This week's syndicated column:
There are many reasons to fire Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and all of them are contained within his 66-page "assessment" of the war in Afghanistan.
The document is fascinating, just as the work of zealots is always fascinating. As a high priest of the politically correct orthodoxy, McChrystal has laid out a strategy to combat Taliban jihad in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan without once mentioning Islam, and forget about jihad (fireable offense No. 1).
[Update: The assessment does mention the "Koran" -- as in erroneously declaring that the Islamically correct, jihad-waging insurgents are "acting in flagrant contradiction of the Koran." Make that fireable offese No. 1a.]
The resulting black hole leads the commander to conclude, for example, that the reason the 99 percent-plus Muslim people of Afghanistan are "reluctant to align with us" is due to the "perception" -- eight years and untold billions in largesse after we entered the country -- "that our resolve is uncertain." Nothing so simple as what a member of the Afghan parliament recently told the Economist: "The Taliban tell them the Koran says they have to fight the Crusaders and they believe them."
No, it's all our fault. Seizing on the Left's all-time favorite villain, the general blames us -- our troops -- for the Afghan people not liking us. And that, according to the report, is why we're losing this war (fireable offense No. 2).
To win what McChrystal describes not as a battle in the war on global jihad (fireable offense No. 3), but rather as "the struggle to gain the support of the (Afghan) people," (fireable offense No. 4), he writes that we must "connect with the people" -- the same "people," he acknowledges, who "can often change sides and provide tacit or real support to the insurgents" (fireable offense No. 5).
Turning battle-hardened Marines into Miss Congenialities who "must be seen as guests of the Afghan people" doesn't mean our men have to wear swimsuits, but they do have to take off their armor (fireable offense No. 6). "Pre-occupied with protection of our own forces," McChrystal writes, "we have operated in a manner that distances us -- physically and psychologically -- from the people we seek to protect."
Frankly, McChrystal is "pre-occupied" with what he calls "population protection" in a manner that "distances" him -- psychologically and emotionally -- from the men and women under his command (fireable offense No. 7).
That a general could write so disparagingly of the means to preserve his soldiers at least to fight another day is despicable. But this is what zealots do. They serve theories, not men; they see visions, not reality. And that theory, that vision is akin to the familiar Marxist notion, likely imbibed during PC school days, that denies that identity, religion and culture matter. In the resulting tunnel vision, the so-called hearts-and-minds strategy looks like a winner.
This is the underlying basis of the counterinsurgency warfare now in vogue. "Hearts and minds" is not only the flawed rationale behind "nation-building," it also inspires the restrictive rules of engagement finally causing unease at home. This strategy -- now framed as "the battle for the support of the (Afghan) people" -- must be junked as a fraud if our military is ever to be used effectively and appropriately.
Remember, Iraq was a "hearts and minds" war, too. Early on, Gen. David Petraeus ordered signs posted in every barracks asking: "What Have You Done to Win Iraqi Hearts and Minds Today?" Many years, billions and casualties later, behold OPEC-participating, Israel-boycotting, Hezbollah-supporting Iraq. Does it count as a "hearts and minds" victory? The "ungrateful volcano," as Churchill called it, never let us fill up a humvee for free, and even after everything we've put into the country doesn't grant us staging rights for an attack on Iran (or anywhere else).
The zealots call that success, and want to repeat it in Afghanistan. But any more such "success" will break us completely.
Still, the war goes on, and far from Afghanistan. Jihadists learned from the Taliban rout not to rely on one safe haven, "creating many safe havens, one to replace the other," as Jamestown Foundation analyst Murad Batal Al-shishani puts it. Besides the Af-Pak region, he writes, varying jihadist presences exist in regions including Yemen, Somalia, Central Asia, Lebanon and, yes, even Iraq. Plus, I would add, the leading cities of Europe and the United States.
For this global war, we not only need a new general, we need a completely fresh re-assessment.