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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

McChrystal and the School for Scandal

Everybody is reading the Rolling Stone article to lap up McChrystal's insubordinate comments, but what actually matters is simply that everybody is reading the article. Gates has publicly rebuked McChrystal while plenty of other voices are still calling for him to be fired. I can't say what happens next, but I can say that whatever happens is just so much distraction.

All this gossiping and fluttering and scolding (the only modes of discourse capable of holding the attention of our debased punditocracts at this point, it would seem) over McChrystals's insubordinate comments is, I suppose, a nice reminder that our volunteer armed services (consisting of too many recruits whose poverty, mis-education, and informal citizenship status provide a context of duress into service as an only resort that should make anyone at least a little uncomfortable about using that term "voluntary" too chirpily) are under civilian control in our democracy (although one only need imagine McChrystal skipping off to better pay in some unaccountable mercenary war-profiteering outfit where he can get a pork-fat tax-payer funded private contract to behave like a swinging dick in the name of the U S of A all he wants anyhow to grasp the militarist bloat that menaces that civilian democracy).

But whatever scandal mongering draws all the eyeballs to the article what matters is that this tide of attention might work to transform its author's best hopes into an accomplishment, namely:
[R]ising anti-war sentiment at home doesn't begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. "If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular," a senior adviser to McChrystal says. Such realism, however, doesn't prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. "There's a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here," a senior military official in Kabul tells me.

Now, I was one of those hippy pinko faggot aesthetes opposed to our bloody Afghan Adventure even before the crime of Iraq and was never one of those liberals who wanted to prove his hard-cock credential through the pretense that Afghanistan was The Good War to Iraq's Bad One, so it will scarcely come as a surprise to hear that for me few of the rationales for our remaining in Afghanistan make much in the way of sense to me at all when exposed to scrutiny, although I will grant the hopeless horrible responsibilities of those who break it having in some form always then to buy it. Nevertheless, however ill-conceived it remains a bitter truth that the stubborn gravity-well of occupation seems eventually to skew the perceptions of the participating players and planners and deaden the drive to withdraw from even the most nonsensical and suicidal missions. As in Iraq, the statisticians and bomb-builders will always remain more fixated on their tales of falling dominoes or their imposing castles in the air than on the gore and waste through which their fancies are vainly executed on the ground, however much they sanctimoniously tut tut to the contrary for the cameras.

For now, the Obama Administration continues to hold firm to its promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan next summer. That's good news, but it isn't exactly something you can take to the bank. The pressure to stick to that commitment will have to come from the people, because you can be sure the swinging dicks will have a million excuses and dreams to resist with. As the Rolling Stone article puts the point, that necessary pressure will only come if the people pay attention to what is happening.

I think this McChrystal brouhaha is essentially a distraction from the substance of the article and the horrific situation in Afghanistan which it documents, but it is a distraction that is actually provoking and diverting attention right to the place where it needs to be right now if we are truly to begin to end Bush the Boy-King's War Adventures in Desert Places for good.

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