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Washington Post – Why McCrystal should stay

June 23, 2010

The author starts with a fairly obvious point

Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal exercised poor judgment in making disparaging remarks about several Obama administration officials to a reporter from Rolling Stone and in allowing members of his staff to make still more. It’s not clear that the general is guilty of insubordination; negative comments about the president and vice president in the article are attributed to unnamed members of his staff.

in addition I’m not sure that describing the President as distracted or unprepared for a meeting or expressing frustration about the decision making process really constitutes insubordination or that it even falls into the category of contempt towards officials. A case for contemptuous words against the Vice President by the staff probably could be made, for the “Bite Me” comment.

The piece then lists 3 reasons why McChrystal should stay –

1. He is the architect of the strategy that the administration has bought on to.
2. He has the best relations with the Afghans and Pakistanis
3. The fact that there is this deep seated feeling of contempt and frustration is the administrations fault not McChrystal’s.

Well we all know 3 won’t fly – Obama won’t take responsibility for leaving the toilet seat up much less an incoherent policy in Afghanistan. If possible he will blame Bush, if not McChrystal gets the blame. 1 isn’t really a valid reason either. Yes, McChrystal devised the current strategy, that doesn’t mean someone else can’t execute it, or even possibly improve it. That leaves 2 as the best reason of the three offered and I think it’s a valid reason, but is it enough? Maybe for the short term, but you can bet if that is the reason McChrystal is kept it will not be enough to save him for any longer that it takes for the administration to think up a reason he absolutely has to go. Maybe a “promotion” to a job that gives him little authority and zero respect.

In the course of writing this I re-read the Rolling Stones article and have come to the conclusion that this was a hatchet piece. The most negative expressions of feelings towards the administration don’t even come from McChrystal or his staff; they are expressed by the writer and are used in his criticism of McChrystal as a power hungry, out of control, General who has a flawed Afghan strategy.

Michael Hanlon also argues for retaining McChrystal in a USA Today piece, the reasoning is essentially the same as in the Washington Post.

I picked this up from the NY Times

One administration official described Mr. Obama as being particularly furious at a McChrystal aide’s characterization of him as not seeming “very engaged” during their first White House meeting.

That is completely understandable, a third persons subjective opinion on whether or not you were engaged in a conversation is a perfectly fine reason to be pissed at the person you were engaged in the conversation with, besides I’m sure Obama was at least as engaged in that conversation as he has been in resolving the Gulf oil spill in between rounds of golf.

In a rational world, the President, who wouldn’t be a child who throws a temper tantrum whenever his feelings get hurt, would read this article and say “We have a problem in Afghanistan, let’s get it fixed” instead of thinking about firing McChrystal.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2010 10:51 am

    Looks like he’s been removed. I had figured that would happen when they reported that he had been excluded from the strategy meeting after his meeting with Obama.

    • jenn1964 permalink*
      June 23, 2010 11:07 am

      Yeah, it’s a mistake in my opinion but it’s the President’s right. Hopefully Petraeus will be able to make some gains.

      I would laugh if Afghanistan pulled a Philippines and made McChrystal a Field Marshall and insisted he be put in command of ISAF.

    • June 23, 2010 12:38 pm

      In Obama’s defense (and it truly pains me to say those words), it may be a mistake, but realistically there may not have been much of a choice. Technically, his remarks are a court-martial offense.

      UCMJ, Article 88.

      Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

      It put Obama in a bad position. McChrystal very publicly committed a court-martial offense, and the remarks themselves – his and the aide’s – are ones that could be seen as undermining the chain of command. If Obama had let him get away with it, what would that say to the troops?

      Honestly, for McChrystal and his aide to make those comments in an interview for a national publication was just plain stupid. I really, really hate to side with Obama, but given McChrystal’s high profile position, I think he did the only thing he really could. I think his ego probably did play a part, but I think the result would have been the same without it, too.

      • xbradtc permalink
        June 23, 2010 2:38 pm

        You’d have a VERY hard time convincing a court that anything McChrystal said was contemptuous. Maybe his words were not flattering, but they were far from contemptuous.

        Article 88 doesn’t say an officer can’t criticize, it says an officer can’t use contemptuous words. What words are contemptuous?

      • June 23, 2010 4:28 pm

        I should know better by now than to trust the MSM, I really should.

        Now that I have found that Rolling Stone posted the actual article online and have had a chance to read it rather than just relying on the snippets and summaries all the “news” reports have put out, I can see that they’ve blown the general’s remarks way out of proportion (though his staff’s comments are pretty shocking).

        xbradtc, you’re right. Not court-martial material. Given his past clashes with Obama (assuming RS got that right), I still don’t see how this could have ended any other way, especially after the MSM got hold of it, but now I think that’s more due to Obama than McChrystal.

        I must remember: if I open the newspaper and it says “water is wet,” I should immediately go to the nearest faucet and turn it on to make sure.

  2. Joe permalink
    June 23, 2010 12:22 pm

    Obama would be crazy to remove McChrystal based on an interview or piece that he did in Rolling Stone. Obama should put aside his own ego in favor for keeping a general with strategic knowledge about the war in Afghanistan.

    Should McChrystal be fired? No. Should he be reprimanded? Yes. I was in the military (enlisted) and you never speak ill of the Commander in Chief (at least on camera). In private that is an entirely different subject matter.

  3. jenn1964 permalink*
    June 23, 2010 4:43 pm

    One of the biggest problems with the article is it was written like it took place over a very short period of time. That heightens the impact of the comments, makes it seem like the General and his staff are doing nothing but sitting around trashing the President. In reality he grabbed quotes over the course of a month. That’s one of the reasons I said this was a hatchet job.

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