Afghanistan: Send in the clowns

We all know the story by now. For reasons beyond comprehension, McChrystal and his fellow high-ranking smart-alecks let a Rolling Stone writer listen in as they trashed just about everyone in the civilian chain of Afghanistan command, most memorably the vice president, who will forevermore be known as Mr. "Bite Me.” In the end,it was McChrystal who got bitten, chewed up and spit out. He's relieved of his command, replaced by none other than Gen. Petraeus, who could have been excused if he had fainted again, from shock. There he was, comfortably esconced at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, and now he's on his way back to Kabul.

Memo to television executives and speech agencies: Stanley McChrystal is suddenly available for work as a military affairs commentator, with a Special Ops, uh, specialty. He is probably not the guy to give the most expert analysis of politics and definitely not press relations, but the fallen high-and-mighty seem to hold a special TV news fascination. Just ask Eliot Spitzer. But I digress ...

Back at the Situation Room, once they shooed out Wolf Blitzer, the president convened a strategy session. It probably ought to be called a "Cut the Crap" meeting. He should have no problem looking for someone's "ass to kick,” since just about everyone involved seems to be running in different directions. If they dumped on the enemy as much as they have each other, the Taliban would be long gone from the region and so would the United States. Perhaps one of the top-ranking diplomats should also go, replaced by, say, Rahm Emanuel.

Wouldn't it be fun to watch Emanuel dealing with Afghanistan's uber-warlord, Hamid Karzai? Come to think of it, what probably did in Gen. McChrystal was the one big endorsement he got from President Karzai. Can you hear it now? When Karzai offered his strong words of public support, McChrystal probably squealed, "Noooooooo!"

Now that he's gone, Karzai is probably doing a little moaning himself. He'll have to deal much more with Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative, or super-envoy, for the region. Karzai is widely regarded in the U.S. as a loose cannon and widely unloved in Washington. Holbrooke is not all that adored either. There are many who consider him capable but annoying as hell. Karzai feels the same way, at least about the annoying part. So maybe as he deals with the administration, that's a good starting point of agreement.

As for Petraeus, he's a regular old charmer, and somebody who chooses his words verrrrryyyy carefully. So don't look for any articles about his incendiary remarks. What would be nice, of course, would be reports of progress with Afghanistan. Perhaps the president needs to continue to send out the clowns. This is not a comedy. It's a tragedy.

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