Gen. McChrystal’s Rolling Stone interview was damaging and depressing in all sorts of ways that have yet to play out. The story covers a lot more than the military’s frustration with the White House and State Department. The author, Michael Hastings, pans our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy, makes the case that soldiers are fettered by current rules of engagement, rehashes McChrystal’s involvement in Pat Tillman’s death, and on, and on.
McChrystal exercised extraordinarily bad judgment in granting access and speaking publicly as he did. But if a similar story of military dissatisfaction ran during the Bush administration, the only angle that would have made it through to public debate would have been that even the military brass has had it with the president.
Still, without yet knowing McChrystal’s fate or the impact that the story will have on the future of the war, it’s important to correct the most erroneous propaganda furnished by the great military minds at Rolling Stone. Hastings writes, toward the end of the article, “The very people that COIN seeks to win over – the Afghan people – do not want us there.” Considering that this assertion attempts to undermine the entire strategy of our Afghanistan effort, it’s a particularly egregious fiction to conclude the story on. Moreover, it’s stale. Back in March, Michael O’ Hanlon made quick work of this line in the Washington Post:
Despite downward trends in recent years, Afghans are far more accepting of an international presence in their country than are Iraqis, for example, who typically gave the U.S. presence approval ratings of 15 to 30 percent in the early years of the war in that country. Average U.S. favorability ratings in recent surveys in Afghanistan are around 50 percent, and according to polls from ABC, the BBC and the International Republican Institute, about two-thirds of Afghans recognize that they still need foreign help.
If more Afghans do decide they don’t want us there, it will be because we’ve made it clear we’re not there to finish the job. Broadcasting that dangerous message is made far easier by pieces such as this one in Rolling Stone.