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October 06, 2009

Who Really Benefits From Lying About McChrystal's Speech?

For the past few days, the media and the Left have been peddling a deeply divisive and dishonest account of Stanley McChrystal's speech and Q&A session at IIIS in the United Kingdom. The current meme du jour is that McChrystal has been "smacked down" by Robert Gates. If this is so (and I doubt it is) it would be exceedingly bizarre. For what was McChrystal supposedly rebuked - agreeing with Obama and Gates in every particular?

Let's compare what Gates just said with what McChrystal is reported to have said:

GATES: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appeared to subtly rebuke America’s top commander in Afghanistan on Monday for publicly speaking out against calls for scaling back the war effort there.

So: did McChrystal "publicly speak out against scaling back the war effort?" Inconveniently for the Left's insubordination narrative, no:

MCCHRYSTAL: A reporter from the Guardian then asked point blank what McChrystal thought would be the consequences if his request for more troops were denied. Given that his report to the SecDef was common knowledge, it’s hard to imagine him dodging the question–that would have seemed highly disingenuous. Yet McChrystal starts off by saying that any decision would be based “not just on resources but also on what are our goals” and that the key was aligning the two — pretty unexceptionable. Then, without elaborating further, he turned to the next question.

Again, by indirectly quoting Gates, the media imply that McChrystal spoke out against Obama:

GATES: “I believe the decisions that the president will make for the next stage of the Afghanistan campaign will be among the most important of his presidency, so it is important that we take our time to do all we can to get this right,” Mr. Gates said at a gathering here.

So, did McChrystal say the debate was taking too long? Again, no:

MCCHRYSTAL: Two subsequent questions pressed him on the matter of time. McChrystal agreed that time was important and that other parties (to include the bad guys) were making decisions already. But he repeated that a thorough strategic policy review was also important, and well worth the time it was taking.

But didn't Gates say advice should be both candid and private? Yes, he did:

GATES: .... in this process,” Mr. Gates went on, “it is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations — civilians and military alike — provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately.”

Apparently McChrystal shares this view:

MCCHRYSTAL: In response to a FOX News question about what had been discussed in the previous day’s VTC conference [with the President], McChrystal naturally declined to say...

Sounds to me as though his advice to the President was given in private and that the confidentiality of their conference was protected by McChrystal. So where is all this candor coming from?

MCCHRYSTAL: In response to another question, McChrystal said that in no way had he been pressured not to offer an appraisal his superiors didn’t want to hear, and that not only had his superiors encouraged him to be as blunt as he could be, “they have demanded that.”

... To a particularly tendentious question that was in effect an invitation to criticize the Obama administration, McChrystal replied, “I won’t even touch that.”

But what about the swirling reports of insubordination? Here's Gates vs. McChrystal on the duty to execute whatever strategy is laid down by the President:

GATES: “And speaking for the Department of Defense,” Mr. Gates said, “once the commander in chief makes his decisions, we will salute and execute those decisions faithfully and to the best of our ability.
MCCHRYSTAL: ...[he] did say that “the process of going through a very detailed policy-level debate is incredibly important and incredibly healthy,” that “the President led that [the meeting] very effectively,” and that would lead to “a clear decision so that we can move forward” and that “once he [the President] makes that decision in consultation with our allies then we will be in a much stronger position.”

In reply to a question that began as a criticism of McChrystal’s “political masters,” McChrystal replied, “I’m certainly not going to circumvent any political leadership . . . because at the end of the day they’re who I work for, and I’m proud to do that.” He then reiterated his belief that the healthier the strategic debate, the better the outcome would be, adding that whatever outcome comes out, “we’ll execute as best we can.”

Seems to me they just said the same thing. Does any of this sound even remotely like insubordination to you? Judge for yourself: you can watch the entire Q&A here. It's quite clear that several questioners are trying to get the General to criticize his civilian leadership.

And it's quite clear he not only repeatedly refused to do so, but repeatedly expressed confidence in, submission to, and satisfaction with the civilian chain of command.

As with the leak of McChrystal's report, observers would do well to exhibit a bit more skepticism and ask a few more questions, chief among them being "Who benefits from these leaks and ugly insinuations?" Clearly it's not McChrystal: the media are calling for his head on a platter. He's being treated every bit as badly as David Petraeus was during the Surge, but for the opposite reason: where Petraeus was called a coward and traitor for not speaking truthiness to the American people, McChrystal is being told he has no business speaking truth in public. The real irony here is that neither man did what he was accused of but the Left attacked these men anyway for failing to support their preferred narrative.

Any source who chooses to spread paranoid, unsubstantiated, third hand rumors about what McChrystal or Obama are rumored to have said when transcripts of the General's speech and Q&A session are easily available should be dismissed out of hand. As Bruce McQuain so ably points out, there is zero factual basis for their frankly overwrought accusations of insubordination:

Not once is Obama identified by name as being “furious” with McChrystal. As for the “insubordination” charge, I have no idea where they get the idea that dismissing a strategy as one he wouldn’t favor is insubordination. Especially since no one in his chain of command (no, the VP isn’t in the chain of command) has recommended it

...not one of these people seems to say anything that supports the headline or the contention in the sub-head. The Telegraph even goes to the extent of trying to make the 25 minute meeting with the president into something that was “awkward”, without anything to support that contention...

Anyone can cut and paste quotes bereft of context. I've provided links to the entire speech and the Q&A so you can judge for yourself. Unlike the Left, I don't expect you to believe me. I've provided the source material so you can read it and make up your own minds.

The facts are out there. So why aren't the antiwar Left and the media reporting what actually happened? There's a simple answer to that question: cui bono?

Posted by Cassandra at October 6, 2009 06:52 AM

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My guess? Obama

Like I said yesterday, McChrystal's being set up.

Posted by: FbL at October 6, 2009 09:56 AM

I'm with FbL...McChrystal's being set up...but why? It must be for some reason other than there are a bunch of "military-haters" and "military-bashers" in the current administration. To ask your question..."who benefits" from the attacks on General McChrystal and "who benefits" if he falls?

Posted by: lela at October 6, 2009 10:25 AM

"McChrystal's Assault on the Chain of Command and the Constitution - and the Need for Pushback"

That's a clarion call for the Left to oppose any increase in troop strength.

"Bit...but...we *support* the troops!"


Posted by: BillT at October 6, 2009 10:27 AM

Obama benefits because he can blame McChrystal when it all goes bad.

Posted by: FbL at October 6, 2009 10:29 AM

I don't think they're out to destroy McChrystal.

They just habitually discredit ideas by attacking the messenger and McChrystal is the messenger. That's what they do.

The facts don't matter, transcripts don't matter. If they can scream "traitor!" loud enough, they get a reaction from those spineless twits on Capitol Hill. Few, if any, voters will ever bother to see the transcripts and THEY certainly won't link them because if people read his actual words they'd know what a bunch of crap this is.


Posted by: Cassandra at October 6, 2009 10:33 AM

"Pushback" is code for "start screaming and throwing a tantrum".

If they really didn't want this politicized, they'd shut the hell up and let the system work. But that's not what they want so they scream, "They're trying to politicize national security!"

It's amazing. Both the active and retired generals agree on this one: to execute the strategy Obama JUST DEFENDED 40 days ago, we need more troops.

He knew it then b/c he was told. It's not a surprise and if it is, he's incompetent b/c he failed to ask the most obvious question in the world. But the thing is, he was told :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 6, 2009 10:36 AM

The basic problem here is that the Administration is dealing with an honest man. They and people like Pelosi assume that the people they are dealing with think and act as they do. Therein lies the problem. That is, rather than stating the obvious, McChrystal must have some sort of motive other than that of meeting the goals set by his civilian Commander-in-Chief. Remember, the Democrats have always seen terrorism as a criminal act and not as an act of war. A perfect example is their blundering through the Gitmo situation.

Posted by: RIslander at October 6, 2009 11:52 AM

McChrystal is tough as nails. He has been in Airborne off and on for a large part of his career.
His father was a career Army officer. He understands fully the relationship between the serving military and Civilian leadership.

I think that this is being done to "blackmail" McChrystal into doing things the way the Obama Administration wants them done in Afghanistan. Obama could speak up any time and stop it, instead, it just lingers on in the fevered swamps of the Left.
It goes something like this: "Look Stanley, we like you, we want you, but this speech makes it possible to fire you and force you to retire in disgrace, unless you do it our way. Okay?" Just like they did to his predecessor, General Tiernan, in Afghanistan.

That country may not be the graveyard of empires, but it might surely be the graveyard for the careers of American general officers.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 6, 2009 06:20 PM