Stanley McChrystal was “known in the Spec Ops community for being a true warrior-commander and counterinsurgency wiz,” writes Buck Sexton, national security editor for TheBlaze.
So why did President Obama accept the four-star general’s 2010 resignation from his top post commanding the fight in Afghanistan for the U.S. Army?
You’ve probably heard that it had everything to do with a controversial Rolling Stone article featuring derogatory comments about the Obama administration attributed to McChrystal’s staff.
But according to Sexton, that “crime” was a decidedly weak, perhaps reactionary reason for McChrystal’s dismissal:
“Gen. McChrystal told the world (via his staff) that President Obama had treated their first meeting in the oval office like a ten-minute photo op, and Obama seemed ‘disengaged,’ among other not-so-shocking observations.
“At some point, the White House may come to realize that false allies and bad policies are the problem—not blunt generals.”
This pivot point in McChystal’s career covers a very small part of his brand-new memoir, My Share of the Task, but as you may have guessed, it’s still a tantalizing tidbit the now-retired general is asked about during interviews concerning his book:
But certainly there’s much more to McChrystal’s career, and My Share of the Task does a good job telling the story.
Tellingly, even as a senior commander, McChrystal frequently went on patrols with his troops to experience their challenges firsthand. It was one part of his hunger to know the truth on the ground, displaying the courage to find it, and the humility to listen to those around him.
Joining the troubled post-Vietnam army as a young officer, McChrystal witnessed and participated in some of our military’s most difficult struggles. He describes the many outstanding leaders he served with and the handful of bad leaders he learned not to emulate. He paints a vivid portrait of the traditional military establishment that turned itself, in one generation, into the adaptive, resilient force that would soon be tested in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the wider War on Terror.
That McChrystal spent much of his early career in the world of special operations, eventually leading the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) from 2003 to 2008, is significant: The JSOC became one of America’s most effective counterterrorism weapons, facing off against Al Qaeda in Iraq.
In fact, JSOC gathered mountains of intelligence which helped to located and remove the most influential and dangerous terrorists, including the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The hunt for Zarqawi drives some of the most gripping scenes in My Share of the Task, as McChrystal’s team grappled with tricky interrogations, advanced-but-scarce technology, weeks of unbroken surveillance, and agonizing decisions.
Indeed, those kinds of agonizing decisions in the face of extreme difficulty is what sets apart the best military leaders, and as McChrystal writes, those he’s known along the way have made the deepest impact on him:
“More by luck than design, I’d been a part of some events, organizations, and efforts that will loom large in history, and more that will not. I saw selfless commitment, petty politics, unspeakable cruelty, and quiet courage in places and quantities that I’d never have imagined. But what I will remember most are the leaders.”
Check out this longer segment on McChrystal and his career: