Founded in 1968, and editorially grounded in the anti-war, music culture of the 60s and 70s, Rolling Stone magazine today succeeded in perhaps putting a big nail in the coffin of the war in Afghanistan. America’s most trusted man, Walter Cronkite, famously characterized the Vietnam war as a “stalemate” in 1968, putting a nail in that coffin, though it took 7 years more to end it. Let’s hope this one ends more quickly.

But funny thing, why did it take a feature story in a magazine, much less this flimsy magazine, to bring down a commanding general, and draw America’s attention to a war gone badly wrong? Because a reporter got a lucky break when a volcano left him holed up in Paris with McChrystal and his top team, and that team sort of bonded with the outsider, and trusted him to share their angst. Why didn’t Washington know what the McChrystal-ites were saying before the Rolling Stone published it? Why did it take a crummy, sensationalist music magazine to blow the top off? I suspect Washington knew well what the complaints of the McChrystal team were, but it was the light of day they feared. The public just couldn’t handle the truth; the troops just couldn’t handle the truth, the politicos quickly surmised.

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.

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