, did he even see Almost Famous? (Is Obama Billy Crudup? I kind of think he is.)

But let’s just suppose that this was McChrystal’s intention all along. I pretty much buy the New York magazine profile of Sarah Palin, which lays out why she resigned her office; being governor of Alaska is a crummy, poorly-paying job, her family was going broke fighting legal bills, and she was getting offers she couldn’t refuse. It’s like being an Ivy League liberal arts major, getting offered a job at Goldman Sachs right out of college; it’s not what you came there to do, but how are you going to let that go? (Besides, it isn’t like you have to know a ton about what you’re doing; you’re there for who you are already.) Also, Palin could do the new math of GOP politics in her head — public office is less important than being a public figure, with a big platform. Or as Andrew says, “FNC commentator is the new Presidential candidate.”

Well, let’s try this equation: if it’s tough to be the governor of Alaska, how much harder does it have to be to be in charge of Afghanistan? What are the chances that you’re going to come out of this thing smelling like roses anyways? How can you remove yourself from that position while still coming off as an honorable, somewhat reluctant, but still passionate critic of the administration? And make a splash big enough doing it that it gets beyond policy circles and editorial pages?

I have no idea whether it’s true, but it’s worth entertaining the possibility that the good general threaded the needle here.


And if you’re the one guy responsible for a big, giant war and you can see that your strategy is failing all around you… What’s a good exit strategy? As a military man you can’t resign your commission or step down from your post (Teddy Roosevelt famously put an Army Engineer in charge of the Panama Canal because he wanted somebody who couldn’t quit on him). Why not put it on the President? And couldn’t you argue McChrystal already tried to get fired with his 40K troops stunt?

Diabolical, if you’re right. Though this does seem to play right into the portrait Hastings paints of McChrystal: a self-fulfilling prophecy of being the guy who revels in making bone-headed decisions that anger his superiors because he’s always been the guy that angers his superiors. Overtaken by his own legend.

vanderleun says…

It’s also worth entertaining the possibility that the president is a malicious man who does not even have your best interests at heart.

Tim Carmody says…

Right. Like Billy Crudup in Almost Famous!

Eisenhower, Grant, and Washington were the three presidents who rose to prominence as generals, and those were all wars that the bulk of the voting public was much more involved in. I could have seen Petraeus making such a move back in the day, because he was so relentlessly portrayed as the general who takes care of his troops, but McChrystal? He seems destined to be the callous, loud, Fox version of Wesley Clarke.

Tim Carmody says…

You’re forgetting about Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, William Henry Harrison, and Rutherford B Hayes — in short, the bad/unmemorable/influential but quite possibly evil ones. (Jackson deserves his own category.) Plus Benjamin Harrison and Teddy Roosevelt, who were colonels.

But the way I take Andrew’s remark (I don’t suppose to speak for what he meant by it) is that, in a way, to be a Fox News commentator is BETTER than being an Republican Presidential candidate. Who wants to be Mitt Romney, really — always raising money, looking for issues, worrying about the illusion of competence or the implications of what you say? Especially when you can make serious bank, be treated with more deference, have more influence, have more fun, and still be perpetually taken seriously as a possible candidate (you don’t even have to ever actually run) working as a commentator/”journalist”? I’d take that gig in a second.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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