I am puzzled: How can a general as brilliant as McChrystal get himself into such a trouble? Is McChrystal that brilliant?
By all accounts as reported by the media and by commentators, the problem for McChrystal seems to lie in the foul language used or in comments about current world leaders including the US President and the Vice President.
On reading the actual Rolling Stone article itself "The Runaway General", I get a different picture.
From the article, McChrystal comes across as an alert person who seems to have a disdain for authority (and hence his arrogance) but who is totally at home with the simple and ordinary people. Alert because he seems to be aware of what is going on all the time, and how things are faring at various strategic points. He therefore was not a loose cannon who bad mouth current leaders, as subsequent reports suggest.
McChrystal indeed was very careful with the words he used. The times when he was quoted using expletives was when he was commenting on situations rather than persons. In the case of his having to have dinner with the French Minister, the quote was this: "How'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?" demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
What the reporter Micheal Hastings did which was clever but which could have created a gross misunderstanding of McChrystal was that, in order to be able to provide anomymous quotations from the people surrounding McChrystal, he created this literally fiction called "Team McChrystal" and attributed all remarks to it. If read rapidly, it appears that McChrystal was making those remarks. Of course, those remarks who use expletives, as they were typical off-hand remarks in informal occasions.
Underneath all these remarks is the underlying argument over how the US can get out the Afganistan. The simplest solution is just to pull out. But McChrystal has argued for a so-called counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy with the purpose of first stabilising the situation in Afganistan by installing a credible government and a stable society so that a military pullout will not create a civil war.
The problem, according to the article, is that COIN seems to be a very different strategy to execute because (a) it calls for a surge in ground troops in order to maintain order and the US has sent in 30,000 more troops, (b) it calls for military restraint in that US soldiers are told not to fire at most times and this has led to a rise in US troop deaths, and (c) by pouring in financial aids, the strategy is fueling corruption and discrediting the incumbent government in the eyes of the Afgan civilians.
But if Obama has already bought the COIN strategy, then replacing may not change the strategy - unless the new general comes out with a new strategy for a US pullout from Afganistan.
McChrystal could be brilliant. If he realises that the strategy he has sold to Obama does not really now work, then the Rolling Stone article with its consequence (now known) may just be a smart way for him to get out of a very difficult place. This McChrystal has achieved.