The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

oh boy….

June 22, 2010

So, I’m in Brussels this morning meeting with various NATO folks on how they plan to develop a strategy for rebuilding public support for Afghanistan and for the future expeditionary operations outlined in the the Albright Experts Group report and someone comes in with a copy of Rolling Stone. Quite frankly, that’s not something I thought I’d ever see — Rolling Stone had the entire place buzzing….

My first reaction: This can not end well for McChrystal. He has a lot of support here, but this crossed so many lines– civil-military relations, leadership judgment, command authority, the raunchiness of his conduct, etc… Given the complexity of the on-gong operations and the multiple levels of coordination across so many different civilian and military organizations operating in Afghanistan, there is no way McChrystal can credibly command ISAF. No one will want him commanding their forces. And, given the wide swath of his attack — directed against the entire civilian and political leadership in Washington working on Afghanistan — he can’t possibly continue to work with them.

NATO has defined Afghanistan as its core mission, but the war is deeply unpopular in almost every one of the 28 members states and it has been a real struggle to keep some form of alliance cohesion. Secretary Gates was here two weeks ago for the defense ministerial pleading for more troops and, in particular, another 400 to 500 trainers. The Americans have been leaning hard on a few countries to pony up the trainers. This likely means the end of that. Most of the allies are likely to wait and see what happens in Washington, but many of them are looking for the exit and McChrystal has just opened the doors very wide. He’s done.

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Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.