It’s official: Gen. Stanley McChrystal has been pushed out as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The move follows a controversial interview he gave to Rolling Stone in which he chides several higher-ups in the administration including the president, vice president and members of the national security team, not to mention foreign dignitaries.
In announcing the decision, President Obama praised McChrystal’s service to the country until this point, but said that ultimately, “the conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general.”
This may not be the way McChrystal saw his career heading, but don’t feel too sorry for him. Ultimately, he may still have positive prospects down the road. “I think he’ll do pretty well for himself,” said Michael Noonan, the managing director of the program on national security studies at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a nonprofit organization. “He’s definitely not kryptonite at this point.”
According to Noonan, McChrystal essentially has two options. “One is to buy a ranch or farm someplace and just kick back, but from his temperament I don’t see that as really being an option,” he said. Instead, it’s likely that McChrystal will seek a prestigious but lower profile position in the private sector. Here are a few possibilities:
The military sometimes brings back retired officers to serve as advisers to current members of the armed forces. According to Noonan, their job is to consult on war games, current operations and general strategy. This position may be a particularly good fit for McChrystal who, despite his recent blunders, is known for being a savvy strategist. And if he needs an added incentive, this job pays extraordinarily well. USA Today notes that mentors typically earn between $200-$350 an hour, plus excellent benefits. This pay is commensurate with experience, which McChrystal has in spades.
Military generals and politicians often end up serving on a corporate board where they receive what Noonan calls a “fairly good remuneration.” That’s probably an understatement. Corporate board members often make six-figure salaries. In particular, McChrystal might end up serving on the board of a defense contractor given his previous experience.
Academia and Philanthropy
As with corporate boards, former generals are considered a valuable resource in academia and philanthropy because of their proven leadership credentials. Noonan speculates that McChrystal could find work down the road as the president of a university or foundation. He notes that the McCormick Tribune Foundation in Chicago might be one possibility since they have a history of hiring retired generals.
Write a Book
As with any public figure, McChrystal does have the option to write a book about his experiences, which would probably earn him a pretty penny. But this does come with a caveat. According to Noonan, McChrystal worked in a “highly classified role,” which means he would be heavily restricted in what information he could divulge (although, to be fair, that didn’t stop him from speaking his mind to Rolling Stone). The other restriction that Noonan notes is that the military typically fosters a culture where people are “shunned” for speaking out too much.
Earlier this month, Blackwater, an infamous private contracting company hired by the military, went on sale. No word yet on the asking price, but it will certainly be in the tens of millions. Maybe the general should buy it. If he doesn’t have the money now, he can work one of the other jobs on the list until he does.
In all the fuss about the Rolling Stone article, you may have missed the line in the piece where the writer brilliantly describes McChrystal as being “gaunt and lean, not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn.” Well, General, take that as a compliment. Perhaps you could star in the movie remake of The Dark Knight Returns, the comic about Batman fighting in his older years. Just a thought, sir.
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