General Stanley McChrystal, recently “resigned” by President Barack Obama as commander of US forces in Afghanistan, has told the Army that he will retire.
I am not fond of generals, in general. “A general’s reputation,” as Kenneth Patchen observed, “is built on corpses.” In a world where Mr. Ha-Ha gleefully devises so many ways to inflict death and suffering, I am not much in favor of people who elect to pursue deliberately taking life as a career.
In any event, and as I recently noted here, since the US is at peace with its neighbors, Canada and Mexico, there is no reason at all at present for an army, at least in the sort of America envisioned by the Founders, who did not believe in a standing army. No army: no need for generals.
McChrystal in particular, though, I will not miss. He was a “darksider” during the George II years, when he served as ramrod for various unsavory “direct action” and “special mission” units. His behavior during the Pat Tillman outrage—in which McChrystal signed off on a medal citation he knew dripped lies, then worked back-channels to try to convince shameless BushCo politicos not to publicly cite to the lies he’d signed—was reminiscent of director Steven Spielberg’s craven response to the decision by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to award on honorary Oscar to ratfink Elia Kazan, who in the 1950s assisted the McCarthyoid witchfinder generals by denouncing before HUAC people like Lee Strasburg, Lillian Hellman, and John Garfield. As Kazan shuffled on stage to accept his tainted Oscar, people who didn’t care stood and applauded. People who did—Good People, like Nick Nolte, Ed Harris, that crew—stayed in their seats, sat on their hands. Spielberg stayed in his seat, but applauded. Soiled himself both ways.
Last fall McChrystal, displaying the sort of contempt for civilian authority that would eventually get him removed, ridiculed in public Vice President Joe Biden’s recommendations on American policy in Afghanistan, and indicated he would refuse to support it. The recent arrogant, locker-room, cocky-commando comments of McChrystal and his aides in the Rolling Stone piece by Michael Hastings affirmed that the man hadn’t changed, wouldn’t honor his oath, the American system of government. He had to go.
To send him on his way, a little clip from White Christmas, of Bing Crosby performing what at least one snide film critic has cruelly condemned as “Irving Berlin’s worst song”—”What Can You Do With A General?” Back in those days, retired generals did not immediately strip off the uniform and then proceed to careen around the television set knocking those they had formerly served. Maybe McChrystal can resist that temptation. Maybe.
The presentation in this video is amateurish, charmingly so. Halfway appropriate. As, in the end, McChrystal revealed himself to be something of an amateur. Though not a charming one.