The awkward episode over Gen. McChrystals insubordination during his Rolling Stone debut is over, and the careless general is on his way home after Pres. Obama reasserted a basic American principle of military deference to civilian authority. But while the article and McChrystals firing have sent the media flailing around in their usual breathless frenzy, deeper concerns about the war in Afghanistan still go largely unexamined. And that's despite the fact that the very article everyone is supposedly agog over does examine some of those concerns if only the headline chasers would bother to read it.
Alternet today does a good job of examining some of the more pertinent parts of the Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings. They point out what they call perhaps the most revealing passage from Hastings report: "[Team Obama] are trying to manipulate perceptions because there is no definition of victory because victory is not even defined or recognizable," says Celeste Ward, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation who served as a political adviser to U.S. commanders in Iraq in 2006. "That's the game we're in right now. What we need, for strategic purposes, is to create the perception that we didn't get run off. The facts on the ground are not great, and are not going to become great in the near future." Read that one sentence again: "What we need, for strategic purposes, is to create the perception that we didn't get run off." And that's why 1,000 young Americans have lost their lives there; nice, huh?
Obama is emphasizing that hes just changing generals, and that the McChrystal dust-up wont change American policy in Afghanistan. That is terrible news, although not unexpected. The main question more and more Americans are asking when they even think about the U.S. mission in the country The Onion calls Allahs Cat Box is What in hell are we doing over there, again? Its a great question that gets a different answer from the Obama White House every time its asked. Were going after al-Qaeda (who only have a tiny presence in Afghanistan). Were building a democracy (where theres never been one and no ones remotely interested). Were making America safer (except for the portion of America thats actually over there, of course and never mind the failed Times Square truck bomb attack by an agent of the Pakistan Taliban, cause that had nothing to do with our soldiers being over there). And on and on, one bullshit reason after another, ad infinitum, or as David Byrne once sang, Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was . . .