The pen is mightier than the general

Journalism note:  The fallout from the Michael Hastings story in Rolling Stone magazine on Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal doesn’t surprise  me, considering the picture he gave of the general’s character, lifestyle and the personalities that surrounded him. It all came across like one big ego pile-on with the general miscast in the job he was assigned. He’s a warrior, not a diplomat. What I came away with was surprise over how he was chosen for this particular job. He seemed like he didn’t really understand the complexity of the job he was assigned to do, and he probably lacked the essential skills to pull it off. He certainly didn’t understand how to deal with a reporter like Hastings, and that goes double for his staff.

Hastings simply did what any magazine writer would do: He reported what he heard and saw happening around the general in addition to what was said in response to his questions. McCrystal  and his staff know all the rules of reporting regarding off the record, background, etc. Hastings’ editor said those rules were followed and honored when they were discussed. On the larger front, as we know from Vietnam, turning a flawed war policy around is seemingly impossible. It takes a courage that almost no politician has ever possessed. For the politician,  in Afghanistan it’s better to chart a course that slowly fails that to lead by ending failure. Ten years in Afghanistan is enough, but it will probably drag on for three to five more years, or perhaps longer. The country must find its own way on its own timeline, because we certainly can’t affect or change their culture in time to make much of a difference. Talk, compromise, support. Stop the fighting.

Michael Hastings’  book about  Iraq received glowing reviews. See his recent posts on his Rolling Stone blog and on his personal blog at True/Slant. You can read a brief  biography and an interesting questionnaire that he filled out.

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