Tuesday, May 12, 2009


On Lt Gen McChrystal replacing Gen McKiernan - The situation is comparable to Lincoln’s search of a replacement for McClellan; there are a lot of officers out there who know their stuff on paper but putting it together under field conditions - even in training - is another thing altogether. Leaders who are able to field and lead forces against an enemy willing to stand and fight calls for very unique leadership capabilities. This is something I know about. LTG McChrystal proved himself in this department: as commander of JSOC he got al-Zarqawi's scalp and nailed it to his lodge pole.

During spring of 2007 McChrystal led JSOC, attached forces and other government agencies in a series of highly effective covert operations in Iraq that coincided with the troop surge. McChrystal's forces employed a concept dubbed "collaborative warfare": a range of tools from signal intercepts to human intelligence to find, target, and kill insurgents. It has been suggested that it was this effort, not the well-publicized surge, that was responsible for the drop in violence in 2007–2008

McChrystal got egg on his face in the aftermath of the Pat Tillman Silver Star fiasco. Former professional football player Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004; McChrystal approved a posthumous Silver Star for Tillman. The day after sending the paperwork forward, however, McChrystal apparently sent an urgent memo warning senior government officials not to quote the phrase "in the line of devastating enemy fire," in the citation because it "might cause public embarrassment" if Tillman had in fact been killed by friendly fire, as McChrystal suspected.

McChrystal was recommended for discipline by a subsequent Pentagon investigation but the Army declined to take action against him. I personally have a hard time forgiving him for this. A friend of mine, Brigadier General Gary Jones, took the hit on this when Army Special Operations Command made him one of the scapegoats, after the fact. Jones was retired but they let McChrystal walk. To me the whole thing smacks of officer CYA after-the-fact; why did McChrystal sign the citation if he suspected friendly fire?

As long as I stood in formation and wore jump wings on my chest – 25 years – the Army always told me the worst thing you can do is screw up a military funeral. You can screw up anything else and we’ll cover for you, but a veteran's funeral must be pulled off without a hitch. McChrystal was a key player in the Tillman tragedy of errors - he must be pretty good; they kept him around and now they put him in charge of the main effort of the GWOT, or whatever it is we’re calling it these days.

To me, McChrystal is either a Ulysses S. Grant or he's a George Armstrong Custer. Grant climbed all the way to the top via a list of quantifiable achievements; Custer was a politician and a ticket puncher and we all know how that ended. Let's hope LTG McChrystal is the former not the latter.



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