I’ll make this brief.
I would have commented on this earlier, but I’ve been out of pocket most of this afternoon taking advantage of the low low interest rates to refinance my house. When I got home I had thirty seven emails asking my opinion on McChrystal’s removal from command of the Afghanistan campaign – and a couple of the usual all caps and misspelled slobber covered missives that could be best summed up as AH HA! TOLD YA ASSWIPE!!!! OBAMA BAD! MAC HERO! REVOLUTION!!!!REVOLUTION!!!!! And really, thanks for that. No really.
OK, here’s the thing:
He screwed up.
It’s just that simple.
Everybody in the military knows it.
Everybody in the White House knows it.
The majority of Congress knows it (on both sides of the aisle).
And General Stanley McChrystal knows it.
The General wasn’t fired. He apologized and he tendered his resignation. The president accepted his resignation, I don’t know about the apology and don’t care. By all accounts, the general didn’t try to keep his job, he knew he’d fucked up and he took responsibility for it as a professional military officer should.
By all accounts, McCrystal is an excellent general, one of our very best military commanders – otherwise he wouldn’t have had the job in the first place. He’s a hell of a Soldier, beloved by his troops and even some of his enemies. But he screwed up. It happens.
He allowed himself to act unprofessionally in this one regard, and his example fostered a climate among his officers that promoted disrespect towards the civilian authority, and not just towards the President, but towards what the President represents – i.e. you. This is simply unacceptable. McCrystal was the commander, this is his responsibility and his alone. Period. No excuses – and to his credit he didn’t make any. He took responsibility for the things that happened under his command and took the only action acceptable under the circumstances and the officer’s code of conduct, he offered his resignation.
President Obama also did the only thing possible given the circumstances, he did the General the courtesy of accepting that resignation.
The President has the Constitutional responsibility to enforce civilian control over the military at all times – because he himself is responsible for its conduct, actions, and employment. Period. Something the previous occupant of the White House never seemed to grasp despite his supposed credentials. General McCrystal put his commander in a position where the President only had two options, allow the General to resign, or fire him. This is shameful, McCrystal knows it and didn’t argue the point.
This wasn’t by design, but by accident. This has nothing to with who’s in the White House. It happens. Don’t try to tell me you’ve never been frustrated with your boss – even if you like and respect him or her, and unless you’re commanding a war I doubt you have a hundred thousandth of the stress and frustration of those officers in the battlespace. Nonetheless, we military officers have a strict code of conduct. It exists for a reason, a damned good reason, one that has proven its worth time and time and time again. McCrystal allowed that code to be broken. McCrystal as absolutely no one to blame except for himself. Period. And he knows it, understands it, and accepts it. This is what it is to be in command.
None of which makes his dismissal today any less of a tragedy.
This is a loss for the troops, for the Administration, for the war effort, for the people of Afghanistan, for America, and for McCrystal himself. All of us lose. Nobody wins here.
Well, OK, that’s not entirely true.
The Taliban wins. The Insurgents win. The (forgive me) terrorists win.
But nobody wins more than the Rolling Stone.
Don’t get me wrong, the Stone isn’t to blame, this is what they do and McCrystal forgot that and allowed himself and his officers to behave unprofessionally in front of the embedded Rolling Stone reporter (and understand, by Military Law and custom it would have been wrong to disrespect the President and civil authority whether there was a reporter present or not). He should have known better. He should have never allowed that climate to develop in his command. The Stone isn’t to blame for reporting the general’s comments or those of his officers.
And this story is going to sell one hell of a lot of copies of Rolling Stone.
So the magazine wins.
But the rest of us take it right in the ass on this one.
It’s just that simple.