New commander-in-chief, same old crap; the United States Armed Forces is in chaos.
Already recovering from decades of abysmal derailments and disasters in Korea and Viet Nam to ill-fated underground black-ops from Cuba to Nicaragua to Beirut, and the latest nonsense begun by the dumbly-fabricated braggadocio of Desert Storm and its baby brother in the half-assed colonizing of Iraq to the longest running campaign in American history in Afghanistan, the once proudly invincible U.S. military has now become our longest running pun.
Less than two days after a freelance journalist coerced the commander of international forces in Afghanistan to commit professional suicide in the pages of whatever cheap imitation of pop culture schlock is now Rolling Stone magazine, President Barack Obama was forced to relieve General Stanley McChrystal of his duties. At least the disgraced and quite obviously half-mad general will no longer have to face the embarrassing possibility of retiring during what started out nine years ago as a vengeance jag for 9/11 and to bag its architect, the long-dead Osama bin Laden, but after the loss of 1,000 American lives and a projected cost of $1 trillion has become something of its own tragic comedy.
For the president, embroiled in a half-dozen looming and already raging domestic disasters, it is bad timing to say the least. This is Obama’s war, and McChrystal is his man, or was his man, as the swift half-hour White House meeting of June 23 would attest, the substance of which had the insubordinate general out and the hero of overdue mop-ups, General David Petraeus, in. Later that afternoon, a visibly angered president took to the Rose Garden and tried his best to gloss over what has been an overlooked sinkhole of his administration—long debated and dissented by close advisers.
It was the very same advisers, along with the vice president and the president himself, who McChrystal and his aides casually mocked from the fringes of the battlefield, on the record and during operations, to a left-leaning rock periodical. A more damaging sabotage of morale and decorum is difficult to contrive beyond a blatantly defiant Douglas MacArthur-like implosion. It was as if the rot of what has become the ceaseless fighting in a desert wasteland pocked with hidden caves and unforgiving mountain ridges had frayed the edges of the U.S. Army’s top brass. The focus of the RS piece, “The Runaway General,” is not merely the bent rant of an over-worked and rancorously loose-lipped army lifer, but a manifestation of the abject lunacy which permeates an uncertain end game to a War on Terror mismanaged for so long by so many voices and fought by so many brave and run-ragged forces it emerges as a dizzying inertia of bedlam.
It stretches even the most elastic credibility to believe in this day of media by the second and by everyone coming from everywhere that even a man resembling a less provocative but no less puzzling Colonel Kurtz from Coppola’s Apocalypse Now could be so irresponsible or haphazardly calculating to publicly call the National Security Adviser “a clown” or paint his commander-in-chief as “uncomfortable with military leaders and initially unengaged on defense policy.” Then, after being presented the finished article prior to its publication, approved its content without so much as an obligatory retraction. The whole shebang reeks of a symptom of a disease beyond this president and his war or his commanders and their last vestiges of a “strategy.”
The latest being the very same McChrystal’s oft-delayed siege of Kandahar, which after months of planning was scheduled for “soon,” but by the timeline of how the “war” has gone for most of its duration, will likely launch sometime around Christmas 2012. Touted as the pivotal battle to what candidate and now President Obama has called the critical frontline of the aforementioned War on Terror, its snags simmer below the surface of the general’s queer and very public commentary.
Things have not gone well for Obama and McChrystal in Afghanistan, as they had not for George W. Bush for the last seven years of his presidency, or the Soviets in the 1980s, the British Empire in the late 1800s, Genghis Kahn in the early part of the 13thCentury, or Alexander the Great way back in 338 BC. The enthusiasm of a new and improved “counterinsurgency” plan to take out Taliban 2.0, which stressed the always-popular road show of “overwhelming on-the-ground force coupled with an amped-up effort to win hearts and minds,” has soured into a tail-chasing bloodbath slowly losing traction with a majority of the voting public.
For many mind-bending reasons, over 60 percent of Americans polled in the winter of 2008 favored a ramped-up Afghan policy. Despite years of dismantling the original Taliban, backed up by the occasional failures to secure the country, and then what amounted to a dormant exit strategy in order to better run roughshod over Iraq—which, if you haven’t checked lately, is still rolling along—there were still some people willing to believe. Of course that willing constituency, after a year and a half of a doom-struck re-packaged plan, has sunk to around 40 percent or so. But plummeting support from the citizenry meant nothing for the better part of the last decade and looks to have crapped out now.
Into the breach strolled the high command to jam his standard-issued boot into his flapping maw, a grand mistake that has now likely set things back even further. Something that not only infuriated the president, since he had bought into the entire McChrystal war plan, but has rankled high-level Republicans in congress, who all stand firm with the president—no small feat considering that no matter the issue almost none of whom have so much as budged in Obama’s direction. It is especially odd when considering the current anti-incumbent landscape and the fast-approaching mid-term elections.
The only explanation for such a maneuver is that with no end in sight, and most of the legislature unable to wash nine years of blood from its hands, they’re all-in.
But politics, lunatics and Jann Wenner’s flaccid rag aside, the most pressing issue is the sad state of the United States military; spread frighteningly thin and literally holding a shifting line in the sand. How much shit are these poor people expected to eat before someone with half a brain ends the insanity?
The answer the president gave to this question would come as he concluded his post-McChrystal Rose Garden address by stating that the change in leadership is not a change in policy. And thus, the Pentagon, in a banner year boasting at least a $700 billion budget, more than 10 times that of the State Department, will continue to toil in the world’s deadest of ends; making the Obama pledge to begin the withdrawal of the 94,000 American troops in Afghanistan by July 2011 the biggest joke of all.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus, and Midnight For Cinderella.