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Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business at the University of Southern California. His newest book is 'Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.'

Salvaging the mission

Q: In confronting the issue of Gen. McChrystal's apparent insubordination, did President Obama have any choice but to remove him? Going forward, what can Gen. Petraeus do to overcome this dramatic shakeup and keep his troops reassured and on mission?

It was definitely the right call. For one thing, if I had a kid fighting in Afghanistan, I'd be terrified and enraged. More importantly, this isn't the first time McChrystal has been insubordinate. Not too many months ago the gaffe prone General in London responded to a question with an unauthorized opinion. He should have been discharged then. The current gaffe by the "misspoken" General is far more important. He has not only undermined his boss during a war but has engendered a fractious atmosphere at the top level of his command.

Petraeus is an excellent choice and will deploy his formidable diplomatic and political skills he so wisely used in Iraq to create a cohesive top team, respond to the press with Jim Baker wisdom, and, overall smooth out the sore spots McChystal has clumsily created. That being said Afghanistan is not Iraq as all the media have pointed out. With his excess smarts and charm plus his contextual intelligence, he is a brilliant choice, smart enough to realize that the strategy he helped create is un-winnable, at least not winnable in the unrealistic drawdown period Obama announced last year. We should have figured that out six or seven years ago given the corruption, instability and growing power of the Taliban and warlords, not to mention the instability and slippery irreality of Afghan's leader, the absurdly silly empty cape, Karzai.

Fixing the mistake of a hopelessly incoherent strategy similar to but far more dangerous than Iraq, is impossible and Petraeus must know that. He the right person at the right time to construct a brilliant, if not seamless, exit strategy.

By Warren Bennis

 |  June 24, 2010; 11:28 AM ET
Category:  Military Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Our broken strategy-making process | Next: What matters now is Afghanistan


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If the mission is to withdraw from Afghanistan without convincing the Islamists that their strategy to enforce their version of Islam is futile then we should be ready for an arc of destabilization spanning from Pakistan ,Central Asia, Middle East all the way to the Turkey and eventually Europe.
Pakistan now stands fully committed to fighting these forces (26000 Pakistani killed so far) and any sign of weakness by the US will convince the Osamists and the sceptic Pakistanis that US is only a paper tiger. That would reinforce the long held view of the Islamists that they can outlast the WILL of the American people to stay in a fight.
I am sure Gen Patraeus exactly knows the stakes particularly for Pakistan. I hope he succeeds otherwise....

Posted by: pervezak | June 25, 2010 12:28 PM
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