Etcetera - 06/23/10

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Veteran commentator, journalist and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security Thomas E. Ricks mentioned a general on npr.org who has been planning to retire to Walla Walla this year.

Ricks said in the June 22 item, "Foreign Policy: Goodbye McChrystal, Hello Mattis?" that he "bet ... Gen. Stanley McChrystal will be gone within a week or so. (See related story on A5) Defense Secretary Gates canned Admiral Fallon as Central Command chief in the spring of 2007 for less pointed remarks, so he will look like a hypocrite if he does less here in response to McChrystal dissing Obama, Biden, and the White House in a new article in Rolling Stone."

Ricks believes it's time for a new team in Afghanistan and nominated Gen. David H. Petraeus to take the Afghanistan command.

"You could leave him nominally the Centcom chief but let his deputy, Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, oversee Iraq, the war planning for Iran, and dealing with Pakistan and the Horn of Africa," Ricks suggests.

"But more likely is that Petraeus will ask for another Marine general, James Mattis, who is just finishing up at Jiffycom, and who had planned to retire later this year and head home to Walla Walla, Washington.

"Petraeus and Mattis long have admired each other. The irony is that Mattis has a reputation -- unfairly, I think -- for speaking a little too bluntly in public about things like killing people. I think Mattis is a terrific, thoughtful leader."

A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for national reporting, Ricks covered the nation's military and wars for The Washington Post and previously for the Wall Street Journal.

He often contributes to a variety of periodicals and is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine, where he writes a blog called The Best Defense. He's authored two books on American military policy in Iraq, "The Gamble" and "Fiasco." A Massachusetts native, he grew up partly in Afghanistan, where he attended the American International School in Kabul.

NPR.org reportes that "Ricks has become an esteemed specialist on American military activities, most notably in the Middle East and Balkan regions."

"I do wonder if this mess is the result of leaving McChrystal out there too long," Ricks' commentary continued, "(McChrystal) has been going non-stop for several years, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. At any rate, his comments reflect a startling lack of discipline. He would expect more of one of his captains. We should expect more of him. I know, I've said worse about Biden. But part of my job is to comment on these things, even flippantly sometimes. Part of his job is not to."

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or 526-8313.

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