So Gen. Stanley McChrystal lost his job. Does it matter?
Aside from the fact that with Wednesday's announcement the nation's capital could finally exhale for the first time since news broke about the profanity-laced Rolling Stone profile in which the now-former Afghanistan commander made disparaging comments about members of President Obama's Afghanistan team (including Obama himself), absolutely nothing of consequence resulted from the whole breathless melodrama.
Why not? Half the world by now has read the magazine article describing senior staff behavior more Animal House than conduct becoming the average adult, let alone officers and gentlemen. But despite the scandalous headlines, what we mainly gleaned was: most of the f-words salting the copy came from the reporter; the general's actual antics weren't so much disparaging as childishly indiscreet ("'Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke,' he groans ..."); and crude ("McChrystal gives him the middle finger"); and his top aides sounded like a bunch of dorks ("Make sure you don't get any of that on your leg," an aide jokes, referring to the Holbrooke e-mail). Even McChrystal's most egregious "insubordination," as media ecstatically called it, came down to second-hand descriptions of the general's distress over the time it took for Obama to approve McChrystal's "surge" of 30,000 troops (not 40,000 as requested), and Obama's apparent unfamiliarity with The Stanley McChrystal Story ("He (Obama) clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was" said an aide describing Obama's and McChrystal's first face-to-face meeting. "The Boss was pretty disappointed").
More significant is the fact that the article revealed no policy difference where it counts between McChrystal, a self-declared Obama voter and zealous adherent of counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) -- the nation-building, hearts-and-minds strategy Obama inherited from George W. Bush and, after review, approved and intensified -- and Obama himself. In other words, this was all so trivial. No life-and-death issues here; no philosophical divide. It was just a collision between vanity and coarse indiscretion. And with or without McChrystal, with or without his mouthy staff, the COIN nightmare continues.And why is it a "nightmare"? Like the frustrating dream in which cries of "Look out!" are stifled, like the cult whose high priests make reality a taboo, COIN doctrine overrides all comprehension of the Islamic crucible of laws and practices in which the peoples of Afghanistan and the greater umma (Islamic community) are forged. Instead, COIN-deployed troops are ordered to execute fantasies of cultural relativism that make lefty sense in a PC classroom, but are nothing short of appalling on the front line. And McChrystal admitted as much in the infamous article. After spending 20 tense minutes in front of a white board diagramming COIN concepts for soldiers at an outpost where COIN's restrictive rules of engagement (ROEs) had recently led to the death of a corporal, Rolling Stone reported, McChrystal sensed the men's frustration: "'This is the philosophical part that works with think tanks,' McChrystal tries to joke. 'But it doesn't get the same reception from infantry companies.'"
That's because COIN doesn't work, and the men on the ground know it. Founded on a deadly pretense -- namely, that fundamental cultural differences don't exist between Islam and the West -- COIN proposes that elevating generic "population protection" over generic "force protection" will someday, some way, convince that generic protected population (in this case, grossly primitive, Islamically oriented, female-oppressing, girl-molesting tribal peoples) to fall in with the American Way -- or at least to support the U.S.-propped Karzai government. It is this COIN theory that is directly responsible for the unconscionably restrictive ROEs that have been attracting media attention, a postmodern form of human sacrifice staged to appease the endlessly demanding requirements of political correctness regarding Islam. There is no separating the two. If we have COIN, we have these same heinous ROEs.
But no. And there is no sign of the COIN nightmare ending anytime soon. Alas, the new commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, is the man who literally wrote the COIN book.