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General McChrystal Pays the Price for Trying to Get His Picture on the Cover of the Rolling Stone

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Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith

Remember Dr. Hook? In 1972 they articulated the dream that money couldn't buy when they sang:

"We take all kind of pills to give us all kind of thrills
but the thrill we've never known
Is the thrill that'll getcha when you get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone."

Rolling Stone wanna see my picture on the cover-
Stone- wanna buy 5 copies for Obama-
Stone- wanna see my smilin face
on the cover of the Rolling Stone.

Well Stan you had a shot at it and in doing so became the first General in U.S.A military history to resign his command via a magazine article. But Rolling Stone? Mate that is pure style. No Womans Day or Time magazine for our Stan. I never knew that a straight-laced career army type like you had such a hankering for the rock n roll rebel image. You do look a bit like Lady Gaga though. It is amazing what can be done with a little Photoshop. 
As soon as the details of the story were released there could only be one result. Slagging off your employers is never career enhancing. When the only supporter in your corner is Afghan President Hamid Karzai then it is obvious the writing is on the wall.
Of greater concern though is the freedom with which the information was obtained. The fact that a top General and his aides could be so loose lipped so often in the company of a journalist is bizarre.
Michael Hastings is no stranger to controversy and not shy about publishing the behind the scenes dirt on the goings on in Iraq and Afghanistan. On his blog on 25th May 2010 he mentioned the story to come;
"I’ve been working on a rather lengthy Afghanistan piece that should be out in the next couple of weeks, in which Gen. Stanley McChrytsal plays a big role."
Bit of an understatement that Michael. You are about to end the 34 year career of a well respected officer without batting an eyelid. I guess you were just doing what comes naturally to your kind.
No fancy electronic eavesdropping or nifty spy work from Michael here to prise the info out of McChrystal. Just look and listen. It is no wonder that they have never been able to find Bin Laden. They have never put two and two together that the bearded wine waiter in the officers mess always goes out to use his mobile phone after the latest location lock on Americas most wanted is discussed.
The Absurdity of the situation is highlighted by this unconfirmed conversation attributed to an aide of a high ranking government official in Russia. "Boris try and get an agent into NATO command in Afghanistan and find out what the commanders are thinking and if there are any divisions we can exploit". "Yes Sir, I will be back in 10 minutes – just got to go to the news stand and buy a copy of Rolling Stone magazine." "Stop taking the piss Boris and sort it out. I want a report by the end of next month". "But Sir?" "Silence – just get that agent into NATO." "Yes Sir".
So what is the end result? Michael Hastings has got his story and a huge slice of career boosting publicity. Rolling Stone magazine has got a 'world headline' article on its hands that will send circulation soaring. General McChrystal has lost his job and his career.
But what about the ordinary men and women on the ground in Afghanistan? They have lost a respected (but chatty) commander. In any difficult wartime situation the troops need popular decisive commanders that they can respect. General McChrystal was not everyone's cup of tea but by many accounts he was doing a good job. In every command structure there is always division and dislikes. They just never get made public – until now.
General Petraeus has been forced to step in because he is the last man standing with enough credibility and respect to successfully cover McChrystal's departure. The fact he is taking a demotion to do the job shows how thin on the ground quality commanders are at the moment. Memo to General Petraeus – Don't include journalists in your entourage. I guess that was obvious wasn't it? Not to Stan.
But hey he has missed out on getting his picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone to Lady Gaga. How many of us can say that eh? At least she is holding some guns so it is kind of military. Think she forgot to put her costume on though.  

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