The Best Defense

Farewell to McChrystal, hello to Mattis?

My bet is that Gen. Stanley McChrystal will be gone within a week or so. Defense Secretary Gates canned Admiral Fallon as Central Command chief in the spring of 2007 for less pointed remarks, so he will look like a hypocrite if he does less here in response to McChrystal dissing Obama, Biden, and the White House in a new article in Rolling Stone.

At any rate, it may be time for a whole new team in Afghanistan. My nomination is for Petraeus to step down an echelon and take the Afghanistan command. You could leave him nominally the Centcom chief but let his deputy, Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, oversee Iraq, the war planning for Iran, and dealing with Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. But more likely is that Petraeus will ask for another Marine general, James Mattis, who is just finishing up at Jiffycom, and who had planned to retire later this year and head home to Walla Walla, Washington. Petraeus and Mattis long have admired each other. The irony is that Mattis has a reputation -- unfairly, I think -- for speaking a little too bluntly in public about things like killing people. I think Mattis is a terrific, thoughtful leader.  

I do wonder if this mess is the result of leaving McChrystal out there too long-he has been going non-stop for several years, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. At any rate, his comments reflect a startling lack of discipline. He would expect more of one of his captains. We should expect more of him. I know, I've said worse about Biden. But part of my job is to comment on these things, even flippantly sometimes. Part of his job is not to.

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The Best Defense

Etzioni: a better class of terrorist?

Here is a note from Professor Etzioni, responding to my post yesterday. That's my headline, by the way, characterizing what I think he says here. Yes, violence that doesn't kill people is better than violence that does. But it is still violence. And mistakes do get made-the word doesn't get passed, or someone who is asleep in the building is forgotten.

But let him speak for himself:

I am sorry to see that Mr. Ricks does not find much value in my distinction between attacking people to kill them and blowing up empty buildings after the occupants have been given time to leave.

For me there is no more important distinction. The most elementary right we all command is the right to live (broadly understood as including freedom from maiming, torture, and starvation). In effect, all other rights are contingent on this right being respected. Dead people do not vote, make speeches, or assemble. Hence, I am anxious to do all that can be done to find solutions to conflicts that do not entail killing anyone.

At the same time, when faced with an occupation -- in the British case, one that was sending Jews who survived the Holocaust back to Europe in 1945 and 1946 -- symbolic protest acts seem fully justified. The fact that these can be very effective was just evidenced by the recent raid on the flotilla sailing to Gaza. Those activists did not fire rockets into Israel or bomb anyone, but they had much more of an effect by making headlines."

Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni is University Professor and professor of international relations at The George Washington University.

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