McChyrstal: Afghanistan in "Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare"

Via Real Aspen, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was in Aspen this weekend, for a private Forstmann Little & Company conference. He was interviewed for over an hour by Charlie Rose.

The two were seated on a small stage in an open-air tent in front of a rich and powerful crowd that included Martha Stewart, Peter Ueberroth, Monica Seles, David Stern, Karl Rove, George Lucas, Daniel Snyder, Julian Robertson, Michael Ovitz, Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Mathews, Michael Eisner, Padma Lakshmi and Ted Forstmann, the Forstmann Little co-founder and IMG CEO who hosted the event.

Among his comments about Afghannistan:

“Right now, it doesn't exist,” said McChrystal, noting the perpetual state of civil war that has embroiled the country ever since the late 1970s. “Afghanistan is in some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare.”


McChrystal even displayed a sense of humor:

One audience member at the Forstmann Little event stood up and asked McChrystal if he were Obama, given the totality of the circumstances and all that the general knows, would he have fired himself. There was a pregnant pause. Then the general cracked a wry smile and replied: “Several times.”

On finding Osama bin Laden:

“I don't know where he is,” the general said, joking that it took a long time to find Olympic Park Bomber Eric Rudolph and he was hiding in the woods of the United States, not the Afghan mountains.

What's the General up to now? Teaching a leadership course at Yale.

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    There are ways to conduct war. (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 08:58:01 PM EST
    There are a lot of ways to conduct war.  I know a lot about them both from formalized study, intensive reading, and from discussions with real warriors.  I myself much preferred the engineering side of ships and facilities, particularly surface ships, and chose several times to avoid the general command track. Yes I had my adventures trying to solve problems on crippled vessels in bad areas and worse seas, but no one was shooting at me except my taskmasters.

    Occasionally there is a pang of regret about my choices because my retirement pay could have been higher and I might get better treatment (more fawning) when I go to the club on some bases where I am not known.  Still I am sure that any incremental increase in retirement pay would not come close to what I get with my current endeavors in the private sector, working on power plants and engineer snafus on ships and systems that I am quite familiar with.  I chose my game and I played my cards, and that is that.

    That said, I knew and know men who pursued the combat role in both the Navy, the Marines, some in the Army, and a few Air Force.  I know quite a few Seals including a few still active.  I know the way they think and work just like I know how an engine works and responds in certain situations.

    With that background, I will make a few remarks that I feel are salient.

    1.  There is never a perfect war.
    2.  The longer a war goes on the less perfect it becomes.  (That is why it takes longer.)
    3.  The US is not much better than any other countries in not making mistakes in war.
    4.  TV and the news cycle really make fighting an effective war difficult.
    (I like that Prussian officer(can't remember his name) who said in a final action against Napoleon, (who had done the same previously against the Prussians,) "We fly the black flag today my children.  I will personally shoot any man I see giving quarter to the enemy.")
    You just can't do that in a US uniform.  

    In engineering, we like to say.  There are 3 main factors in a project.

    1.  time
    2.  quality
    3.  expense

    You can choose any two, but the third is a no-no. It is the one that will burn you.

    Obama has chosen

    1.  Time by setting a timetable.  Also he has chosen a
    2.  quality - strategy of counter insurgency
    which requires a carefulness and hesitation on the battle field that keeps the US military from using its power and greatest weapons to just blow away obstacles and "people."
    These two choices are driving up the
    3. expense of the war.  The lives and health of our noble warriors.  Our precious young people.  I have met many.  I know the grieving parents of many.

    Iraq was a tragic mistake that we are just getting out of.  I hope we can do a better job in Afghanistan which really is a much harder nut to crack.  If not for Pakistan next door, I would just say leave now.  

    Personally, I would have chosen

    1.  expense (lives of our men)  -first.
    2.  quality (type of action -second
    3.  time -last  

    But I am a retired Navy engineer with some children in the service, not a president that has to think about politics.

    Time To Withdraw From Afghanistan (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 06:30:50 PM EST
    ASAP.....  yesterday would not have been soon enough, imo.

    interesting. (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 07:38:13 PM EST
    being interviewed in front of a group of rich people, none of whom have ever publicly exhibited one iota of knowledge about afghanistan. what an elightening experience that must have been! not!

    apparently, gen.mcchrystal's knowledge of the area is rather limited as well:

    "Right now, it doesn't exist," said McChrystal, noting the perpetual state of civil war that has embroiled the country ever since the late 1970s. "Afghanistan is in some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare."

    if it weren't, he'd have known that afghanistan has been in pretty much a perpetual state of war/civil war, since roughly the 1870's. perhaps, this level of historical ignorance explains his abject failure there.

    that we shouldn't have invaded in the first place is a given. that the post-victory planning was virtually non-existent is a crime. that a general, who publicly displays his almost total lack of knowledge of the country he was charged with civilizing, isn't currently in the brig, is a national tragedy.

    i hope the general takes some time, from his very busy schedule, to personally apologize to the families of the soldiers who lost their lives, while he was in charge, due to his ineptitude as a leader.

    i shan't be holding my breath.

    I disagree (none / 0) (#3)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 08:15:02 PM EST
    about the initial invasion- honestly if we had left in 2003- I would have disagreed but from a FP standpoint it would have still be a net positive- allowing Afghanistan to function as it did in the months leading up to 9-11 (where an International Terrorist Group with multiple recent attacks against the US was essentially used as a paramilitary arm of the ruling government) was a recipe for disaster and had to be changed simply from a national security standpoint if nothing else.

    Allowing Them to Function? (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 08:19:21 PM EST
    Is that like, "let them eat cake"?  I think that time it turned out badly too.

    I disagree (none / 0) (#9)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 10:15:23 AM EST
    a policy of containing AQ within Afghanistan and preventing them from acting outside Afghanistan was eminently possible.  We had the world on our side and could have effectively policed AQ actions outside Afghanistan while continuing to pressure the Taliban, with full international cooperation, to go after AQ within Afghanistan.

    It's AQ's acts that kill people, not their planning.  And anyone who has so much as skimmed the 9/11 report cannot help but notice the colossal police failure in 2001 when "they system was blinking red."  I think the unprecedented incomepetence & misplaced priorities of the Bush/Cheney Administration, so often demonstrated in subsequent years, had as much to do with the awful events of  9/11 as any evil genius capability on the part of AQ.

    But Bush & Cheney et al wanted war, especially with Iraq, as former Administration officials have repeatedly stated.  So war as response to 9/11 was the only option ever presented for public consideration.


    Think he meant post-apocalyptic quagmire. (none / 0) (#5)
    by Joan in VA on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 08:20:29 PM EST

    Apocalypse Post (none / 0) (#6)
    by ruffian on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 08:34:15 PM EST
    If I were the parent, spouse, close friend (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 12:58:48 AM EST
    of a U.S. military person who perished in Afghanistan, and I heard the news, yet again, the Afghan government is ready to negotiate w/the Taliban, what could I possibly do to reconcile the loss with the current status in Afghanistan?