General Stanley McCrystal joined me in studio this morning. We had arranged the sit down weeks ago, but of course the conversation opened on President Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria:
HH: I’m so glad you’re joining today. Our new stations in Springfield, Illinois, Ithaca, New York, Portland, Maine, Keane and Manchester, New Hampshire, Harrisburg, Virginia, because you never got to hear me interview General Stanley McChrystal when he’s previously been on the show. Now, you get to do so. In fact, he’s the first basement tape I’ve made. He’s actually in the studio with me. General McChrystal, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Great to have you on.
SM: It’s an honor to be here. Thanks.
HH: We’re going to talk at length about Leaders, and we’re going to talk uninterrupted, and the entire conversation will post over at HughHewitt.com. But I have, this is serendipitous. We set this up weeks ago, and yesterday, the President announced we’re pulling out of Syria. You have to know what that means in the military. What do you think of that decision?
SM: I think it’s ill-taken. I think that we will lose our influence in the region. And while we may not like the risk of having soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines there, we have to have influence in the region, and that means presence.
HH: And so when we withdraw from that, does that put the gains in Iraq at risk, in your view?
SM: I think it does. I think it puts the stability of the entire region more broadly at risk.
HH: And in terms of ISIS being defeated, there is still 15-20,000 flying the black flag. You went one on one with these guys. We’re going to talk about Zarqawi, because Zarqawi figures in your book, Leaders. Do you think they’re eradicated? Are they still a risk?
SM: I think they’re a big risk. And ISIS is as much an idea as it is number of fighters. So you can get fixated on counting heads. In reality, it’s a franchise kind of system. It’s very powerful still, and it needs to be dealt with.
HH: Okay, so now when soldiers hear they’re going home, they’re usually pretty happy. But do you think the soldiers who get sent to Syria are unhappy about doing what is in essence garrison work at this point, right?
SM: I think they think it’s important. The ones I’ve talked to think it’s important. And they also know, particularly this generation, if we don’t get it done, they’ll be back.
HH: All right, last question on this. The President’s made a decision. Leaders sometimes make bad decisions. That’s in your book, a lot of bad decisions. Lee and the 3rd day at Gettysburg, right? We’ll come to that. So Lindsey Graham has said don’t do this. You’ve got Tom Cotton, Dan Sullivan, Todd Young, Joni Ernst, a lot of combat veterans. What would you do if you’re confronted with overwhelming evidence of a bad decision? What’s the advice a leader ought to follow in that situation?
SM: Well, I think the leader ought to listen to advice. Now there are times a leader has to go against advice, because a leader has the ultimate responsibility. But the reality is if a lot of rational people are saying something different from what you decided, you ought to relook at it.
[The balance of the transcript of our long conversation and the video of it will post asap]