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General Stanley McChrystal and his staff dump on President Barack Obama and his staff

The big story today is General Stanley McChrystal and his staff's interview with Rolling Stone in which they derided and dismissed President Obama and his civilian staff on their handling of Afghanistan. General McChrystal apologized, but the damage has been done. Not the damage to General McChrystal, but to President Obama. The mainstream media may not be making Obama the topic of this discussion, but they should be because this article is all about him.

Since McChrystal apologized, it was reported in the Politico that the general read the quotes from the article before it went to publication and didn't dispute any of them. He may not have known the context in which they were used, but it nonetheless leads us all to believe he approved.

This requires me to ask the question: why did he do this profile to begin with? I have a hard time imagining it was to satisfy his ego, no matter how arrogant McChrystal is. The Rolling Stone article makes it clear from the first few paragraphs that he was very a private man who deliberately avoided the public spotlight:

Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon's most secretive black ops.

So, if the interview wasn't done for a good ego stroking, what were the general and his staff trying to accomplish?

Daniel Foster at The Corner offers an explanation I've read in the comments sections of a couple other blogs:

McChrystal is a big boy, and after a tenure that saw the leak of his bleak strategic review and the fallout from his London speech calling for an Afghan troop surge, I have a lot of trouble buying that McChrystal would make another goof of this magnitude.

Which makes me wonder whether we are witnessing McChrystal falling on his sword to get the word out on the Obama administration's folly in Afghanistan. I'm not 100 percent convinced of it, but it is a real possibility.

My uncle, a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Army, told me once that the military has two missions that it must accomplish no matter what. The first is to complete the mission, which in this scenario is to win the war in Afghanistan. The second is to ensure the well-being of the troops. Unfortunately, with US military deaths in May the highest since the war began, it is becoming clearer that we aren't completing either mission.


I can't help but wonder, just as Foster has, that General McChrystal, having found himself in the perilous position of not being able to complete either mission because president and his civilian leaders lack the competence, the leadership, or the political will to do so, is sacrificing his military career for the good of his men. It isn't outside the realm of possibility when you take into consideration General McChrystal's comments about the men who serve on his military leadership team:

"All these men," he tells me. "I'd die for them. And they'd die for me."

Even assuming McChrystal decided to take the career hit and expose how poorly Obama is handling Afghanistan, he had other options open to him. If McChrystal thought Obama's handling of the situation in Afghanistan was so dangerous that he felt he had to say something, he should have spoken with the president personally, and if that didn't get him the results he required, then he should have resigned first and then had a very frank discussion with the Congressional Armed Services Committees.

Foster is of the opinion that Obama can't afford to lose McChrystal no matter how insubordinate he may have been because, "McChrystal has more credibility on Afghanistan than Obama does. And to the extent that Obama has credibility there at all (and higher approval ratings for his Afghanistan policy than his presidency generally), it is credibility imported from McChrystal."

This point may be moot because according to Drudge, Joe Klein said on CNN not long ago that unnamed sources told him that McChrystal has submitted his resignation.

While it's tempting to wag a and say "I told you so" to those who foolishly voted for Obama in 2008, including General McChrystal himself, none of this bodes well for the United States. It's vital that the rest of the world sees America as a strong and militarily viable nation, and this latest debacle is the last thing we need.

Update: I spoke with my uncle briefly on the phone. He said that my characterization that McChrystal sacrificed his career is not accurate. His career has already been made. The years of service he gave will provide him a generous pension. He'll probably be asked to serve on a number of companies' board of directors. The general hasn't lost anything. America lost.

Update II: After a bit of confusion this evening about whether General McChrystal actually tendered his resignation or just offered to resign, Toby Harndon at the UK Telegraph says a Capitol Hill insider confirmed to him that McChrystal has in fact tendered his resignation. There's no word whether Obama has accepted it, but in case he does, the administration is working on coming up with a replacement who can be confirmed by the Senate quickly.


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Comments (30)

Poor Barry, I cant help but... (Below threshold)
914:

Poor Barry, I cant help but not feel sorry for him.

First off, as a veteran, we... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

First off, as a veteran, we were very much drilled on never making disparaging remarks about our superiors in public. Unfortunately, the good General did so he should resign and not wait for the imbecile in the White House to fire him. I also think if the general goes, so will all his staff which does put Obama and worse, our troops in a bind. But the UCMJ is very clear on this.

I will expect all the liberal poster here to hail McCrystal as a hero as they did any general that spoke out against GW Bush.

I did love the comment about Biden. He does not shut the hell up. This distinguished General must resign. ww

First off go read the artic... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

First off go read the article ... McCrystal was not quoted once making any of these remarks. They are all aides or anon sources giving a sense of what "the old man" felt.

So we do not have a senior office making negative comments about the CIC. We do have some of his subordinates making some slightly off color or negative remarks and that should get someone chewed out, maybe ...

Read the article and then have an opinion ...

I read the article and some... (Below threshold)
James H:

I read the article and some of the other reportage and opinionating out there today, and here's what emerges:

1) McChrystal likely took on this interview to get his story out.

2) Also, (again, according to Salon), these quotes came out during a long bus ride in Europe.

Seems to me that McChrystal decided to use the media in what amounts to the usual push and pull of Washington backbiting, but he wasn't nearly savvy enough to pull off the backbiting. Also, McChrystal and company made the mistake of thinking of the reporter as their buddy during this drive, rather than remembering he was an outsider there to tell a story and he wasn't on their side.

A lot of conclusions can be drawn from this, I think:

First and foremost is that Army PAOs should keep their generals away from the liquor cabinet when the press shows up.

Second, I wonder how many of Obama's top advisers have military service. While military service does not automatically make one a good president (see, e.g., Jimmy Carter), the de-emphasis of military service among America's governing class seems to have created cultural gaps between the White House and top brass. That needs to be remedied.

Third, Afghanistan is an intractable knot, and it's not going to be untied anytime soon. Things like drones are helpful, but Alexander's sword is in short supply.

I'm amazed the military has... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

I'm amazed the military has followed a total dumb ass anti-american this long. I fully expected the generals to band togather and take over the government after hanging O'Dumbo, Pigloshi and Reid for treason.

Jeff, you need to go back a... (Below threshold)

Jeff, you need to go back and reread my post. I did not attribute any quotes except the one I put in blockquotes to General McChrystal. However, he approved the profile and he approved the various quotes from his staff before the article ran. And since he's the man in charge, the buck stops with him.

Reminds me of what happened... (Below threshold)
Stan:

Reminds me of what happened to George Patton. Patton was also the whipping boy of a bad policy made by the politicians that did not understand what war was all about. The reason that most of the senior officers in the European theater did not like Patton, was that he made them look like the blunders that they were. Yes, that also includes the so-called great British general Bernard Law Montgomery -- who was absolutely the worst general officer that the British ever put in the field.

Like Patton, McCrystal will be cashiered for the main political purpose of expediency. In Patton's case it was Dwight Eisenhower, who had political ambitions after the war and was willing to sacrifice the best general officer in his command to reach that goal. Like Patton, Mcyrstal will be shunted off into a never never land of obscurity or murdered to cover up the failings of a corrupt administration.

Maybe General McChrystal is... (Below threshold)
Meiji_man:

Maybe General McChrystal is eying a run in 2012 and making a public split like this will allow him to speak openly against Obama.

I find it hard to attribute... (Below threshold)
James H:

I find it hard to attribute macchiavellian motives to the general. More likely, I think, is that he and his staff stupidly let themselves become unguarded around a reporter.

I don't know that McChrysta... (Below threshold)
Anon Y. Mous:

I don't know that McChrystal's resignation ends it. If it turns out that it is the type of resignation where he is accepting the blame for his comments, and then Obama refuses to accept it (because he accepts McChrystal's explanation/apology and McChrystal is too valuable to the war effort), McChrystal could end up staying in place.

I am watching the MSM basic... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

I am watching the MSM basically saying Obama is ordering McCrystal to come to the White HOuse tomorrow but they leave out that they meet every Wednesday usually by secured video line. Like I said, McCrystal should resign. He did a bad thing and he also shouldn't give Obama the satisfaction of firing him. ww

I don't think it is lost no... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

I don't think it is lost now on anyone who is not in a coma that Barack Obama never takes the blame for failure. Someone will always get tossed under the bus if blame inches too close to this president. Stanley McChrystal may be a crack general but I am guessing he would also be one of the top finalists to take the blame for any incompetence the Obama administration shows in the war in Afghanistan. I can't imagine being a general responsible for the lives of young men and women and yet must serve an administration that waffles on rules of engagement, refuses to openly name the enemy and its ideology and is not clear on its goal for winning the war in Afghanistan. I guess McChrystal might have to go because his critical remarks regarding his Commander-in-Chief have gone public, but I cannot think of any reason to blame McChrystal for his feelings.

Barry won't fire McCrystal.... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Barry won't fire McCrystal. Last thing He wants is someone free to talk about the fuck-ups in the Obama Administration. Must be hard to run a war when your 'leaders' are measuring the white flags they already have on order.

Since when is it a crime to... (Below threshold)
LiberalNItemare:

Since when is it a crime to speak truth to power anyway?

"Since when is it a crime t... (Below threshold)
Meiji_man:

"Since when is it a crime to speak truth to power anyway?"
Since about January 20, 2009

Servicemen don't live under... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

Servicemen don't live under civilian law. Instead you live under the rules of the UCMJ. Believe me, there is no exception in the UCMJ that covers speaking truth to power.

Drudge is reporting that McCrystal has tendered his resignation, and that Obama has a short list of two possible successors. I guess we'll know how accurate that is tomorrow.

James H. - personally I'm not inclined to believe this is a case of McCrystal and his staff inadvertantly speaking too frankly in the presence of a reporter. McCrystal is described as a very serious man, devoid of even a sense of humor in public. His staff would most likely have been made up of ultra professional, highly qualified warrior-types. And his devotion to his troops would mirror theirs to him. I think he and his staff are taking one for the troops. Could I be wrong? Sure could, but that's the way I see it.

"I find it hard to attri... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

"I find it hard to attribute macchiavellian motives to the general. More likely, I think, is that he and his staff stupidly let themselves become unguarded around a reporter. "

Say what? I realize that COMSEC and OPSEC are pretty obscure concepts for most outside the military, but I'm pretty sure that the General and his staff are up on the concept, and didn't 'inadvertently' leak anything to a reporter who would be presumed neutral at best and hostile at worst. I mean, "Rolling Stone" magazine? YGBSM!

My thinking is it was planned - and it's getting the effect that's desired. It's focusing attention on Obama, his lack of knowlege and experience, and his unwillingness to learn from those who know how it's done.

McChrystal may get fired, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's exactly what he wants. Once he's fired, it's talk-show city and Obama won't have any control over the narrative at all.

And that won't be good for Obama.

As a side issue, I doubt "Rolling Stone" itself is going to ever get any newpaper stimulus action... I might have to go buy an issue just to show solidarity. (Haven't even looked at one in decades...)

Well, if McCrystal wants to... (Below threshold)
Caesar Augustus:

Well, if McCrystal wants to know if he'll be fired he'll have to ask the teleprompter.

McCrystal probably would ra... (Below threshold)
John S:

McCrystal probably would rather some other general get blamed for Obama's pending disaster in Afghanistan.

The information in the arti... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

The information in the article was reviewed by McChrystal and staff not once, but twice according to the magazine. The PR guy resigned immediately. Perhaps HE was trying to fall on his sword.

If McChrystal truly believes our policy is misbegotten and destined to failure at a cost of men and material, and undetermined future costs both in theatre and around the world as the malignant entity centered in this region spreads uninhibited, he had a very slim rope to walk.

A commander of such a force cannot just resign and go public. It would totally destroy morale among the troops, and lower morale gets people killed. He wouldn't allow that. He can't appear to be directly opposing the C-in-C, either, for the same reason.

What the General did was the only thing he could do to get the public talking about this, Congress aware of this, and perhaps even prod the President to change course before it is too late: he made it look like a mistake on his part, a slip, a faux pas after which the only gentlemanly thing to do is resign.

Because he is a man who cares more about his country and his troops than how he is remembered.

Say what? I realiz... (Below threshold)
James H:
Say what? I realize that COMSEC and OPSEC are pretty obscure concepts for most outside the military, but I'm pretty sure that the General and his staff are up on the concept, and didn't 'inadvertently' leak anything to a reporter who would be presumed neutral at best and hostile at worst

Well, they didn't say anything classified, JLaw. They just said things that were unwise. Thing is, military men have a habit of, every wo often, pulling a gaffe in front of reporters. I chatted with a couple relatives and friends who have military experience, and they said that every few years, a general disregards his media training and says something stupid. Remember the Okinawa general some years ago?

Generals and their staff ar... (Below threshold)
hcddbz:

Generals and their staff are not frat boys or sports stars they do not misspeak like this around a know anti-war reporter. The general reviewed these statements and knew that UCMJ would demand action be taken.

So either he and his staff fell on their sword or what he review was not wants in the article. Those two scenarios are false then he and his staff need to be fired anyway.

"If McChrystal thought O... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

"If McChrystal thought Obama's handling of the situation in Afghanistan was so dangerous that he felt he had to say something, he should have spoken with the president personally, and if that didn't get him the results he required, then he should have resigned first and then had a very frank discussion with the Congressional Armed Services Committees."

Well, it took Obama how many months to meet with McCrystal before putting a plan into place? And then it was a hasty "on the road" meeting. But say one bad thing about Obama and you've got his undivided attention within hours.

That said, McCrystal isn't stupid. He and/or his staff broke a very serious rule he was well aware of. This was purposeful. For what reason, only the General can say. And to what end, we can only guess.

I gotta say though, I don't feel much pity for him. I do, though, worry very much about what effect this will have on the war and our men and women over there.

Comsec and Opsec aren't jus... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Comsec and Opsec aren't just about classified info, James. It's about ANY info, which the nominal 'enemy' may be able to use to form an idea of operational plans and capabilities. It's one of the things that's constantly drilled into you when you get a security clearance of any sort.

And as Jim says, the article was apparently approved twice. So 'slip of the lip' doesn't really seem to apply here.

According to the London Times, McChrystal's tendered his resignation. Obama's got three choices - he can either 'fire' McChrystal by accepting his resignation, reassign him, or have a ten-minute chewing out followed by throwing him back in the pit.

Reassignment at this point will decidedly delay what's going on in Afghanistan while they select another General and get him up to speed.

Firing him frees him up to be completely open, which will be devastating to Obama's image. How can he be silenced? Threats aren't going to be effective.

Tossing him back in the pit would be a tacit approval of his remarks and would show Obama's trust in him - as well as keeping him in a position where he'd have to keep quiet.

It should be interesting. - I don't think Obama's got any good options at all, which is where you want your opponent if at all possible.

The media and the liberals ... (Below threshold)
cathymv:

The media and the liberals supported, encouraged and openly cheered any military personnel who criticized President Bush, but now are horrified that McChyrstal criticized President Obama. What happened to the liberal mantra: speaking truth to power? Does anyone notice the blatant hypocrisy?

And as Jim says, t... (Below threshold)
James H:
And as Jim says, the article was apparently approved twice. So 'slip of the lip' doesn't really seem to apply here.

Not quite. It was "fact-checked." Meaning that when preparing the story, Rolling Stone's editors called McChrystal's staff to ask, "did he really say that?" McChrystal's folks didn't approve the article. They just verified quotes.

JLaw, I have trouble going with the machiavellian route simply becauase I know (from experience) that often, really smart people do really, really stupid things. And that's far more likely than a complex scheme.

Commenting on this, a blogger posted a slogan: "Beer exists to keep the Army from taking over the world." I wonder if that applies here.

Whiskey exists to keep the ... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Whiskey exists to keep the Irish from taking over, too!

We'll see, I guess. It'll be a heck of a show, either way.

I don't think he broke the ... (Below threshold)
ron:

I don't think he broke the rules at all. I think it is all an anti war media play. I believe that the the unwisest thing that was done was letting a 'Rolling Stoned' reporter hang out with the Generals staff at all. Especially after the big push they just had in a poppy growing region that undoubtedly put a pinch on production and transportation of dope.

There is a whole line of underworld communications surfacing here I believe.

That's my comspiracy theory anyway.

McChrystal is just followin... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

McChrystal is just following the Palin playbook. When the going gets tough and you realize that you can make millions on the lecture circuit you quit.

Hello everyone: Has anyone ... (Below threshold)
Shelby Carmichael:

Hello everyone: Has anyone thought of the idea that the comments and everything surrounding Gen. Stanley McChrystal is ALL PLANNED AND EXECUTED BY THE REBULICAN PARTY LEADERS?????
Has anyone thought of the idea that Gen. McChrystal was already going to retire, to a big power broker job with one of the multi-national companies that back the Republican Party? This is just dirty tricks as usual since President Obama has come into his position. How much money would anyone be willing to beat that by the end of the Summer Gen. McChrystal has a new powerful job with the private sector???? DON'T BE SURPRISED!




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