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Below is an except from my blog entry of June 23, and the 90,000 war documents leaked this week lend further support to the premise that our war in Afghanistan is chaotic and leading us nowhere, except to more debt and premature burials of young men and women. The billions we pay Pakistan has something to do with maintaining the security of their nuclear capability, as supposedly does some but not all of our military presence in Afghanistan. We need to hear the truth about this nuclear blackmail, if that’s what it is. We need a lot more, not less, transparency about our motives and strategies in the “Stans,” and I’m not at all sure the American people will like or support what we find, if ever we hear the truth.
June 23: Support for the war in Afghanistan is being held together with bailing wire, and is so fragile that a feature story by a freelancer in a magazine known as an anti-war rock’n-roll sheet could tip it over and bring down one of the country’s most respected military leaders. Who says Washington is not all about optics? The only rationale for staying in Afghanistan with the intensity we do is maintaining the optics of competence of the leadership that keeps us there. The Rolling Stone didn’t portray distorted optics, they spoke the truth. The truth that everyone except millions of our troops and citizens hadn’t yet seen. McChrystal had to go, to put those optics back together and restore the view through rose-colored glasses, a view of a strategic, well-planned and unified U.S. military mission in Afghanistan.
But the crummy magazine has done what the nation’s leading press and elected leadership can’t — they have exposed the chaos of our failed national strategy in Afghanistan.
The Washington Post puts their finger on the issue today. Does the lack of civil engagement in our Iraq and Afghanistan wars (read professional military in place of a draft) signal a breakdown in military respect for civilian authority in the U.S.? Could be. The McChrystal mess may not be just a case of a public relations screw-up, but of a much deeper disease. In Vietnam, and I was there, there was a total breakdown in discipline of non-commissioned troops, but perhaps now the disease is reversed, with the professional officer corps, on an endless see-saw of combat assignments, feeling increasingly distanced from and cynical of civilian authority and wisdom.
If true, this is a dangerous development for our democracy. Just look at the headlines: we have great respect for those who have served and been injured and died, but little for those who sent them there. What’s next? Do we begin to trust and elect those in or of the military, and not our civilian leaders? Does the military elite begin to more openly display their disrespect for civilian authority, and begin to challenge it? Now is the time, I believe, for a return to citizen soldiers, and for those citizens who care about the country to demand peace.
I was intrigued as to how McChrystal and Co. were roped into talking with the Rolling Stone. The attached link provides some thoughts. Even if McChrystal wasn’t played, as the piece suggests might be the case, I think it is plausible that his civilian new-media guru thought he could get McChrystal the sort of glamor piece Petraeus got in Vanity Fair. Civilian contractors like SOSi are probably part of the problem, conspiracy or not. I’d like to think that a professional, seasoned military PAO would have been more careful. As someone who’s been personally stung by the Rolling Stone (but not related to the military), I also have disdain for the approach and style of reporting the magazine supports.