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Retired general suggests military “muddle along” in Afghanistan.

Paula Bronstein/Getty

Task and Purpose is reporting that retired General Stanley McChrystal, who once led the NATO mission in Afghanistan, made some striking comments at a presentation in New York in late November.

McChrystal, who had been relieved of command in 2010 after insulting former President Barack Obama, was asked by an audience member about Afghanistan. “I met with Secretary Pompeo this morning and he asked me the same question, and I said, ‘I don’t know.’ I wish I did,” McChrystal said. “My best suggestion is to keep a limited number of forces there and just kind of muddle along and see what we can do.”

The retired military leader acknowledged the inadequacy of this answer: “But that means you’re gonna lose some people, and then it’s fair for Americans to ask, ‘why am I doing this? Why am I putting my sons and daughters in harm’s way?’ And the answer is, there’s a certain cost to doing things in the world, being engaged. That’s not as satisfying. That’s not an applause line kind of answer, but that’s what I think, the only thing I could recommend.”

One problem with McChrystal’s suggestion is that the current strategy of muddling along already seems to be setting America on the road to defeat. But McChrystal himself raises the deeper problem, which is that there’s no plausible answer to American soldiers as to why they should fight for a war with so murky a purpose. To paraphrase John Kerry during the Vietnam war: How do you ask a soldier to be the
last person to die for a muddle?