Not exactly breaking news, but good call firing McChrystal

The other day I heard an old TED talk by Stanley McChrystal, the general famously let go in 2010 after his immediate retinue showed an astonishing contempt for the army’s civilian leadership in front of a Rolling Stone reporter. I get all kinds of talks from TED, some enlightening and some less so, but this one kind of floored me. He has basically one message, repeated slowly and with emphasis: great leaders forgive people who screw up and certainly don’t fire them. That may seem a smidge rich considering, well, you know. But! Lest he come across as an unrepentant insubordinate venting his grievances in public like a divorced drunk would to his bartender, McChrystal takes care to not mention the words “Obama” or “poopy mcstinkpants” even once. So who knows what inspired this particular diatribe. Could be anything!

To illustrate McChrystal reminisces about a time he got smoked in a simulated engagement designed specifically to trip up young officers. In other words he failed the Kobayashi Maru test, exactly as intended, and to his eternal amazement his commanding officer did not have him hanged. This further reinforces that he could not possibly be talking about you-know-who, because comparing a training exercise to gross insubordination by the staff of a commanding general in a real conflict would be incredibly stupid.

In all honesty I love TED at least as often as I roll my eyes, but the decision to build an hour-long episode around this kind of baffles me.






23 replies
  1. 1
    Cervantes says:

    Have not paid much attention to TED but I can’t say I’m surprised that the general found an opportunity there.

  2. 2
    Michael G says:

    Well according to that Rolling Stone article favorite beer is Bud Light Lime, so there were at least *two* strikes against him.

  3. 3
    jl says:

    Some TED talks are great little explications of real science, or art, or history or community action, others are facile dreck that would fit better at some Jackson a-hole or Aspen shindig of rich farts. So, I won’t generalize about them.

    But aren’t TED talks supposed to have some kind of ‘outside-the-box’ wild and crazy thinking where you try and work in a phrase like “poopy mcstinkpants” and make it work? Just sayin’.

  4. 4
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    TED: Cliff Notes for First World Problems. Color me unimpressed by all of it.

  5. 5
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @Michael G: Personally, the Bud Light Lime would be enough to have the General put on the bench.

    Strike One: Bud.
    Strike Two: Light.
    Strike Three: Lime.

    Yer outta there!

  6. 6
    Violet says:

    A lot of TED talks are more interesting for what they say about the person giving the talk than the content of the talk itself. This talk sounds like one of those.

  7. 7

    I have never heard a single TED talk, too boring for me.

  8. 8

    TED Talks: Allowing disgraced idiots to re-litigate their mistakes. So much value there.

  9. 9
    Trollhattan says:

    @NorthLeft12:
    Kudos for not using the word “beer” in any part of your post.

    Love how Colbert is always flogging the stuff, along with whatever the latest bizarre Doritos flavor might be jalapena-panda-ranch-cheddar-wing..

  10. 10
    maeve says:

    Personally I prefer the Onion Talks

    http://youtu.be/tom6_ceTu9s

  11. 11
    Seanly says:

    Everything that is wrong with TED talks can be seen in the cut footage of Peter Welyland’s (Guy Pearce) TED talk from the movie Prometheus. I don’t think it was meant to be a parody of TED talks, but it perfectly encapsulates how pretentious & full of crap they are.

  12. 12
    Roger Moore says:

    @Trollhattan:

    Kudos for not using the word “beer” in any part of your post.

    Why would one include the word beer when talking about Bud Light Lime? The “sex in a canoe” joke definitely applies.

  13. 13
    MattF says:

    I suppose you could pay me to listen to a TED talk. But it would have to be a significant amount of money.

  14. 14
    allium says:

    Personally, I could forgive consuming Bud Light Lime (or, for that matter, most any macrobrew) as a combination hydration device/mild analgesic while, say, doing yard work in the summer.

    But going out of your way to get it while you’re stationed in Europe?

  15. 15
    aimai says:

    @jl: Its “permission to suck” by Megan McCardle but just with some military braid thrown over it.

  16. 16

    I confess I have never listened to a TED talk. So I don’t know if they are just self indulgent monologues by rich people who claim that “this thing I did to get rich” will save the world and only as a side effect make them even richer. But I do strongly suspect that is the case.

  17. 17
    John M. Burt says:

    I was intrigued when someone described the Bilderberger Group as having started out as TED Talks behind closed doors, and going downhill into an even more boring social gathering in later years.
    Just imagine the conspiratorial whispers if McChrystal* had addressed the Secret Masters of the World, including Hillary Clinton, at their Secret Gathering . . . ?

    *Isn’t that the name of a light beer itself?

  18. 18
    JustRuss says:

    great leaders forgive people who screw up and certainly don’t fire them

    I can understand McChrystal’s confusion. When you have a punditocracy serving up warmed-over fail week after week, the same banksters that crashed our economy busily working on doing so again while crying about any efforts to hold them accountable or rein them in, and torturers getting free passes, “Consequences are only for little people” is a reasonable hypothesis.

  19. 19
    Jamey says:

    @jl: Some 99.99& of TED talks are great little explications of real science, or art, or history or community action, others the rest are facile dreck that would fit better at some Jackson a-hole or Aspen shindig of rich farts. So, I won’t generalize about them.

    Fix’t

  20. 20
    kwAwk says:

    I don’t know that McCrystal is really aiming at Obama on this. McCrystal’s sin wasn’t criticizing Obama it was just a standard bitch session that occurs every day at all levels of the military. McCrystal’s sin was allowing himself to be caught by a Rolling Stone reporter so that his bitch session was made public.

    Everybody bitches about their boss when the boss isn’t around. What this seems like is a straight forward lesson on leadership. Gather your employees. Motivate and listen to them. Listen to people below you in the hierarchy especially if they’re more informed than you are.

  21. 21
    Sterling says:

    He should have given a TED talk on hubris and knowing when to keep your mouth shut. I assume he learned that lesson by now.

  22. 22
    Lee says:

    I’ve watched a few.

    I think the 2 most interesting that come readily to mind are Bill Gates’ on malaria and nuclear power. The one on nuclear power I like to send to my wingnut friends when they complain about cutting CO2 will take us back to the stone age.

  23. 23
    Bill Arnold says:

    @maeve:

    Personally I prefer the Onion Talks

    Thank you for that link. Very funny, if a little long. (FWIW I’m easily amused.)

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