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Monday, June 28, 2010

 McChrystal Without Tears
"We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us"--Pogo

It's hard to know whether to feel sympathy for U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who lost his job heading the nation's Afghanistan war because of remarks attributed to him and his staff in Rolling Stone.  After all, wasn't he trying to be nice to the media-a sort of latter-day John McCain?  Wasn't he trying to give the public via the media insight into how the country's military executives were managing the battlefield?  ("He speaks his mind with a candor rare for a high-ranking official," says the magazine article in characterizing him.)  And wasn't he possibly the victim of a journalist who, McChrystal apologists have suggested, chose not to honor a stipulation that interviews be conducted on background?

Well, perhaps.  But even so, the general and his team obviously forgot some basic tenets.  First, if you don't have something nice to say about person, don't say it.  (Remember the Will Rogers quip, "I never met a man I didn't like.")  Second, if you want to be critical, focus on the issue and not the person (this advice, which supposedly works well in marital arguments, seems apt here).  Third, always assume that your statements-even those uttered in private or marked "confidential"-will ultimately see the light of day (especially in today's world of enhanced discovery and Web postings).  Fourth, make sure that you've established beforehand with a reporter not only that your conversation is "on background" but also that you both clearly understand what "background" means (but still, don't forget tenets 1-3). 

Have I missed any other principles that McChrystal appears to have overlooked?  Probably.  Bottom line, however, is that he and his aides would not have been dismissed if they had remembered and adhered to an old Navy maxim:  "Loose lips sink ships." 

-- Jeff Bogart


7:15 pm edt          Comments


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