AFGHAN EXITS: Firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal and replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus won’t fix President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy. Petraeus literally ;wrote the handbook on counterinsurgency (COIN), which in Afghanistan means a decades-long, trillion-dollar nation-building effort to secure the country village by village. That said, McChrystal has been a leading advocate of COIN, and his exit could ;provide an opportunity for a rethink.
McChrystal, of course, fragged himself. In a series of interviews with Michael Hastings for Rolling Stone, McChrystal and his inner circle engaged in an orgy of profane insubordination, replete with homophobic slurs, raised middle fingers and references ;to Vice President Joe Biden as “Bite Me.” ;Gen. Jim Jones, the national security adviser in the White House, was called a “clown.” And in a deft touch, McChrystal grimaced in disgust after getting an e-mail from Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy for Afghanistan. As McChrystal pocketed the phone, an aide said, “Make sure you don’t get any of that ;on your leg.”
But the issue is politics, not personalities. Last year, McChrystal engaged in a virtual insurrection to pressure the White House to escalate the war, forcing Obama to read him the riot act on Air Force One. Since December, he has seethed with resentment over the president’s July 2011 deadline for the start of a US pullout. As a commander, McChrystal has failed: the vaunted attack ;on Marja unraveled, and the much-touted Kandahar offensive has failed to materialize.
As the Rolling Stone profile reveals, Obama is at war with his own commanders in Afghanistan. As McChrystal departs and Petraeus takes over, the president has to take command of the war, press for a political settlement with the Taliban and work hard ;to ensure that the July 2011 deadline is met. ROBERT DREYFUSS
SENATE SUNLIGHT? My conservative friends have suddenly become ardent advocates for transparency. They want to know what goes on behind the closed doors of the Obama White House and Democratic Congressional offices. I agree: secrecy is the sin that destroys democracy, no matter which party engages in it.
Where to begin? How about with one ;of the most abusive practices in Washington: the use of anonymous “holds” to block Senate action on presidential nominations. Under Senate rules, individual members are allowed to anonymously block consideration of nominees for six days. Then the senators are obligated to reveal themselves and the reasons for their holds. In recent years, however, groups of senators have begun to game the system by coordinating a series of holds in a strategy that can delay action for months, even years.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is leading the fight for transparency. She’s gotten most Democrats and nine Republicans to back her proposal to abolish the rule that allows anonymous holds and back-room game-playing. McCaskill is right: nomination battles are fine, but they should be fought ;in public. JOHN NICHOLS