The New York Times editors, opining on the McChrystal interview, pronounce, “The Rolling Stone article doesn’t suggest any serious policy disagreements between the president and General McChrystal.” That’s a wee bit deceptive, perhaps part of an endless string of efforts to deflect blame from the president.
While not technically a “policy disagreement,” the interview — and the reason why McChrystal may be canned — centers on the allegation that the entire civilian operation is impeding the war effort. Technically, this is a personnel problem, not a policy disagreement, but it goes to the heart of Obama’s management of the war.
Moreover, while the interview sidesteps it (“We’re talking the antiwar hippie magazine,” as Maureen Dowd puts it.), there are certainly major policy disagreements between Obama and the military. Bill Kristol and Tom Donnelly explain:
The imposition of a troop-withdrawal deadline, in particular, has poisoned our Afghanistan strategy. McChrystal has, understandably, behaved like a man under pressure to produce quick results to get good marks in the administration’s December Afghanistan strategy review. Even the timetable for the review is premature and therefore transparently artificial: the last “surge” brigade won’t be deployed until November.
The shortage of time is also compounded by the shortage of forces. McChrystal’s cardinal achievement to date has been the re-wiring of the dysfunctional ISAF structure, but it’s also required him to deploy forces in places such as Kunduz, north of Kabul but still a Pashtun area where the Taliban have been more active, because the German forces there are insufficient.
The Gray Lady’s editors seem to prefer to shelter Obama rather than to focus on the real import of the Rolling Stone interview, namely that the commander in chief is failing to do what is necessary to win the war. Instead, the editors blame McChrystal for what ails the Afghanistan operation:
Instead of answering questions about his media strategy, General McChrystal should be explaining what went wrong with his first major offensive in Marja and how he plans to do better in Kandahar. Instead of General McChrystal having to apologize to Mr. Holbrooke and Mr. Eikenberry, they all should be working a lot harder to come up with a plan for managing relations with Afghanistan’s deeply flawed president, Hamid Karzai.
Frankly, McChrystal is one of the few with an effective relationship with Karzai (even Rolling Stone got that point), and the offensive is failing because our troops have too few people and too little time. But let’s not allow facts to get in the way of a Times‘s op-ed.