THE PLANK OCTOBER 2, 2009
Newsweek has a long and thorough profile of Obama's man in Afghanistan:
At West Point, the younger McChrystal was "a troublemaker," he recalls. He often violated the drinking ban and got caught at it, walking hundreds of hours of punishment drills, pacing up and down a stone courtyard in full-dress uniform, carrying a rifle. As a senior, McChrystal organized a mock infantry attack on a school building, using real guns and rolled-up socks as grenades, and was nearly shot by the military police guarding the building. But his classmates compared him to the Cooler King, the charismatic renegade played by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape...
[His wife] laughs about the fact that he has seen the raunchy NASCAR spoof Talladega Nights so many times, he can recite the lines (he can do the same for Monty Python and the Holy Grail).
He also once lived in Brooklyn. (A great American, clearly.) But these are less jolly times:
At the end of the CUA, an officer brought up the spate of articles appearing in the American press suggesting that McChrystal's request for more troops in Afghanistan was being seriously questioned by policymakers in Washington, including President Obama.... The controversy caused evident anxiety among McChrystal's commanders at the morning briefing. The officer asked if General McChrystal was feeling the pressure. "I am," McChrystal allowed, and deadpanned, "Money would make me feel better." There were a few laughs as his legal adviser, Col. Rich Gross, gave the general a dollar, but the joke fell a little flat. McChrystal's people want to believe in him, and they want to believe in their mission; they do not want to see McChrystal's judgment questioned—and certainly not his integrity.
At the morning briefing, McChrystal tried to make light of stories in the press quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying McChrystal's call for more troops was just one opinion among military experts. "She's absolutely right," said McChrystal to his lieutenants. "There are other experts and they're smarter than me," though, he quipped, "not in this room." The jokes were uncharacteristically lame, as if he was struggling to put a bright face on bad news. Later that evening, eating his one meal of the day (salmon salad, chicken, strawberry shortcake), McChrystal was clearly troubled—"a bit bothered," as he put it—by the rumors appearing in the media that he might resign over his differences with those unnamed other experts in Washington. "It is my responsibility, my duty—my sacred duty," he said, to tell the unvarnished truth to his leaders, but then to carry out their orders. He would not resign, he said, even if they rejected his advice.
A comforting assurance for Obama as he makes his decision.