Stan McChrystal, the lean and mean attack dog. You are going to meet him at noon on the long and dusty streets of Somewhere in Afghanistan and he is going to be a faster draw than you are. Just count the notches in his guns, the ones which hang so relaxedly against his chaps-covered legs. Look into those pale eyes, squinted against the harsh light. Are they alive or are they dead? Do not look for mercy in Stan The Gun.
Unless you belong to his team, the team of killers and marauders and spy-masters. If you are lucky enough, you and Stan will go out with the boyz and get drunk while cracking rude jokes about all the people with fewer guns. You will dance together, you will hug together (rough and manly hugs only, with bruises left behind) while the French surrender monkeys only dream about a rod as stiff as yours.
OK. I got carried away while reading Michael Hasting's well-written Rolling Stone article on General Stan McChrystal and the way he plays the hard boyz game in Afghanistan. Hastings gets to go to places where I could never go and the response he gets I would never get. But a goddess can dream, and for a few seconds* I felt strangely attracted to the world the article painted: one where everything you do matters, where your word is the law, where your guns will kill people or not, depending on what you decide. A world of power or at least a world where power is the game. Because it all sounds like a John Le Carre novel, except without that one guy in the books who has deep feelings and thoughts.
I find it hard to shake, that unreal feeling. I find it hard to think of the human chess game where the Karzai-doll is dressed up as a leader, where he is moved from one opinion to another, where this warlord gets funding and that warlord gets killed, where the General badmouths the Vice-President and where we all then discuss whether the General should be fired or whether he is so important as the game-master that he must be retained, even when that means that the president will lose the penis-measuring part of the game.
It's an unreal feeling not only because I'm still facing McChrystal at the OK Corral in my mind (he having just downed a bottle of whisky and with a toothpick between his firmly pressed lips) but also because none of us has any say in the decision about McChrystal and his future. And because of the way the article weaves this wonderful story of exceptional masculine belligerence together with puny bites like these:
At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry. "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke," he groans. "I don't even want to open it." He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance.
"Make sure you don't get any of that on your leg," an aide jokes, referring to the e-mail.
Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. "I never know what's going to pop out until I'm up there, that's the problem," he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.
"Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says with a laugh. "Who's that?"
"Biden?" suggests a top adviser. "Did you say: Bite Me?"
What's in those quotes is called bitching when women do it but here it is something else. Something honest and raw and real. Like a le Carre novel.
That's one possible reading. Another one reads like bedtime for General McChrystal, or perhaps not, depending on the Realpolitik of the situation and what might benefit some group in power the most in the short run or in the long run, what might win elections here in the United States and what might create "stability" in Afghanistan, whatever that means and assuming that it can be created at all.
If I only could shake off those images of Stan the Gun I could write something on the substantive questions in the article.
*Well, a few minutes.