Was The Rolling Stone Article The Excuse, Not The Reason?
Gen. Stanley McChrystal was relieved of command in Afghanistan after an article in Rolling Stone magazine.
The article widely was described as evidencing McChrystal’s insubordination by criticizing the political leadership, but as I demonstrated, such explanation did not make a lot of sense. There were almost no comments attributed directly to McChrystal, and most of the sensational comments were by unnamed subordinates of McChrystal.
While McChrystal rightly could be criticized for allowing a reporter for Rolling Stone (who allegedly violated the ground rules of the relationship) to get so close, and perhaps for permitting an inappropriate atmosphere in his command, the scenario of the firing still made no sense to me.
Now the picture may be coming into focus, and the Rolling Stone article may have been the excuse Obama was looking for to fire McChrystal, not the reason.
At least that is what is alleged in an article in The Independent, which maintains that a devastating assessment by McChrystal of the bleak situation in Afghanistan precipitated McChrystal’s termination:
Sacked US General Stanley McChrystal issued a devastatingly critical assessment of the war against a “resilient and growing insurgency” just days before being forced out.
Using confidential military documents, copies of which have been seen by the IoS, the “runaway general” briefed defence ministers from Nato and the International security Assistance Force (Isaf) earlier this month, and warned them not to expect any progress in the next six months. During his presentation, he raised serious concerns over levels of security, violence, and corruption within the Afghan administration….
It was this briefing, according to informed sources, as much as the Rolling Stone article, which convinced Mr Obama to move against the former head of US Special Forces, as costs soar to $7bn a month and the body count rises to record levels, because it undermined the White House political team’s aim of pulling some troops out of Afghanistan in time for the US elections in 2012. In addition to being the result of some too-candid comments in a magazine article, the President’s decision to dispense with his commander was seen by the general’s supporters as a politically motivated culmination of their disagreements.
For most of his first year in office, Obama neglected Afghanistan and focused on passing the Democratic health care bill. Everything else took a back seat.
That neglect, about which I posted earlier, wasted precious time. During that first year, Obama also sent a message of weakness, both through his apology tours and the setting of an artificial withdrawal date.
If the account by The Independent is accurate, then Obama has put politics ahead of the war effort.
This is one of those “it better not be true” scenarios.
I Hope Rolling Stone Is Happy
Now They’re Just Starting to Ask Questions About Afghanistan?
A War Plan Designed By Committee
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General Stanley McChrystal, the nation’s expert on unconventional warfare, has been fired by Barack H. Obama.
Various talking heads, especially on The Right, seem to think this is a sign of weakness on Obama’s part. They seem to think it means that he is really thin-skinned, and took the comments from the Rolling Stone article much too personally. Obama is, in fact, really thin-skinned, but that isn’t what motivated the firing of McChrystal.
Various talking heads are pooh-poohing the Stone article, noting that McChrystal didn’t say all that much himself, and that the quotes from members of his staff are not attributed. They correctly point out that the sentiments expressed in the article are true.
That they are true is beside the point. In the Uniform Code of Military Justice, by which McChrystal and his subordinates are bound, we find a rather delightful phrase in Article 89, which deals with insubordination toward a superior commissioned officer: “… truth is no defense …”. Apparently those who framed the UCMJ understood not every officer is a military genius. While one might correctly argue that Obama is not a superior commissioned officer, the facts are that he is the commander-in-chief; McChrystal is one of his subordinates; and then we have Article 88, which deals with disrespect toward the president and other civilian authority. The two articles combined form a significant part of the basis for discipline within the chain-of-command, and express the foundation for civilian control of the nation’s military. McChrystal failed utterly in his duty in this respect. The right should not let their dislike for Obama and/or his policies cloud that essential fact.
This was all explained by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen: "I cannot excuse his lack of judgment with respect to the Rolling Stone article or a command climate he evidently permitted that was at best disrespectful of civilian authority. We do not have that luxury, those of us in uniform."
Note that Mullen talks about the command climate. Note that McChrystal does not dispute that the article is factually correct. This is the crux of the matter. McChrystal not only tolerated, but encouraged, an obvious atmosphere of disrespect for civilian command authority to exist in his command.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), himself a military lawyer, observed: “… let me just say this to these officers who are unnamed … I understand you’re warriors and you’ve been shot at and you’re brave. But you let yourself and your Army down. The language used, the cavalier attitude, the disrespect, even though you may have disagreement, was unacceptable.
This is a low point, in my view, for the Armed Forces in a very long time. And I am glad the president made this decision. And some other officers need to be looked at.”
McChrystal, as a commanding general, would never have tolerated such an attitude in his subordinate commands were that attitude directed as his leadership. It is unreasonable, and inherently dangerous, to expect Barack H. Obama to tolerate it from his generals.
Why is it dangerous? It is essential to our nation’s well-being that the military be kept on a short leash by civilian authority. The Right is full of self-styled Constitutional experts. They should understand this better than those on the left, whom they accuse of undermining the Constitution at every opportunity. Or would they prefer the likes of General James Matoon Scott?
McChrystal has been fired, and General Petraeus has been demoted in order to fill McChrystal’s place. The insubordination has been dealt with. Now, what will the commander-in-chief do to address McChrystal’s truths?
In my humble opinion, this may be Obama's first step in a three-step program to close down the Afghan war.
The next step will be to find some horrible flaw in the performance of General Petraeus, and remove him in 'disgrace', with the help of the MSM. I clearly remember Senator Obama heaping public opprobrium on Petraeus regarding the surge, and I don't believe that Petraeus's success at it mad poor Obama feel any better.
And the third step (the first under total control of Obama) will be to appoint yet another unlucky General to preside over the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Middle East while he's at it.
I must disagree. I comment as a retired military officer. The issue is with the "command climate" for which the Commanding General is responsible. Further, by allowing such a climate to exist, the Commander-in-Chief lost confidence in the ability of the general to command; such ability necessarily including the wholehearted execution of the President's strategy.
That said, one must question the strategy of the President in Afghanistan, his half-measures are clearly not working, as was predicted, and we must remember where the buck stops.
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