That General McChrystal’s rift with his commander-in-chief was aired in a Rolling Stone interview is a troubling sign for more reasons than simple insubordination.
NewsBusters notes the airing of previous greivances – although none of the situations are quite as bad as McChrystal’s. But the Washington Post draws an interesting comparison that puts the real problem in context:
Much of McChrystal’s career was spent in the military’s secretive special operations community, which has little experience dealing with the press… The general’s relationship with the press contrasts significantly with that of Gen. David Petraeus, who spent a far larger segment of his career in Washington and is far more practiced in dealing with reporters and the civilian leadership.
Disagreements are not wrong, but clumsily airing those disagreements is. Unless he’s angling for a dismissal and job as a military expert talking head (or a spot on the GOP ticket in 2012), McChrystal’s misstep seems to come from his lack of savvy in how his comments would look in print.
Combined with the previous criticism, the clear trend is that PR expertise is becoming a requirement fgor military leadership – along with an aptitude for killing people and breaking things, which is the core competency of the military.
Or at least, it’s supposed to be.
The smart move would have been to turn down the interview with Rolling Stone. In this failing, McChrystal can’t be alone – surely there were several more information officers who thought the interview would be a good idea. The concept of the “celebrity general” isn’t new – heck, we have one printed on our most-used currency, and several Presidents have followed. But as with any project or campaign, the folks who speak to the press should be ready to do so – and not pushed out there because of an overly-politicized media environment that seems to demand that everyone have something to say. It isn’t fair to the general, the troops, or the people watching the news.
It’s one thing to dress a spokesman up in a warrior’s fatigues for the cameras; it’s much more difficult to stuff a warrior into the civilian role of PR director.