Losing McCrystal, or A Few Good Men

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When General McCrystal lost his mind and went ‘E-Hollywood in an interview with Rolling Stone recently, it reminded me of another high-ranking military official.  McCrystal’s attitude of arrogance against the civilian leadership of Washington took me right to Col. Nathan R. Jessep of the United States Marine Corp.  

McCrystal didn’t like President Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan.  He resented that he didn’t get the 30,000 troops he requested a long time ago.  He felt that Obama was ‘disengaged’ or whatever.  Surely Obama, ‘a liberal Democrat tree hugging African-American slick politician from Chicago couldn’t resonate with what it takes to win a war with such sophisticated circumstances.’  Right? 

Jessep also didn’t believe that the Navy Kid Lt. Daniel Kaffee who hadn’t seen military combat had the right nor should he have even had the inclination to question a decorated colonel about the way he ran Gitmo.  If he felt ordering the ‘Code Red’ on PFC Santiago would save lives in the long run then so be it!  After all as he told Kaffee in the initial interview on the island: 

I run my unit how I run my unit. You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash your badge, and make me nervous. 

I feel for General McCrystal because I understand his world-view.  I spent a short time in the military after high school and I recall well that there are some military people who can do the job of serving their country and going home at the end of the day to a normal life and family.  The dichotomy of being a military person in a civilian world outside of war is easy.

There are also the hard-core military people who live and breathe that life on another level.  In other words it’s ‘us against them.’   As far as they are concerned their military world is the only world that matters.  They provide and protect freedom.  They secure borders.   The rest of us are flag burning/gay-loving weaklings who are only concerned with hedonism.  I empathize and agree that most of us don’t understand nor appreciate the work our service men and women do – nor the sacrifices they make.

However; what McCrystal failed to realize as he poked fun and disrespected both the President as well as his VP, is that regardless of how he felt about the administration, the President is the Commander In Chief, not just some politician.   He is the head of the military.  Period. 

McCrystal’s position is a politically appointed one as well.  And there is no doubt that while he has had political favor, he had earned his credentials by also following orders and respecting authority.  No doubt he expected and received unquestioned obedience within his own command. 

Obedience and order are traits that the military need to save lives and protect the nation.  There is no doubt about that.  The military world is different from the civilian one as well.  Of that I am also sure.  By mocking the administration, McCrystal violated the very principals that helped shape and advance his entire career. 

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I will never forget the day I was in basic training and one of the drill instructors asked our class what our jobs were to be in entering the service.  Many of us named off positions such as Security Specialist and Aerodynamic Engineers for example.  These answers were wrong.  Our jobs we were told was simple;  TO KILL!  “Your job is to kill the enemy. You have no other agenda but that.  The sooner you realize that the better off you’ll be.” In reality, this is the absolute truth.  And if we didn’t have military service men and women who understand and feel this way we wouldn’t be as safe as we are now.  

 I think Jessep summed it up at best before he admitted to the Code Red.

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

I understand Jessep’s and McCrystal’s sentiments.  Still neither of them is above the law nor authority.  Therefore; the President had to break him off.