Hastings is a first class sleazebag. He effectively admitted he planned on doing a hit job when he said of the interview: “It was a sort of natural kind of recklessness (agreeing to the interview) that General McChrystal had, which has been with him through his entire career, as I understand it. And inviting me in, was obviously a risk, as it always is when you invite a journalist in.” So he had already damned McChrystal as reckless for merely accepting to do an interview. What kind of argument is this? It seems to be the primary evidence produced to show that McChrystal has “bad judgment”. This is absurd and circular reasoning. Such interviews and access are given all the time as part of political and military strategies. If the author has the view that it is reckless behavior to accept an interview, is it surprising the article will not be a self fulfilling prophecy?
Despite Hastings’ bias, McChrystal still comes across very positively. He is a complete believer in meritocracy. He is courageous and during the Iraq war would often go on missions when he did not have to. His (i.e., Obama’s) “counterinsurgency” approach is controversial and criticized from many fronts. Effectively, the point of counterinsurgency is to simultaneously persuade the local population to support you while narrowly targeting who you kill. It takes a lot of time, money, soldiers and patience. It is reasonable to question whether we should still be in Afghanistan. But we are and Democrats and Republicans have both supported this war and the approach.
Militarily, this approach puts our soldiers in greater danger due to the caution that must be exercised when confronting the local population. But McChrystal’s view is that “the Russians killed a million Afghans” and they still lost. He is not afraid to make this point directly to those serving under him. He also banned overtly American symbols on many bases (for example, Burger Kings). He comes across as the anti-ugly American, but with ultimate American soldierly courage. He even has self-deprecating humor as he and his staff call themselves Team America, after the South Park inspired parody of military incompetence.
But a few stray quotes got him canned. He was going to give a speech the next day at the French military academy. McChrystal is always concerned someone will ask a “Biden” question (Biden is an opponent of the Obama counterinsurgency approach and the war in general). One of his aides starts teasing him about this. He responds, “Do you mean Vice President Biden?” His aide says, “Did you say ‘bite me’”. I don’t even know what that means.
Hastings writes “according to sources familiar with the meeting (in January 2009)” McChrystal thought Obama looked uncomfortable and intimidated when he met “a roomful of military brass”. Unnamed sources from an 18-month-old meeting? In another quote, when McChrystal was named to replace McKiernan, an aide said, “the Boss felt pretty disappointed” when his first meeting with the president ended up being a “10 minute photo-op”. In another part of the essay an aide is quoted as saying; “Politicians like McCain and Kerry turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it’s not very helpful.”