Below are some excerpts from General Stanley McChrystal’s interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
He was quoted saying he felt “betrayed” by the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, who last year argued against troop increases in a telegram to the White House that was leaked to the media. “I like Karl, I’ve known him for years, but they’d never said anything like that to us before. Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so’.”
US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke is a veteran diplomat with whom the general would be expected to work closely. But the general was dismissive when he received a message from Mr Holbrooke on his BlackBerry. “Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke. I don’t even want to open it.”
The general reluctantly attended a dinner in Paris as part of a mission to persuade the French government to maintain its efforts in Afghanistan. He was quoted saying “I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner… Unfortunately, no one in this room could do it.”
When he was asked about Vice-President Joe Biden, and the general laughing as he says: “Are you asking about Vice-President Biden? Who’s that?”
One unnamed adviser says Gen McChrystal was disappointed after his first meeting with President Barack Obama.
Another unnamed aide dismisses Gen James Jones, the Obama administration’s national security adviser, as a “clown” who is “stuck in 1985”.
As the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, a striking high-profiled public figure, you would expect General McChrystal to behave with some political acumen and canniness and would think more than twice before popping out those flippant and dismissive remarks about top Obama administration officials. You would think he did this by accident. No.
First, he talked with an attitude. It is okay to hold a different view but the general should know better than airing his view through this channel. Second, what I see is an undisciplined habit of tossing out of his mouth improper words and comments without going through any mental filtering. He might blurt out inadvertently, but his listeners are never inadvertent.
If you are an ordinary citizen, you can get away with this casual blurting. But this casual habit will cost your position and even career if you are in a leadership position. To be a worthy leader in any field, your behavior must be exemplary in the eye of public. So it is true with good parenting. I wish my children can learn a lesson from the fall of general McChrystal.