Michael Hastings, the Rolling Stone reporter whose article resulted in the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, was told his request to embed with a unit was denied. Some reports I read said he had originally been told he could embed but that decision was reversed. Mr. Hastings is not too happy about it from what I have seen. I’m truly surprised that he thought for a minute he would be able to do this so soon after the article.
Let me be the first to say that the things Gen. McChrystal said were inappropriate for a military officer but, I do admire the man for not trying to squirm out of the comments and resigning. In my opinion, he left with honor.
What surprises me is the Hastings would think for a minute he would be welcomed back as an embedded reporter. I think he really does not understand the military and he seems to have no respect for it. First, if he knew anything about the military, he surely knew what consequences would be suffered by Gen. McChrystal once the article was published. The Inspector General is now conducting a review of those involved in the article to see if any are guilty of insubordination but one article states that Hastings has refused to cooperate with the investigation. That, to me, is a sign of his disrespect for the institution.
Let’s look at what Hastings really did and why the only explanations I can up with for his surprise at being denied an embed is ignorance or tunnel vision. Hastings was invited to a house as a guest. Once there he drank all the beer, left trash all over the place, ate all of the food, kicked the dog, and insulted all of your family members. He leaves. Then, when he wants to come back a few weeks later for another visit he is told no and is surprised. He really must just not get it.
But what did he get for himself? Well he got an article that seems to have resulted in record Rolling Stone sales. He seems to have made somewhat of a name for himself. And it also appears he got a book deal out of the article. It seems to me like he came out with a pretty good deal.
But what did it cost? Well, it cost a great general his career. It broke up what seemed to be a good team (Petraeus-McChrystal) on the right track in Afghanistan. But the greatest cost may well be the lack of information and insight the American people–no, the people of the world–will get. His self-glorification means that every embedded reporter is going to be scrutinized likely resulting in fewer being able to report. Those who are allowed will be around military people who are closely guarded in what they say. The result will be less information, less insight, and less of an idea of what the people are who are fighting these wars.
And it was all unnecessary. Hastings could have reported on what he found in a way that would not have resulted in embarrassment and resignations. But then again, learning that military people may actually have opinions is not news. Reporting that some in the military approve of what the President is doing and some do not approve is not titillating. But publishing the article in the way it was published did help him make a name for himself. In my opinion he sacrificed his honor and it is unlikely anyone in the military will ever trust him again. On the other hand, by his actions after the article was published preserved his honor and will likely be trusted by all he meets. Rare is the individual who will stand up and willingly be held accountable for his actions; rare, that is, everywhere except in the military.