Do wars and transparency mix?
President Barack Obama says he wants to have the most transparent administration ever.
There have been some subtle and not-so-subtle administration signals that perhaps General Stanley McChrystal publicly chatting about his views on Afghanistan strategy was not entirely welcome.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday urged advisers to offer their views to the president “candidly but privately” about a decision that “will be among the most important of his presidency.”
Gates named no names. But it would be difficult to ignore the timing of the comment, just days after McChrystal in London told the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that a strategy being floated by Vice President Joe Biden to narrow the mission in Afghanistan was short-sighted.
Usually, presidents want their generals seen (behind the Commander-in-Chief) and not heard (in public ahead of them). And Obama barely knows McChrystal. They met last week on Air Force One in Copenhagen for the first time since McChrystal presented a grim assessment of the war and requested more troops.
That report was earlier leaked to The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward. The leaking of the report (we don’t know who did it) could be seen as an attempt to force the president’s hand on the issue before he’s ready to take a stand.
Obama’s national security adviser James Jones, asked on CNN Sunday whether it was “unseemly” for men in uniform to openly campaign for their viewpoints, replied: “Ideally, it’s better for military advice to come up through the chain of command.”
So does this bode poorly for McChrystal’s future under Obama as commander-in-chief? Should a military general be publicly pressing his position on war strategy?
It seems October is the month for airing views on Afghanistan. Peter Galbraith, who was removed as deputy special U.N. representative in Afghanistan, on Sunday had a sharply direct opinion piece in The Washington Post about Afghan election fraud.
Photo credit: Reuters/Nacho Doce (McChrystal at a meeting in September), Reuters/Yves Herman (Gates and McChrystal at NATO headquarters)