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Mon Jan 23, 2012, 03:42 PM

The Operators: Six Questions for Michael Hastings by Scott Horton

Harper's Magazine.

Michael Hastings’s Polk Award–winning Rolling Stone article, “The Runaway General,” brought the career of General Stanley McChrystal, America’s commander in Afghanistan, to an abrupt end. Now Hastings has developed the material from that article, and the storm that broke in its wake, into an equally explosive book, The Operators, which includes a merciless examination of relations between major media and the American military establishment. I put six questions to Hastings about his book and his experiences as a war correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan:

1. Your book presents a Barack Obama who behaves uncomfortably and perhaps too deferentially around his generals, but who is also the first president since Harry S. Truman to have sacked a theater commander during wartime—and moreover, who did it twice (first, General David McKiernan, then McChrystal). How do you reconcile these observations?

I actually think the two observations reveal an evolution in the president’s relationship to the military. During my reporting, one of the conclusions I came to was that President Obama’s mistake wasn’t firing General McChrystal—it was hiring him in the first place. General McKiernan wouldn’t have been a political headache for the president; McKiernan wouldn’t have waged a media campaign to undermine the White House, nor have demanded 130,000 troops.

The president didn’t come up with the idea to fire McKiernan on his own. He was convinced to do so by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral David Mullen, and General David Petraeus. He took their advice without questioning it, really. That, I believe, was his original sin in dealing with the military. The rap on McKiernan was that he was a loser who just didn’t get it. I never bought that narrative—nor did a number of military officials I spoke to. McKiernan understood perfectly well what counterinsurgency was, and he’d started enacting it. (There were fewer civilian deaths under McKiernan than McChrystal.) But McKiernan was on the wrong team—he was the victim, essentially, of bureaucratic infighting. At the time, the president had put a lot of trust in Gates and Mullen (misplaced, in my opinion) and didn’t have the confidence to say, “Hey, wait a second, maybe McKiernan should stay.”

remainder: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/01/hbc-90008406

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Reply The Operators: Six Questions for Michael Hastings by Scott Horton (Original post)
Jefferson23 Jan 2012 OP
Luminous Animal Jan 2012 #1

Response to Jefferson23 (Original post)

Mon Jan 23, 2012, 03:59 PM

1. I am really looking forward to reading this book!

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