Gen. Stanley McChrystal's long-awaited testimony before Congress on the Afghanistan "surge" was, according to one account, "uneventful." The general himself, another story noted, was "a study in circumspection." And questioning from lawmakers was, said a third, "gentle."
That's a nice word for it. "Ineffectual" is more like it. Throw in "callous," too, given House members' obligations to constituents in the war zone, operating under what are surely the most restrictive rules of engagement (ROE) in U.S. history.
But not a single lawmaker appears to have ventured one question about these dangerously disarming ROEs, which, in Gen. McChrystal's controversial view, are key to the success of his "counterinsurgency" strategy. What kind of a commander puts his forces' lives at increased risk for a historically unsuccessful theory that depends not on winning battles against enemies, but on winning the "trust," or, as we used to say (and as Gen. David Petraeus put it in Iraq), the "hearts and minds" of a primitive people immersed in the anti-Western traditions of Islam?
That would have made a nice ice-breaker of a question for any lawmaker troubled by the Petraeus-McChrystal policy of elevating Afghan "population protection" over U.S. "force protection" to win "the support" of this 99 percent Islamic country, and the rules that American forces must follow to do so. If, that is, there were any lawmakers so troubled.
Things really tightened up back in July, when Gen. McChrystal essentially grounded air support for troops except in dire circumstances. This, in the words of British defense intelligence analyst John McCreary, is "like fighting with a hand behind your back." And with deadly results, such as the September firefight in Ganjgal where three Marines and a Navy Corpsman were killed when, according to McClatchy newspapers' Jonathan S. Landay, repeated requests for support were nixed due to "new rules to avoid civilian casualties."