At Penpoint The sacking of General Stanley McChrystal, as Commander of all forces in Afghanistan, may have cau-sed confusion among all forces in Afghanistan at a time when they were preparing for what seemed to be a final battle, but it was of a piece with previous American presidents removing in mid-battle a top commander, and establishing thereby the superiority of the civilian arm of the executive over the mili-tary. Interestingly, American pre-sidents have gone a long time without such a bloodletting and managed to avoid it during the whole of the Vietnam War. The last episode was the dismissal by Harry Truman of General Douglas MacArthur from his position as commander of the US forces in the Korean War. The tradition started during the civil war, when President Abraham Lincoln sacked his commander of the army of the Potomac, General George B. McClellan, in 1862, after having already sacked him as General in Chief of the USA earlier in the year. However, when Chief of Air Staff General Michael Dugan was sacked less than three months into his posting for threatening to bomb back into the Stone Age Saddam Hussein, that probably constituted the example that General McChrystal should have been most aware of, as having happened during his service as Army Special Operations action officer in the Joint Special Operations Command. McChrystal was sacked for making unflattering remarks about US Vice President Joe Biden to Michael Hastings, not to be confused with Max Hastings, who became famous as a war correspondent during the Falklands War. It must be kept in mind that Biden, formerly the Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is supposed to be the Obama administrations expert in this area, and with a black President and a female Secretary of State, he is also presumably part of the establishment effort to keep foreign relations in 'responsible (white male) hands. As McChrystal would, as a former West Poin-ter and the son of a major-general, be presumed part of this establishment, so his betrayal would be greater, and it was probably worsened by the praise for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, his resignation was prompted by the American solution to the perennial problem of over mighty generals. The nature of military command has been such that a certain type of person becomes an army commander, and gro-ws used to having his commands obeyed. Such a person does not take kindly to the kind of defeat that seems likely in Afghanistan. Also, such a person looks down upon civilians as interfering whenever they try and point out something. Afghanistan was supposed to be a lab for the new American counterinsurgency strategy, of which McChrystal was supposed to be a great exponent, as is his replacement, General David Petraeus. However, it did cause one problem, and that was the need for a strong and honest government, which the USA did not have in Afghanistan, with the close relationship between McChrystal and Karzai working against this. This is apart from the commitment of 10 to 15 years needed before it can be said to work. The strategy was not really new, being how the US military thought the Vietnam War would have been won. What McChry-stal was looking to was success providing an excuse to stay in Afghanistan beyond the deadline of next year. Both Karzai and India also looked to maintain their presences in Kabul through the presence of US troops, even after July next, when they will begin their withdrawal. However, whether the withdrawal is merely a token or the beginning of the ultimate US withdrawal from Afghanistan cannot be gauged, except to note that it will take place long before President Barack Obamas re-election is due. The US is also not viewing with favour the Pakistani moves to have Maulana Jalaluddin Haqq-ani and his son Sirajuddin, who with their fighters comprise a valuable asset for Pakistan, form part of the Kabul government around the time of, if not exactly at, the American withdrawal. However, the impending American departure is making all parties make their moves, and place themselves as advantageously as possible after that departure. McChrystal was not on the same page as the administration that appointed him, which made the Rolling Stone interview the last straw, rather than a nasty shock. The problem was probably worsened by the fact that the new US Ambassador to Afghanistan, and the man he was bypassing with the Karzai government was Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a retired army Lieutenant General who had served in Afghanistan as the trainer of its army, and like McChrystal a former Special Forces man after attending West Point. This was an unfavourable channel, and meant that any favour shown by the Secretary was neutralised by her man in Kabul, who would be infected by the same habits of high command as McChry-stal. In a way, the interview was fortunate, for it allowed Obama to sack his general for disobedience rather than not agreeing with him. McChrystals disobedience, or rather the contempt he had for Obama and his advisers, is part of the military tradition to which he belonged, and which in Pakistan has meant the launching of coups, because of the flaws which the military see in politicians. McChrystal mig-ht show why these coups never occur in the USA, because though he reached the rank of general, he never commanded any troops in the USA. Also, he had no Americans to hold his hand during his command. Coups in Pakistan occur because coup makers are operating with US backing. Coups alone are evidence that the Americans are not interested in exporting anything, because they would not be behind coups, with so many of the flaws present in Third World politicians also visible in American politicians, but with no coups carried out there. One of the primary concerns that would persist after McCh-rystals exit would be whether this would impact the war in Afghanistan. It had been going badly under him, with June, in which he fell, the worst month for the USA in terms of casualties. It was on McChrystals watch, during his tenure as commander of all forces in the theatre, that American deaths exceeded 1000. However, the kind of military personality McChr-ystal seems to be, is always optimistic, and would not anticipate the defeat that Stanley McChrystal in retirement will claim that he would have converted into victory. Therefore, it is unlikely that McChrystal would have deliberately given the interview. The reasons the Pakistan government has for supporting the USA remain: its members belief that the Americans guarantee them power. However, the impending departure of the USA from the region should be confirmed by the interview, which says that McChrystals staff, which would do the hard work, did not see a victory ahead. It must not be assumed that American military might will be able to guarantee anything, when it cannot even guarantee the safety of its generals. Email: maniazi@nation.com.pk