McChrystal, of course, was forced to resign after the publication of a report quoting him and members of his staff making comments that were disrespectful of civilian members of the Obama administration. Our corporate media, with characteristic shallowness, has chosen to focus on the most gossipy aspects of Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings' picture of McChrystal and his inner circle, but Hastings goes much farther than gossip, providing a devastating critique of McChrystal's "Counter-Insurgency" doctrine, (or COIN, as insiders like to call it.) McChrystal is (or was) the primary proponent of COIN, a doctrine that emphasizes the role that civilian deaths play in generating support for an insurgency. McChrystal describes this as "insurgent math - for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies."
And that's the fascinating thing about General Stanley McChrystal: An obviously intelligent man (Hastings preferred adjective is "brilliant") who can assess a situation, be perfectly aware of all of the side effects, drawbacks and pitfalls of what he his doing, and still drive the car over the cliff.
Consider just one of McCrystal's attempts to rewrite the equation to "more troops = less killing = less resistance." Hastings reports that soldiers in Afghanistan have been issued laminated cards with McChrystal's "rules of engagement", intended to limit civilian casualties. Pfc. Jared Pautsch shares this bit: "Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force," and then asks: "Does that make any f*cking sense?"
No, Private Pautsch, it doesn't. But let's give credit where it's due: The General's laminated cards are just an example of a brilliant man trying to reconcile two irreconcilable facts, to create an occupying army that is simultaneously There (because we need more troops to fight the insurgency) and Not There (because more troops increases the insurgency.) And if that still doesn't make any sense to you, then you're just not as "brilliant" as General Stanley McChrystal.
This isn't the blithe ignorance of President Bush, who would send our troops into harms way with casual assurances that they will be greeted as liberators. No, in President Obama and General McChrystal, we have men who can describe in precise detail just how much hatred we will be generating if we send in the troops - and then send in the troops anyway. It turns out there's really not much difference - no difference that matters, anyway - between the two approaches, either to the troops or to the people whose country they are occupying.
In his Rolling Stone report, Hastings captures this quality, shared by Obama and McChrystal, when he describes the West Point speech in which Obama announced his plans to escalate the war in Afghanistan:
I've had enough of brilliant Generals (and brilliant Presidents, for that matter.) It turns out there's one thing worse than a leader that leads you steadily into disaster, and that's a leader who leads you steadily into disaster while describing, in abundant detail, just how disastrous things are going to be.