“McChrystal’s immediate staff officers, many of whom came from the world of Special Operations, routinely spoke of him as someone who was accessible, warm and open to new ideas. Unlike Petraeus, who often maintained an emotional distance from even his most loyal staff members, McChrystal was often described by his inner circle as both boss and brother in arms….’What I really respected was his intellectual courage,’ said one military official who worked with the general in Kabul. ‘He was open to a lot of inputs from a lot of areas and had a real ability to connect with people.’ Gregg Jaffe, ‘Lack of political savvy brought down warrior’ The Washington Post, June 24, 2010
“Obama and Petraeous then met privately for 40 minutes. The president asked him to step down as head of the Central Command, which is based in Florida, and take over day-to-day control of the Afghan war. The president’s advisers said that Petraeous agreed to do so, but that it was clear to Obama that it came ‘at some great personal sacrifice.’ Asked to describe it, one senior administration official said: ‘Tampa to Kabul.’ Scott Wilson and Michael D. Shear, ‘McChrystal ousted from Afghan post’, The Washington Post, June 24, 2010
“The White House has, in effect, stacked the deck against lasting success in Afghanistan. In the process, it has placed its military leaders – Gen. McChrystal among them – in the untenable position of losing American lives to implement a strategy that, whatever the tactical successes in the short term, is increasingly likely to be a strategic failure in the long run.” Ilan Berman, ‘McChrystalyzing failure’ The Washington Times, June 24, 2010
“Unlike Gen. McChrystal prior to his appointment, Gen. Petraeous hasn’t spent any time directly commanding troops in Afghanistan. He has met President Hamid Karzai, but doesn’t have the close relationship that Gen. McChrystal had with the prickly Afghan leader. He is, however, closer to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, who was at odds with the McChrystal team. One area where Gen Petraeous may be at a disadvantage is with Pakistan, whose military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has forged a close alliance with Gen. McChrystal. ‘The Americans always come here and …try to sell us things. Do this, do that, shoot him for us,’ one senior official said before the appointment. ‘This Petraeous is always selling. we want people who are buying.’” Nathan Hodge, Michael M. Phillips and Matthew Rosenberg, ‘From Iraq to a Hard Place’ The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2010.
Put all this together and the replacement of General McChrystal by General Petraeous reads to me like a loser’s strategy. Petraeous is not going to dirty his outfit with his men, he is not going to sweat in the summer and freeze in the winter on the front line with his troops. Like Tommy Franks before him, he is going to command COIN far away from the battlefeld, if not in Tampa, then surely in Kabul, where the air-conditioning runs in summer and the heat in winter. And like Tommy Franks, he is going to lose key battles and allow key Taliban leaders to buy their way out of trouble.
But, then we already know that Obama is a loser. Maybe Petraeous understands that his CIC has been severely down-graded since the superbly led 2008 surge in Iraq. One can only faint so often to avoid difficult questions without calling into doubt one’s fitness for duty. Nevertheless, Petraeous would have been well-advised to faint yesterday at that critical moment during his meeting with the President.
Tags: how to lose a war to save one's face, McChrystal as Patton and Petraeous as Eisenhower, McChrystal replaced with an inferior general, Petraeous sells and McChrystal buys in Afghanistan and Pakistan