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McChrystal entertains, shares assessment of international affairs during speech at CMU

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Gen. Stanley McChrystal lectures on the “Security Challenges Facing America” on Friday, October 5th at Carnegie Mellon University. The former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, discussed the new concerns facing America in a globalized world, the proliferation of non-state actors and the advance of information technology and instantaneous communication. He shared a thorough assessment of U.S. security and what the future will hold.

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Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 11:53 p.m.

He jokes now about the magazine story that ended his 34-year military career, but retired four-star Gen. Stanley McChrystal was reticent to say much Friday beyond his well-honed speech on international affairs at Carnegie Mellon University.

“I retired in 2010, after an article in Rolling Stone magazine, you might have heard about it,” he said, evoking laughs during an hourlong talk at the University Center. “I cut my subscription to the magazine and brought them to their knees. And that day — 34 years in the Army, it's tough. I'm making a career decision of 90 degrees, completely unexpected.”

He declined an interview request to discuss his upcoming memoir “My Share of the Task,” scheduled to be published by Portfolio, an imprint of the Penguin Group.

The memoir was due out in November but Portfolio said the book has been delayed by a Pentagon review. It contains information about McChrystal's experience in special operations.

President Obama accepted McChrystal's resignation as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan because of the general's critical comments about the administration's handling of the Afghanistan war.

McChrystal, 58, now teaches classes about leadership at Yale University and runs a leadership consulting firm.

It is crucial to view the actions of the military from the perspective of the citizens of Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

He told a story of two neighboring villages in eastern Afghanistan. Village leaders asked the Army forces in the region in 2006 for help building a school.

The military obliged, building a school equidistant from the villages — a short walk convenient for children from both villages.

“Problem solved. American ingenuity,” McChrystal said. “Pretty quickly, the school gets attacked and partially destroyed. We go, ‘What in the world?' The Taliban got us. But it wasn't the Taliban. It was the locals.”

McChrystal said he learned later that residents of the villages hated each other and had fought for a century for some long-forgotten reason. They were also upset that the military had employed outside contractors to build the school instead of hiring local help.

McChrystal said Iran is a “questionable actor” in terms of national responsibility and likely poses an existential threat to Israel.

“There are nine known nuclear powers now, and if you're an Iranian, why wouldn't you want nuclear weapons?” he said. “Every country that has acquired nuclear weapons gets a new level of credibility in the world. We wouldn't pay a bit of attention to North Korea if they didn't have nuclear weapons.”

He said building a coalition of countries to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions is a wise strategy.

In war-torn Syria, McChrystal advised similar caution. “I think that as terrible as it sounds, we are better off to make sure we know (what to do), even if it's at the cost of extended violence, before we make a mistake. We could make it worse,” he said.

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or

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