It seems to be antithetical to his life to compare journalist Michael Hastings to General George Patton, but they both worked extensively in war zones, and both met their ends in automobile accidents. Hastings is most famous for publishing a report in Rolling Stone magazine that brought down General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Hastings was also a journalist who critically examined U.S. foreign policy, the U.S. military, and the media’s relation to power. His take down of COIN (counterinsurgency) in his book The Operators is among the most important pieces of writing about military policy I’ve ever read, and gets to the heart of the hubris in thinking one can defeat an insurgency with military operations.
It was a privilege for me to be able to sit and watch a 2012 Netroots Nation panel on “progressive security policy” which featured Hastings, Ali Gharib, Kristin Lord, and Tom Perriello (Mother Jones’ Adam Weinstein moderated). Alone among the panelists, Hastings pushed backed on the idea of the existence of a progressive security policy. In the wake of confirmation of the NSA wiretapping program, the way drones have come to the front and center in recent months, and as we debate the policy of intervention into Syria, the loss of Michael Hastings will seriously handicap our ability to have an expansive conversation about U.S. national security. Progressives critical of overreaching foreign policy and the national security state will no longer have Hastings’ brilliant journalism to help broaden their ideas.