Final Report from West Point: General McChrystal, Small Wars, Blogs, and T-Shirts

This is the final post actually from West Point; any other reporting will come from back home in Rochester, wither I hope to be by nightfall.  And speaking of reporting…Yesterday we were slated to discuss civil-military relations, and our officers hurriedly printed for us the article in Rolling Stone which seems to have done what General McChrystal’s other apparent gaffes could not do.  Of course, we are still awaiting a pronouncement from the White House post-meeting, but most people I’ve talked to think it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the President will accept his resignation.

I’m not sure what to make of the article on various levels, including the overall tone or purpose as can be constructed from Hasting’s word-choice and a close reading of the text.  Of course, as was muttered several times by various folks yesterday, this is Rolling Stone, i.e. not a publication renowned for its generous treatment of the military.  But what struck me as much as anything else was how a sergeant emails a four-star general directly, and isn’t somehow disciplined or otherwise slapped on the wrist for a rather bizarre skipping of the chain of command.  Now, that’s just from this article, and General McChrystal obviously had reasons for responding as he did, but I can’t help but feel (and I’m far from alone in thinking this) that this kind of situation doesn’t reflect well on trends in Army discipline or command culture–regardless of the morale considerations which probably conditioned the general’s response.

Anyway, the Rolling Stone article can be found here–it’s long, so be warned.  Newsweek has just run a story on how the piece got published to begin with.  I’m not sure I believe Hastings’ rather disingenuous, “aw shucks” portrayal of his own actions and motivations, but it’s worth reading.  And this morning, the Wall Street Journal has run a column by Eliot A. Cohen, of The Johns Hopkins University, calling forthrightly for General McChrystal’s removal.  Further, C. J. Chivers, from The New York Times, has written a follow-on column looking at troop morale in Afghanistan.  We will see what transpires.

On another note, I’ve added three blogs to my list.  First, the Small Wars Journal blog, which is an excellent forum for many of the latest defense policy and doctrine debates.  It was recommended to me by one of my new acquaintances here, Colonel Gian Gentile–and if you follow the debates of Army counter-insurgency doctrine, you will know his name!  Second, my friend Tanya Roth’s blog.  She is an advanced graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis, and is finishing her dissertation on women in the Army, from post-World War II to the 1970s.  She is a very talented scholar, and a great proponent of digital humanities.  Third, my friend Megan Morris’ blog Victorian Hauntings/Haunting Victorians.  Again, a very talented scholar, and a colleague of mine in U of R’s English Department.  So, do explore!

Ok, time to wrap this up. I have to hurriedly pack (which will largely consist of me cramming my belongings willy-nilly into suitcases and such), and then get downstairs for breakfast and goodbyes.  I’ll be wearing my new polo shirt, Summer Seminar, with a nice patch of a turkey on the right sleeve (in memory of Josh hitting a turkey while we were driving up to Saratoga a couple weeks ago).  It’s all gone by too quickly…The West Point Summer Seminar in Military History, 2010, ranks as one of the great experiences in my life.  You’re all wonderful people, fellows and directors, and I’m sorry to say goodbye.  We will keep in touch, that’s for sure.  I will close with that famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt, to which I see a connection (don’t ask me how), and which we must all bear in mind as life outside the academy resumes:

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

Godspeed.