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Where’s Chuck Connors When We Need Him?

Posted by The Agonist on June 23rd, 2010

From our partners at The Agonist

General Stanley McChrystal, visionary commander of our legions in Afghanistan, has been recalled to Washington after some incautious words regarding his civilian superiors in a prominent journal of military science called Rolling Stone – doubtless homage to “Rolling Thunder,” the storied air campaign over North Vietnam.

McChrystal’s recall from the head of his troops could not have come at a less auspicious time. The general’s brilliant campaigns throughout Afghanistan over the last year have driven the Taliban foe from the field of battle and into a desperate enclave in Kandahar, where they are surrendering in their thousands to our forces. Everywhere, the locals are cheering on the Yanks as they drive through liberated villages and head for Kandahar and victory.

The idea of civilians second-guessing this man is repugnant to soldier and civilian alike. McChrystal has been highly decorated for clerical service in command centers from Alexandria (the one not far from DC) to Kabul (the one pretty far from reality). Atop his rows of bureaucratic ribbons rests an Expert Infantryman Badge, which denotes no combat service and may be likened to winning a varsity letter in high school. Little wonder the war has been progressing as it has.

With the Patton of Pashtunistan held in Washington by meddlesome civilians, the Taliban is reversing the tides of war. Indeed, this dire scenario is being advanced in the halls of the Pentagon and the RNC. “All was going well until yesterday,” one unidentified colonel darkly announced, before looking down solemnly at his bureaucratic ribbons and Expert Infantryman Badge. An RNC staffer added, “We’re getting reports that Taliban activity has spread from Kandahar.” He then looked down somberly at his Wharton B-School crest. The American people will be demanding to know, Who lost Afghanistan? And these men will provide an answer the public will undoubtedly accept.

General David Petraeus, the Victor of Baghdad, has had very little to say on the contretemps. This parallels his lack of commentary on almost all events in Afghanistan since he was made the CENTCOM overlord in Florida. Observers note that Petraeus is content with his Iraqi laurels and will magnanimously let events in Afghanistan be attributed to McChrystal.

What lies in store for McChrystal? The venerable code of the samurai comes to mind. And so does the opening to Branded in which Chuck Connors had his epaulets cut off and sabre broken before being tunefully marched out of the fort. But honor and justice have advanced since then; they’re just not so dramatic. One option might be to refuse any offer to resign and to send McChrystal right back to Kabul, epaulets and sabre intact, to finish the job – to see it through to the end – whatever that may be. Let’s just see that he has all he needs over there, including a Huey on the embassy roof.

~ ©2010 Brian M. Downing
Brian M. Downing is the author of several works of political and military history, including The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam.  He can be reached at

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