aardvarkcola

The general and the president

Posted on: June 23, 2010

Ironic that of all publications, Rolling Stone magazine can bring down a general. The killer quote can indeed kill.

The article, written by a features writer, not a news reporter, and one obviously unfamiliar but fascinated with the testosterone-laden, disdainful, and by necessity over-confident world of senior military staff, was also as obviously deeply embedded somehow among the general’s staff. The trust given him seems unprecedented. The result is considerable damage.

The article was a weapon of general destruction. It should not have been. An experienced president with more confidence than Mr. Obama will ignore the article, speak to the general, have a public meeting in the White House rose garden complete with its array of microphones and eager press, and announce confidence in the general. The war could then go on uninterrupted. This is, after all about war.

But President Obama may have fired the general. As of this moment, the Stars and Stripes published this photo, above left , and the general concerned, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, fit, professional and every inch the commander he should be, looks stricken. His eyes tell the tale, looking into forever, at a unknown black future before him.

When I noticed one other picture, in a news story, the photo taken some time ago, the one at left, I was struck by the body language. There was something odd about it, something uncomfortable, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Ever been in a meeting where someone has their turn speaking and you know what they are going to say, but you have to keep silent and listen politely? That’s the impression I had of McChrystal from this photo. Both men are leaning forward, there are things to discuss, but Obama looks down, guesturing with his hands, looking at his talking points. The photo was taken at a moment when there is no eye-to-eye dialogue, no let’s-do-this, no eye-to-eye contact, but one has the impression that even if there were, the general would still give the impression he was listening patiently but not taking in anything vital. He is there for an appointment. Imagine the general getting up and leaving this meeting from his chair. It is easier from the position he is sitting in to leave in a dismissive huff than with polite deference.

One does not take in new information from such a position. There is no openness. I gather from that he has not asked a question of the president who is going through his talking points, but that Obama is lecturing, providing general information, getting a message out and the general is politely taking it in because he has to.

Obviously the photo was taken aboard Air Force One, the general a top commander or he wouldn’t be there. The commander, even at rest, looks like a man of action. He is not there to relax.

Isolating McChrystal in the photo, without his wide stance and without Obama, we have a different impression. We focus on his face more. Gen, McChrystal is listening intently. His body language says, tell me what do do and I’ll do it. It is a look of deference and respect, in contast to the impression when both men are in the image.

Another president, Lincoln, had his trouble with generals, several of them. I remember once reading that he wrote and angry letter to one general and put it away and sent him another.  General Ulysses S. “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, who might have been a forgotten loser without the civil war, was the last in a long line of his top commanders. Grant drank. When someone complained, Lincoln said, more eloquently than I can put it, if whiskey was what it took, he should send some to all his generals.

Truman, too, had his general problems and met with a the corn-cob smoking, open shirted egomaniac Douglas McArthur on Wake Island after sitting on the tarmac in the ancient rendition of Air Force One before there was such a thing. Truman, aware of his position, was damned if he was going to go outside the plane and wait for the general. The general had to wait for him and greet him. Truman stubbornly sat in the plane until McArthur showed up.

Obama should be well above Rolling Stone magazine. This is war. He should not give a flying fig about the contents of the article. Both men recognize the landmine for what it is and avoid such in the future.

A feature writer for Rolling Stone magazine should not decide the fate of a general or the outcome of a war.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


  • None
  • wordbeeps: No, he doesn't deserve an apology. Who tweets during a funeral? If you do, expect feedback. I didn't say the mourners were faking it. I think they we
  • Holly Stick: Look you fuckwit, are you too stupid to realise that Ghomeshi was an actual friend of Layton's, when you tweeted to him that the mourners were faking
  • aardvarkcola: Thank you. I see the rest of your message now. i'm honoured to to have your words on my blog. That alone is a delight. Lawrence

Categories

%d bloggers like this: