Is McChrystal Reading

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Not likely.

But I was heartened to see that when we abandoned the military outpost in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, we destroyed the base, lighting afterburners, the smoldering waste of one more failed experiment in colonialism in our rear-view mirrors.

We departed this small base days after one of the deadliest Taliban strikes against our occupation forces there. Officially, our departure had been planned for months. Any bets that the leadership will take a hit for that bit of poor planning?

Not likely.

Six months ago, I discussed how we could and should leave another of our ill-fated occupations. Here’s the paragraph McChrystal might have read:

Lastly, it will NOT cost more to leave Iraq than to stay. It’s all in the attitude. Ship the people home, auction off the facilities, have a big bonfire. It could even be fun. Abandoning the Iraqi outpost, destroying the military bases we constructed and outfitted (as we must do), …

McChrystal, of course, has had plenty of time to think about Iraq. Before he moved into his present position, Iraq was his playground. Quoted in a psalm-slash-news story published by the Washington Post in May, close subordinate Lt. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, said "[McChrystal] understands the value of high-value targets” as well as "having the small unit on the ground” to provide better security for Afghans…. [He] really does understand that you’re not going to win the war by killing all the enemy," he said, adding, "He did that in Iraq for five years."

He did what in Iraq for five years? Not win the war? Or kill all the enemy? And what is the "Value of high-value targets?" High? We have come to conflate the fogginess of our war leaders logical capacities and public statements with the fog of war. And it isn’t at all clear what McChrystal actually did in Iraq. One does suspect that the black ops and other strategies he oversaw at Special Operations Command may foster the next big blowback.

McChrystal brings that same lack of clarity to whatever it is that he thinks he is doing in Afghanistan (and Pakistan). I have to phrase it that way because, and I think I speak for the President here, we really don’t know.

McChrystal and his political supporters stand united in having made careers of advocating killing, base-building, defense spending, and what was that? Oh, of course. Increasing the security of all the women and children living in the war zone. Tragically, these public servants are forced to leak documents demanding troop increases as if that is the real question, because the young American commander in chief cannot be completely trusted to do the right thing.

But Obama can be trusted to kill, and has done so quite enthusiastically. McChrystal’s leak of plans appears to be a real Gladiator-style "Are you not entertained?" moment. That Obama failed to immediately fire him should have warmed the hearts of war lovers everywhere. Sure, that Nobel peace prize is a bit Orwellian, but we the people have seen The Enemy switched from the Taliban and al Qaeda in 2001, to Iraq and al Qaeda in 2003, and now, back to the Taliban and al Qaeda again in 2009 and we never blinked a collective eye. What year is it again?

A guy on the way to town has a "Win the War in Iraq" yard sign. It’s been up for several years. He’s not taking it down. That’s one smart reactionary in my book.

But back to my fantasy. — blocked at some military bases, but available globally — read by the hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform, and by their commanders.

The politicians and state media can’t and won’t end the wars even as the people overwhelmingly wish them ended. National bankruptcy can’t do it, even as everyone else is cutting out unnecessary spending. Can the military itself end them? It wouldn’t take a coup or even violence. The wars overseas can — and will eventually — be ended the way most bad relationships end. Empires fall the same way. People stop participating, cease doing what is expected, avoid the worst of it, badmouth the rest of it. People envision something different, and walk towards it.

To end the wars — because peace prize—winners and their generals will not — we must change the understanding of people on the pointy end of the sword about the real nature of the state. Let’s commit to sharing the best anti-state reporting on the web with a solder, sailor, airmen or Marine, every day, and every way. If we can’t bring them home now, let’s do what we can to ensure when they do come home, it’s pro-market, anti-war and anti-state.

LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for, hosts the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.

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