General headed to the woodshed, will he get the axe?

June 22, 2010

The sound of palms slapping foreheads could be heard all over Washington, the physical exclamation of “what were they thinking?”

The spectacularly frank quotes from General Stanley McChrystal and his aides mocking Vice President Joe Biden and other top advisers to the president and commander-in-chief were jaw-dropping, not because that’s what they really thought, but because the views were uttered to a reporter working on a profile for Rolling Stone magazine. USA/AFGHANISTAN

Right from the first headline of the article titled “The Runaway General” it was apparent what was to come: “Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

It’s one thing to talk truth to power — considered an admirable trait in military and intelligence circles — and quite another to make fun of  top civilian leadership behind their backs in a very public forum.

So the general has been summoned to Washington from the battlefields of Afghanistan to explain this serious breach in chain-of-command etiquette. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a warm welcome.

UPDATE: President Barack Obama after a cabinet meeting said he had not decided what action he will take. “I think it is clear that the article in which he and his team appear showed poor judgment … but I also want to make sure I talk to him directly before I make any final decision.”

Earlier, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama was angry when he read the article and that “all options are on the table” when it comes to the general’s future.

(We’re wondering if White House enforcer Rahm(bo) Emanuel will get some time behind closed doors with the general before the meeting with the president tomorrow.)

Two Democratic lawmakers, Rep. David Obey and Senator Byron Dorgan, said McChrystal needs to leave his post if the comments in the article were accurate.

“I think sooner or later, probably sooner, Stan McChrystal will leave the administration,” Congressman Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told Reuters congressional correspondent Susan Cornwell. “He’s got deep disagreements with the White House national security staff, and he let his frustrations boil to the surface.” 

The White House has begun laying the groundwork for removal of the general — if that ends up being the decision — and you have to look no further than Gibbs’ comments. He called it a “profound” mistake and said waging the war in Afghanistan was bigger than any one person — a not-so-subtle response to those who might say the general is needed in the fight right now.

AFGHANISTAN/James Hoge, editor of “Foreign Affairs” magazine, and Peter Peterson, chair at the Council on Foreign Relations, in a post on The Daily Beast wrote that McChrystal must go or Obama risks looking like a “wuss.”

“If Obama is to have any chance of succeeding in winding down the U.S. military engagement with some semblance of accomplishment and honor, he must end the policy divisions within his administration and the insubordination of military leadership on the ground. These efforts must start with a decisive heave-ho of General McChrystal. Anything less will reinforce the emerging calculation that Obama is a wuss,” they wrote.

The general has been calling and apologizing to everyone who got insulted in the article, but egos are huge and memories long in Washington, and forgiveness takes forever. It’s going to take more than “I’m sorry” to save his job.

Should McChrystal be ousted or forgiven?

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and McChrystal in White House press room, May 10), Reuters/Omar Sobhani (McChrystal and Afghan President Hamid Karzai)


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what happened to freedom of speech? I call the BS card.

Posted by suezq0214 | Report as abusive

Freedom of speech, I promise my son an enlisted Army soldier stationed and fighting in Afghanistan doesn’t have the freedom to speak. Like all service men and women are given a mission and they honorably carry the mission out as instructed by military code of conduct following the chain of command. I’ve not served a day by i’m married to a retired US Marine of 20years. And now all 3 of our wonderful and dutiful children have made the decision to serve as enlisted soldiers and a daughter who will soon enter OCS.Thier duty and sacifices are relevant.A 34 year military career will and should end later today, for all the obvious and just reason as described in the military code of conduct,His conduct unbecoming is an understatement,IF NOT TREASON.He has forfited his right to command and be effective.His INSUBORDINATION/SELF-INDULGENT BEHAVIOR IS DANGEROUS!!

Posted by ROZYB | Report as abusive

I cannot say it better than ROZYB but he is spot on. Every enlisted/officer in the uniformed services knows from a very early point in his or her career that “freedom of speech” does not exist.
There are very very specific regulations, written and unwritted about chain of command, communication and what you say and when/how you say it.
General McChrystal’s behavior shows a VERY VERY poor lapse in judgement. He’s a good Soldier and it’s unfortunate that he has to be fired, but Obama honestly has no choice. No military member can be allowed to disrepsect the CIC. Whether the General likes reporting to civilians or not he certainly knows, as every military member knows, that the military of the United States is ultimately under civilian control. That was written into the Constitution and for good reason.

Posted by forzapista | Report as abusive

Suezq, members of the military don’t get unrestricted freedom of speech. You don’t get to wear your uniform to a political event unless specifically authorized to do so. You don’t get to publicly speak as a member of the military unless authorized to do so. And you don’t get to publicly criticize your commander. As rozyb said, that constitutes insubordination and undermines good order and discipline.

If you have an issue with your commander, you take up with him/her privately. McChrystal should have known that and he deserves to be fired.

Posted by Orcaman | Report as abusive

Whether to purge the military of all its insubordinate coup elements, or prepare all of America to say “Sir, Supreme Chancellor McChrystal, Yes Sir!”

That is the question.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

Most soldiers despise Obama. He’s going to have to sack McChrystal to prevent more insubordination.

Posted by DanG | Report as abusive

Insubordination means the President has to accept his resignation. Since I’m not in the military, I can at least ask without recrimination, “How knows what that clown in the White House will do?”

And it isn’t just soldiers who despise our President. He is a man unprepared for this or actually any job.

Posted by ElroyFromIowa | Report as abusive

McChrystal’s got to be fired. He’s pretty much committed career suicide. No one is irreplaceable. You can’t bad mouth the boss (Republican or Democrat) and expect to be kept on the payroll.

Posted by Anon4242 | Report as abusive

The General is a professional soldier first and is not bound to take any illegal orders or nonsense from the civilian administration. The fact that the President in the United States has assumed the title of the commander in chief is ludicirous and a load of non sence. The soldier honour is to honour his comrades and fight like a sdoldier. He ghas brken no codes and the american soldiers should be proud of him. He wanted to be relieved of his command and that is a reality. He played it out deliberately to go on record not to serve this buch of clintonians and the rif rafs of the administration. It is about time for the US President to stop telling lies about the Taliban Pashtoons involvement in Sept. 11. His administration has failed miserably to undo the wrong which George W did. In fact sooner than later people would ask for the return of the republicans in the Govt. History will prove him as unsuccessful as the previous so called afro american leaders, Collin Powel and Condiliza Rice. What a shame? He can not even plug the hole in his backyard.
Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive