… I think I would find that he set himself up intentionally to let the Rolling Stone guy get quotes that would end his tenure.
Gen. McChrystal is anything but a stupid or careless man. He is a cold and calculating strategist, both against the enemy, and in terms of his career and his rise to three star rank. He was also a warrior who would expend lives as needed to destroy the enemy and to win. And he was willing to take personal physical risks as well. Sacrifice was something he was willing and able to demand from himself and others.
The article tellingly notes that, over his career, he had a genius for knowing exactly where the lines are, and how much he could get away with. Yet, here, he stepped firmly over that line. We are supposed to believe this was inadvertent? That is not plausible. I cannot conceive of Gen. McChrystal making the Homer Simpson “d’oh!” noise.
He had to know he was doing that.
Here is the logic I see.
1. He and Obama had agreed to a plan.
2. In practice, the agreed-to plan was failing.
3. There was an increasing awareness that the plan was failing.
4. McChrystal did not want to preside over a failure.
5. But he did not have the standing to request a changed plan.
6. He could stay in command, and fail.
7. He could resign. But then he would have to say why he was doing so, including explaining that the plan was not working, and why. This would embarrass Obama and the others who were involved in appointing him. This would also likely lead to abandonment of the war and failure.
8. Or he could cause himself to be replaced in a way which, on its face, was unrelated to the existing plan, and would not cause a public reexamination of the existing plan, so that the focus of his termination would not be the failure of the current plan.
9. A replacement commander would have a clean slate and be able to demand and get a new plan, without going back and having recriminations about the old plan.
10. The possibility of a new plan that might work, not a doomed plan, could only come to life with a new commander.
11. McChrystal had to take himself out in a way that allowed a new commander to come in and to insist on a new plan.
12. McChrystal set himself up to get taken out.
13. While he was at it, he did it in a way that leveled criticism at others whom also wanted to take out, who would be reduced as obstacles to the success of the new commander and the new plan.
14. McChrystal hit the self-destruct button.
15. Obama acted according to McChrystal’s script.
16. The war continues under new direction, with the potential for success.
McChrystal wanted to win in Afghanistan. He was in a strategic box. He needed to break our war effort out of the box. To do that he needed to sacrifice a chess piece. You cannot be sentimental about sacrificing chess pieces. It became apparent that the chess piece he had to sacrifice was Stan McChrystal.
He made the move and took himself off the board so the game could go on, directed by someone else, possibly to a win.
We will never know. He will never tell us. He may not have told anybody. But that is my theory.
If you cannot put pure speculation on a blog, where can you put it?
UPDATE: Our colleague Joseph Fouche makes a good case that this was a botched play by McChrystal.