Obama delivers checkmate by moving generals
President Barack Obama managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat.
In a surprise move, he chose superstar General David Petraeus to replace General Stanley McChrystal, whose team had badmouthed just about every top civilian adviser to Obama on Afghanistan in a Rolling Stone magazine article.
And with that one decision he managed to wipe away any impression that as commander-in-chief he would allow insubordination, and he preempted any criticism that he would allow the war in Afghanistan to be without competent leadership for reasons of politics and vanity.
It was by far the smartest move, and no one predicted it. That may have something to do with the fact that if the military was a corporation, Petraeus would essentially be taking a demotion — he is currently head of Central Command which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will now be in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Bill Harlow, a former CIA spokesman who has also worked at the White House and is a retired Navy captain, points out that both are 4-star positions and for a warfighter the most meaningful job is the one in Afghanistan.
“That being said — it was quite a concession on the part of Petraeus to take it. I presume it was one of those things where if your commander-in-chief says he needs you, you cannot say no,” Harlow tells me. “Very smart move on the part of Obama — instantly changed the subject from McChrystal to Petraeus — and eliminates a line of reasoning that by axing McChrystal he is somehow harming the war effort.”
Obama basically managed to silence critics who were ready to pounce on whatever decision he made on McChrystal. Even Republicans on Capitol Hill, who basically try to block anything Obama wants, are on board with his choice of Petraeus.
“I have great respect for General McChrystal and the job he’s done in Afghanistan and elsewhere in service of our country, but I respect the decision of our Commander-in-Chief,” House Republican leader John Boehner said, adding that Petraeus was “the right person” to take over.
Unusual Republican praise for anything Obama.
Photo credit: Reuters/Kieran Doherty (chess pieces carved from ice in London), Reuters/Multi-National Forces Iraq Public Affairs/handout (Obama and Petraeus in Iraq in July), Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama announcing Petraeus will replace McChrystal)