The War Between Obama and McChrystal Is Over — Obama Lost

June 24th, 2010

By Dan Miller

And in contrast to MacArthur, Gen. McChrystal, a youthful 55, is unlikely to fade away any time soon.

*  *  *

It was reported on June 22 that General Stanley McChrystal had tendered his resignation to President Barack Obama and that the White House was actively discussing a replacement who could be quickly confirmed by the Senate:

The source said that among the names being touted as possible successors are General James Mattis, the outgoing head of the US Joint Forces Command and due to retire after being passed over as US Marine Corps commander, and Lieutenant General William Caldwell, commander of Nato’s Training Mission in Afghanistan.

On June 23, en route to a meeting with Secretary Gates, General McChrystal denied that he had tendered his resignation but indicated that he was prepared to do so. More accurately, General McChrystal probably requested retirement instead of resigning his commission; he is certainly eligible for retirement and, like a resignation, acceptance of his retirement was optional with the president.

Following a thirty minute meeting with President Obama, General McChrystal departed the White House “before Obama convened a regularly scheduled war planning meeting there.” That was a pretty good indication of what was to come. An announcement that General McChrystal had been relieved of his command by President Obama was made later on June 23. General McChrystal is to be replaced by General Petraeus.

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12 Responses to “The War Between Obama and McChrystal Is Over — Obama Lost”

  1. Dan Miller |

    After sending the article off to Pajamas Media, I thought a bit more about my position that General McChrystal had won and that President Obama had lost. By the time that I did so, it was too late to change the article, but here’s what I probably should have said. Many of the thoughts are in the article, but there are other things to be said and I should have said them:

    General McChrystal is not stupid; few four star combat generals are. Nor is he naive. I assume that he granted extended access to Rolling Stone’ reporter with his eyes wide open and with full knowledge of the sorts of things people in his position can and can’t safely say and permit to be said by their aides. It got him out of a probably lost cause in Afghanistan and quite probably into a non-military venue where he may be able to do some useful things for the country. There is no longer a place for him in the Army, unless he wants to go down in history as the highest ranking senior officer ever to command a mess kit repair battalion in Alaska. There may well be a place for him in politics. His contest with President Obama, which I think he won, would give him significant pulling power with many voters and his outspoken lack of reverence for the powers that be would be far better employed in the Congress than as a serving military officer. His failure to claim that he and his aides were misquoted, or that they misspoke, and to offer a non-apology apology would also stand him in good stead.

    I have seen lots of comments to the effect that General McChrystal is an incompetent leftist idiot because he voted for then Senator Obama. I don’t share those views; I wrote several articles favorable to then Senator Obama before he was nominated. I feared Senator Clinton more than I feared Senator Obama, and had modest hopes that were Senator Obama to become President Obama, there might be some healing of the racial divide in the United States. That didn’t happen and, I think, the divide has if anything become worse. I voted for Senator McCain, but my enthusiasm in doing so was quite dilute.

    Perhaps the 2012 election will provide a presidential candidate about whom I can be more enthusiastic.

  2. Tom Carter |

    Dan, I’ve been thinking about the idea that Obama lost in this confrontation, and I can’t agree. If McChrystal had gotten away with a slap on the hand and a tongue-lashing, then it could be said that he won (he got away with it) and Obama lost because he wasn’t strong enough to take on a four-star general. However, by relieving McChrystal and making a strong public statement, he made it very clear that he’s the Commander in Chief and won’t tolerate disrespect and insubordination.

    Not only did Obama win, in my view, he reinforced the critically important concept of civilian control over the military. Every officer in the military knows (or certainly should know) what the National Command Authority (President and SecDef) is, and they know what happens if they are disrespectful and/or insubordinate.

    Gen. McChrystal is a fine officer and a great leader, but he went way over the line. Whether he did it on purpose or not, whether he had an agenda or not, he has to pay the price. That must include not only loss of his position and the remainder of his career but charges as appropriate under the UCMJ. He hurt the Army and the country, and he broke the law. He has to face the consequences, and he knows it.

    I pretty much share your views of Obama. He wasn’t my choice to be president, but I had hopes that his intelligence and talent would get him through. My hopes have been mainly disappointed so far, and I’m also looking forward to 2012.

  3. Lisa |

    It is interesting. I have not once considered who won. I am not privy to all the facts and have not yet read the Rolling Stone article so I cannot opine on UCMJ action or even whether General McChrystal should have been relieved. What I do know is that the general provided President Obama an opportunity to show the world that he can make a decision, one that he could immediately announce with prepared remarks. Now perhaps he can use some of that new found decisiveness and fire some of the civilians involved.

  4. Kevin |

    I don’t think anyone won. What happened was that Obama made the best of a bad situation that should never have happened. The only viable argument to be had, IMO, is what Tom has tried to initiate in the post above this one – what would the most appropriate response have been and why.

    But let’s take the notion that McChrystal did this deliberately to avoid taking a loss. If that truly was his motivation then that would reflect very, very poorly on him and, more specifically, on his character.

    By virtually unanimous accounts from senior military brass who knew him personally, and many who largely only knew him by reputation (and openly concede as much), General McChrystal is a warrior to the core. Warriors don’t bail out when the going gets tough… or they wouldn’t be true warriors in the first place. N’est pas?

    That Dan sees those motivations in McChrystal’s actions and choices seems to me to say more about Dan than it does about McChrystal, especially given the chorus of peer voices describing McChrystal as a true warrior.

  5. Brian |

    Whatever else he may be, McChrystal is a master at warfare by unconventional means. He didn’t get to where he was without mastery of that skill set. I’d bet quite a bit that he gave due consideration to all potential outcomes of this, and was prepared to deal with any of them, dismissal and court martial included.

  6. Kevin |

    One of the retired Army generals I saw interviewed (can’t remember his name) and who said that he knew McChrystal personally… suggested rather strongly that the Rolling Stone article was more inuendo than fact. His gist was apparent enough – that McChrystal probably didn’t say what was attributed to him. As supporting evidence the retired general pointed to how very few of the inflammatory comments were actually quotes.

    Something to think about when we all finally get ahold of the actual article.

  7. Dan Miller |

    Kevin, a link to the Rolling Stone article was posted in the article. I understand that the print version is to come out today.

  8. Lisa |

    Okay, now I have read the article.It is an unprofessional piece of work that only a magazine like Rolling Stone would publish. Alot of it is conjecture and it is obvious that the author, Hastings is very intimidated by General McChrystal. I can’t believe anyone took the article so seriously as to disrupt the war effort and fire McChrystal.

  9. Tom Carter |

    If the Rolling Stone article is inaccurate, I’d be happy to see it demonstrated. This whole mess is a tragedy for McChrystal, his staff, and the Army. It’s telling, however, that neither McChrystal nor his staff is challenging the article. Assuming that the article is accurate, then, this was a very serious violation that had to be responded to appropriately.

  10. Kevin |

    Lisa, beyond the fact which Tom points out – that McChrystal hasn’t challenged the article – there is also the fact that he has something of a track record with this sort of thing. Which in my view lends all the more credence to what Tom has pointed to.

    Retired General McPeak was also part of the interview I mentioned previously. And while he freely conceded not knowing McChrystal personally, he clearly did not agree with the other general’s suggestion that the article was unreliably short on substance. McPeak’s stance seemed to me to be substantively identical to what Tom’s been saying. Of course it was also prior to Obama’s decision so he didn’t go into the UCMJ as Tom has, but it’s probably not coincidence that Tom waited until Obama had made his decision to comment on it at all.

    The other general agreed that, if true, that it was a serious breech by McChrystal, but he also thought that the situation in Afghanistan was such that McChrystal ought to essentially be given a pass on it. McPeak very clearly disagreed with that both ends of that opinion.

  11. Lisa |

    The Rolling Stone article reads like something in the grocery store checkout line. The article was poorly written and seemed to have an agenda. I do not think the opinion of General McPeak, a friend of President Obama,is any more relevant than anyone else’s. As an Air Force officer, he was probably never in the kind of combat situations that General McChrystal was in. The worse judgment of General McChrystal was to allow Hastings the time of day with his staff. That is the fact that I truly do not understand.

  12. Dan Miller |

    Here is an interesting article by Caroline Glick titled “General McChrsytal teaches us a truth of 21st century warfare in the West.” It begins,

    US General Stanley McChrystal has paid a huge price for his decision to give Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings free access to himself and his staff. But he performed a great service for the rest of us. US President Barack Obama fired McChrystal – his hand-picked choice to command NATO forces in Afghanistan – for the things that he and his aides told Hastings about the problematic nature of the US-led war effort in Afghanistan. But by acting as he did, McChrystal forced the rest of us to contend with the unpleasant truth not only about the US-led campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. He told us the unpleasant truth about the problematic nature of the Western way of war at the outset of the 21st century.

    It concludes,

    For years, citizens of free nations have willfully ignored or dismissed the significance of their enemies’ gruesome goals and ideology.They have claimed that what these people stand for is insignificant. At the end of the day, they say, the only reason there are wars is because the nations of the West provoke them by being strong. And so, when they have fought wars, they have fought them with strategies that can bring them nothing but defeat.

    McChrystal’s final act as US commander in Afghanistan was to show us where this leads. But it also reminds us that there is another choice that can be made. The Western way of war needn’t remain the path of defeat. That, still, is for the people of the West to decide.

    It would have been better if General McChrystal had gone about it differently; he could have but didn’t and the price was high.

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