Watch CNN's Barbara Starr go after both Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen in yesterday's press conference around the six-minute mark of this video. Just watch. Starr, like many members of the media, is a big fan of General McKiernan. Since yesterday's announcement, I have been surprised to find many admirers of McKiernan in both the media and in the blog's readership. Check out this supportive op-ed from Simon Tisdall, for example, who goes so far as to suggest Gates doesn't know what he's doing. (By the way, I'm sure the secretary is having trouble sleeping at night knowing some Guardian columnist has lost faith in him. We can only pray to God Almighty in Heaven we keep Polly Toynbee on our side or all is surely lost.)
This support -- which goes beyond the media and extends into the officer corps -- points to two things which seem likely to be true:
- General McKiernan actually is a very talented officer who is admired by many. The black-and-white dichotomy of unconventional/conventional or "gets it"/"doesn't get it" might not apply here.
- Despite that, McKiernan simply is not considered to be the right guy for the time and place. He does not inspire confidence from civilian decision-makers or, it is safe to say, General Petraeus.
But it is easy to understand why some officers might feel that McKiernan, right man or not, got a rough deal out of this.
I now ask my readers to pass the hat to buy Yochi a tie (16:00 mark). What, does he think he works at a think tank or something?