That’s “Professor” McChrystal to you, bud!

Thinkers from the Middle Ages to Vanna White have likened the operation of Fortune to a Wheel. Chaucer, however, had it wrong in the “Monk’s Tale” when he portrayed Fortune as inevitably bringing great men down:

“And thus does Fortune’s wheel turn treacherously
And out of happiness bring men to sorrow.”

Professor Stanley A. McChrystal in an earlier career

And no one is better proof that Fortune can equally raise a man up as lay him low than Stanley A. McChrystal.

You may recall that goof-ball, devil-may-care Buck Turgidson who surrounded himself with high school assistant coaches whose mission it was to lift the spirits of the General by ranking on the straights who thought they controlled him. No one would ever pin back the ears of that guy! Literally.

McChrystal understandably believed that he was Fortune’s Golden Boy. After all, he survived a potentially problematic grilling over what he knew about the interrogations in Iraq (which involved torture and violated the Army Manual), conducted by troops under his command. It might have looked like a major challenge because the accusations were leveled by a respected and successful military interrogator who opposed the ’lil Patton pose of McChrystal. But when you are a practiced and successful liar, no challenge that only involves questioning by Congress is too great. Indeed, wasn’t he picked by the Great Agent of Change and the idol of the anti-militarist crybabies in this country to head up our non-Crusade in Afghanistan? Despite the fact that Pat Tillman’s family begged Obama to look into his lying about Pat Tillman’s death? After all, if the General could snow the guy who promised to get us out of Iraq — the guy who was against the War before he was for it — then what would stand in his way ever?

It had to be a severe shock to be brought down by Rolling Stones magazine. Who would have thought? It probably never crossed the mind of the General or his media handler (did Patton or Lee or Bonaparte have press advisers?) that the magazine read by stoners and aging rockers would have any influence whatever in Washington. But hard as it was to believe, a few rude remarks about Biden and the other civilians under the delusion that they controlled the military caused his career to come to an inglorious end.

Forced out by a reputed liberal! How humiliating to someone who proudly sported a crew cut. At this point, he might have agreed with Chaucer. If he knew who Chaucer was. But fortunately the military isn’t loaded with intellectuals, otherwise McChrystal might have given up. But not Stanley. Ahead! Ahead! Ahead! (Was that Patton or Danton?) And by dint of this kind of military can-do-ism, McChrystal landed a professorial gig at one of the two or three better schools in New Haven, Connecticut.

Meet Ben Stango. Ben has a double major, political science (of course) and humanities. In his free time he is learning to cave on all matters of principle, just like his heroes, Senate Democrats. His hobbies are organizing and cringing. He hopes some day to retire to a cushy bank job -- the same ambitiion that Christopher J. Dodd has.

And at his majestic entry into Yale, much like Caesar putting the Rubicon behind him or the Red Army sweeping into Berlin or Sherman trailing fire en route to Atlanta, all opposition, nay, all contrary wind ceases. So the Yale Democrats (yes, the school that produced George H.W. and George W. and Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton actually has a Democratic club) obliges by cancelling the scheduled screening of The Pat Tillman Story, the documentary which shows that McChrystal was a pathological … err, it puts him in a bad light. Were they being craven? No, not at all, heaven forfend! Ben Stango, President of the Yale Democrats, says: “The Yale College Democrats do not attack war heroes. We do not attack members of the Yale faculty.” So there you have it. Yale Democrats have a muzzle. And Stanley McChrystal is a war hero! An ivy league “Democrat” says so! I guess he really is Fortune’s Golden Boy. And Stango has just lessened the chance of getting an atomic wedgie in case he passes the General hanging out with his old army buddies in the lav sneaking a smoke.

Update [same day]: The syllabus of the “course” given by Professor McChrystal was given or leaked to or obtained by (?) the Yale Daily News and was published on September 2. To no one’s surprise it looks just like you would expect if a football coach was required to give a course in something for some reason: It’s about himself. The first day of the “seminar” they were to discuss (it was on September 7) “The Importance of Leading Differently – The Changing Operating Environment.” Differently than what? is not entirely clear. It’s probably not clear to the prof either, but you’ll never hear any criticism from Ben Stango even if that were the case. The topics discussed were these “historical examples”:

  • Case Study 1: The career of Stanley McChrystal
  • Case Study 3: The 2002-2003 decision to invade Iraq
  • Case Study 3: The United States Civil War
  • Case Study 4: German Grand Strategy of World War 2

If #3 was a study of George McClellan then it seems that they discussed failure in the first class.


From the handouts. General McClellan meets with Abraham Lincoln. After being fired for the second time for incompetence, McClellan decides to run for President (unsuccessfully) rather than teach a graduate course in New Haven. The students will discuss why he made this poor choice.

That failure is the theme of the first class is further evidenced by the required reading:  “Filkins, Dexter. Stanley McChrystal’s Long War. The New York Times Magazine. 18th October 2009. P. 36.”

In fact all the classes seem to revolve around failure:

  • 27th September 2010 (6-8pm): “Coping With Failure”
  • 12th October 2010: “Navigating Politics”
  • 9th November 2010: “Dealing With Cultural Differences” (Will he spill the story of his command in Iraq here?)
  • 16th November 2010: “Communicating the Story – the Media Environment”
  • 30th November 2010 (Assignment 3 Due): “The Leader – the Personal Impact of Responsibility, Notoriety and Other Realities”

Usually narcissists put themselves in a good light. It’s rare to see someone lead a three-month discussion on his own short-comings. Is this a 12 step program? Or is the whole thing a put on by some fun-lovers at the Yale Daily News? Or maybe the course was written by the same press agent who arranged the Rolling Stones interview.

Whatever the explanation I’m wondering if Yale could have gotten the same bang for its buck if it just hired McChrystal to stand next to the Dodo bird in its Peabody Musuem. That way the educational value of the McChrystal experience wouldn’t be limited to a few graduate students who are destined some day to screw up some institution. (But they would have done that anyway, even if they weren’t shown how to by Professor McChrystal.)

Dodo Exhibit at the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven, Connecticut


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