Kevin St. Jarre has published three novels under the pen name Michael Hawke: Nightstalkers, Nightstalkers: Coercion, and Nightstalkers: Homefront. His publisher is Berkley Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Putnam. He has published articles and poems in many magazines including Kappan, English Journal and Northern New England Review.
General Stanley McChrystal by Kevin St. Jarre
The problem is not speaking truth to power. The problem is speaking your truth to Rolling Stone.
General Stanley McChrystal not only had a remarkable career in the army, but he did it by living and leading within the most respected and most formidable of America’s warriors. He commanded soldiers in the storied 82nd Airborne, the world-famous Rangers where he rewrote the hand-to-hand combat training doctrine, and in the Special Forces which many civilians refer to as the Green Berets. McChrystal reportedly ate one meal per day, ran between 5-10 miles per day, slept 4 or 5 hours per night. He was, in short, the kind of leader that soldiers will not only follow and die for, but also come to virtually worship. A soldier’s soldier.
McChrystal was also not without controversy. Anyone in that sort of business will eventually get some things wrong. While he is generally credited with leading the destruction of Al Qaeda in Iraq, he was also allegedly at the heart of the cover up when Ranger and former NFL player Pat Tillman was killed. McChrystal can also be distantly connected, at least with a sideways dotted line, to the scandalous and shameful conduct at Abu Ghraib.
Still, none of these problems impacted his career in any real way. No, in the end, it was a reporter stranded by a volcano which was his undoing. A reporter, McChrystal’s aides, and the general’s own mouth. When Pres. Obama nominated McChrystal, and his command appointment was confirmed by the Senate, they knew he could be a bit of a loose cannon. In fact, President and Senators alike cited McChrystal’s candor, his willingness to say what other generals were too scared to say, as one of the reasons he was chosen to lead the effort in Afghanistan.
However, McChrystal and his aides apparently forgot the single most important tenet about the American military. Even when it is inconvenient, even when it is frustrating, even when the decisions are more political than tactical/strategic, it is imperative that civilians remain in control of America’s armed forces.
Yes, speak freely, be critical, offer candid observations but do so in private. When general’s become celebrities it almost invariably is bad for the man, the service, and the nation. The U.S. Army has been weakened by the loss of McChrystal. The talent pool was not there to replace him with anyone other than his boss, Gen. David Petraeus. For Petraeus to have to step down a rung in the command hierarchy shows that at his level, McChrystal was not only the best, but was irreplaceable.
The nation’s Special Forces shun the Rambo image. They are the ultimate team players, often do not wear the medals they’ve been awarded, and proudly refer to themselves as the “Silent Warriors” not in reference to stealth movement but instead in devotion to the idea of simply accomplishing their missions without running their mouths. It’s a shame that Gen. McChrystal and his aides seem to have forgotten this.
(photos: personalmoneystore.com, aaymca.com, blogs.telegraph.co.uk)