Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Macho Gone Mad

"The Runaway General" may soon be gone, but a mystery will remain.

For someone who served under Patton in World War II and lived through the MacArthur mess over Korea, the text of McChrystal's self-immolation in Rolling Stone still comes as a mild shock--a hard-to-believe-it's-not-parody of macho gone mad in an era when top generals have learned to be as smooth as Petraeus, who sold Bush's Iraq Surge without getting his hair mussed by the media.

McChrystal, on the other hand, revels in projecting a Neanderthal image, starting with his complaint about being "screwed into" attending a formal Paris dinner described as "gay" by his aide. "I'd rather," the General says, "have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this."

The next night, for his wedding anniversary, McChrystal herds his wife and staff to an Irish pub, the "least Gucci" place in Paris. ("He once took me to a Jack in the Box when I was dressed in formal wear," she recalls.)

There is something more than meat-and-potatoes, man's man stuff going on here. Behind all the contempt for civilians, there is amped-up posturing to separate McChrystal from his picture of a sissified, latte-drinking elite thwarting a right-thinking man of action from doing the right thing.

But McChrystal has been as clueless about what to do in Afghanistan as the politicians he despises. His damn-the-torpedoes act has produced no positive results, and the postponing of a proposed offensive in Kandehar was the result of conditions on the ground, not civilian interference.

In his frustration, the Runaway General has been trying to escape the reality that Afghanistan can't be bulldozed by his counterinsurgency strategy, no matter how macho the trappings. Whatever his immediate fate, McChrystal has served his country well by dramatizing that.

Update: The President played his Commander-in-Chief card today, firing the General and replacing him with his polar opposite, Gen. Petraeus. Now McChrystal can start planning his ballsy memoirs to explain how Afghanistan could have been saved if he and his crew hadn't been forced to endure all those gay dinners in Paris on the taxpayers' dime.

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