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Monday, September 28, 2009

General McChrystal on 60 Minutes Interview

By: Ryan Jaroncyk, THL Contributor

Last night, CBS's 60 Minutes aired its highly anticipated interview with our top commander of the Afghanistan War, General Stanley McChrystal.

General McChrystal has been enlisted by the Obama administration to generate a new war strategy at a time when U.S. casualties are spiking, Taliban militants are rapidly gaining the upper hand, and the Afghan government is mired in corruption.

Despite the addition of nearly 21,000 additional troops this year, General McChrystal is calling for more troops, up to 40,000 more according to some reports. General McChrystal is warning that the United States may lose the war within the next 12-18 months if the situation on the ground further deteriorates.

After watching the interview, I thought I'd share a few of my initial thoughts and impressions.

Impressions of the interview

The interview lasted about 15 minutes, which in my view, was shockingly brief considering our nation is bogged down in a deadly war in Afghanistan. 2009 has been the deadliest year in the eight-year war, and casualty counts continue to spike as more of our troops engage foreign combatants.

One would think that such a critical war would merit more attention, especially as our top commander is requesting even more troops and implementing an entirely new strategy. While the interview was extremely respectful of the honorable General, it failed to ask a number of probing questions, questions few seem willing to address as the war ramps up.

Impressions of General McChrystal

The General came off as a very honest, straightforward, and humble man. He is a no-nonsense military leader whose experience in guiding troops in the capture of Saddam Hussein and in the deadly bombing of terrorist mastermind, Abu al-Zarqawi, is of the highest caliber. This is an earnest General who believes the past eight years have proven to be unsuccessful in numerous ways.

General McChrystal's Strategy

Quite simply, he is requesting more troops to implement a novel, counterinsurgency effort that aims to nation build in Afghanistan. Instead of brute, overwhelming force, McChrystal believes reducing civilian casualties, protecting the Afghan citizens, and earning the moral support of the people, even at the risk of placing our own troops at greater risk, should become higher priorities.

Long term, he looks to double the number of Afghan forces to about 400,000, but acknowledges that such a task will take many years. He is adamant that the next twelve months or so are "make or break" for the U.S. effort.

Questions That Should Have Been Asked

Though General McChrystal is not responsible for some aspects of the overall policy, the interview didn't even touch upon several, critical issues:

First, how can we afford to nation build in Afghanistan when we're running a $1.6 trillion budget deficit? Where will we get the money to fund billions more in war operations? Over the past eight years, neither Republicans nor Democrats have been willing to make drastic cuts in other areas of the budget.

Second, how can we afford more troops and an open-ended commitment when we're over $11 trillion in debt? The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have already cost about $1 trillion, far surpassing most analysts' original estimates.

Third, what effect will further escalation have on the value of a depreciating U.S. Dollar? Huge deficits, excessive borrowing, and unlimited money printing have devalued our currency by over 33% in just the last seven years.

Fourth, what effect will increased deployments have on our brave soldiers, when they're already suffering from a PTSD epidemic and record suicide rates? Extended, counterinsurgency warfare is taking a serious psychological toll on our men and women.

Fifth, if we escalate our troop presence, how many are we prepared to lose in the years to come? What is an acceptable figure? What is not?

Sixth, how long will the U.S. have to stay to secure victory? Some in the U.S. military are talking at least ten years. Do we have any idea? Time costs lives and money.

Seventh, how do we specifically define victory? What exactly is success? What are the specific benchmarks along the way?

Eighth, has General McChrystal seriously considered other military alternatives? Esteemed conservative columnist, George Will, recently outlined his vision for a more limited and focused effort in the Washington Post.

Ret. Lieutenant Colonel, Ralph Peters, also offered his plan for a more limited mission in a recent New York Post article. These plans would save hundreds of billions, reduce casualty counts, lower the incidence of PTSD, prevent Al-Qaeda from rebuilding its safe havens, and specifically define success.

A Lack of leadership

I found one particular aspect of the interview quite chilling. General McChrystal stated that he has only personally spoken to President Obama one time in the last seventy or so days. This is mind boggling. While other issues such as the current economic crisis and health care debate are certainly vital, what could be more vital than his duty as Commander in Chief?

Our precious men and women are dying in a war that is nearly out of control, with no real end in sight. Yet, our President is making appearances on the Letterman Show? Delegating one-on-one discussions with General McChrystal to other officials in the administration doesn't seem quite right. This is a dire situation that needs immediate resolution and decisive leadership.


The interview provided some nice insight into one of our premier military commanders, but it didn't ask a lot of tough questions. Someone needs to start asking the tough questions of our President, Congress, and military. Otherwise, we may find ourselves floating in a decades long war that yields thousands dead, tens of thousands maimed for life, untold psychological horror on our troops and their families, trillions of dollars in additional debt, massive inflation, and a more vulnerable national defense.


  1. Many months ago, Colin Powell said that the United States could not commit more troops to the war in the Middle East without compromising its ability to defend itself in North America.

  2. It doesn't seem like we're doing a whole lot of defending our borders in North America, does it?

  3. Ha ha... Exactly, W.E.

    They're terribly worried about Fatherland -- excuse me, Homeland -- security, but our Southern border is almost wide-open.

  4. Well keep on spreading the wisdom! One by one, we'll change enough minds to figure out a sane foreign policy.