McChrystal: I won’t accept Newtown as the status quo

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal in January, while speaking with reporters.
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal in January, while speaking with reporters.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Retired Four-Star General Stanley McChrystal expressed cautious optimism about the security situation in Afghanistan Monday on Andrea Mitchell Reports, as the U.S. moves to accelerate the transition from the U.S. combat mission to a training role in advance of the American exit in 2014. “I think that the situation in Afghanistan has improved significantly in terms of security and improved less, but some, in terms of governance and economic development,” said Gen. McChrystal. “Right now, what I think we’ve got to do is ensure that the Afghan people have the confidence in the partnership with America.  I don’t think it’s as much a number of people or billions of dollars as it is the sense that they’ve got an ally.”

Before he retired in 2010, General McChrystal rose through a storied military career to be the top military commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan until a controversial profile in Rolling Stone magazine quoted him and his inner circle making disparaging remarks about the administration. The general resigned and is now teaching leadership and global affairs at Yale University.

He’s also out with a new memoir: “My Share of the Task” focuses on the larger themes and lessons of his military career, and the dramatic moments in America’s longest war.

Andrea Mitchell asked the general whether our culture celebrates military leaders beyond what they ought to be accorded.  “I think in any walk of life where you work really hard, sort of journeyman status most of your career, and suddenly you lead huge organizations and necessarily around you there are many of the trappings of power and the levers that you need to be able to pull, I think everybody has to keep themselves very, very grounded,” he said. “And I think that the vast majority have both feet firmly on the ground.”

The general is also speaking out about gun control and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School just over a month ago. “For most of my life I carried a weapon of war, and in the last few years, an N4-Carbine, which fires a 556 round at 3,000 feet per second, is exactly what American soldiers should carry, and it has just devastating impact on the human body of our enemies,” said McChrystal.

“But if the status quo in America is Newtown, if that’s what I’m being asked to accept, I’m not comfortable with that.  And I think the balance between protecting people and protecting rights of individuals has to protect our children and our streets as well.  So I want a very serious conversation because to me the status quo is just not something I’m happy with.”

McChrystal said he was pessimistic about the French offensive against Islamist rebels in Mali, a former French colony. “I think we’re going to find that the whole world, but particularly Africa and the Mid-East are changing and they’re going to keep changing,” he said. “I think what America has to first do is do our homework. Don’t be surprised by these very, very complex situations as they evolve…..Mali is complex and going to get worse.”

McChrystal: I won't accept Newtown as the status quo