President Obama has replaced General McChrystal with General David Petraeus as commander in Afghanistan. After a rather brief thirty minute meeting with the president, McChrystal exited the White House and was not in attendance for the Afghanistan planning meeting that occurred a bit later in the morning. General Petraeus was there.
No surprise, really. If for no other reason, Obama had to save face. The thin-skinned man in charge of our nation is proud of his manufactured reputation as Mr. Cool, the guy who takes his time in making decisions and is not simply a reactionary kind of leader. This proves otherwise.
Obama is certainly entitled to have the General in charge of his choosing. He hand-picked McChrystal, we were told at the time, to take the place of the previous General in charge who was fired by Secretary Gates on instruction from Obama. McChrystal was called on the carpet for voicing criticism about Obama dragging his feet on making a decision on additional troops requested for operations in Afghanistan. Perhaps the publicity of the critical article in Rolling Stone magazine was just too much - a 'cool' magazine giving voice to such public criticism of the man wearing the thin skin.
McChrystal put himself into this position, make no mistake about that. Some say it was an intentional move, as the war is going poorly and is appears to not be a priority with this administration. This whole scandal brings much needed focus to the war effort and brings to light the internal factions split apart by strategy differences. There is room to make the argument that Obama is not engaged with his team of leadership there - it was noted that McChrystal didn't have but two one on one meetings with Obama during his time as Commander in Afghanistan before today's meeting. The count is reported as six that Obama and McChrystal have been in face to face meetings.
McChrystal's media aide had no journalistic experience. Yet for a major media manager, Boothby has left virtually no media trail himself. Most of the new civilian advisers to the top military staff have had long careers in journalism and come from established news organizations, but Boothby has virtually no media credits to his name. In fact, the only credit that could be found for him was as an actor in North Carolina. Wouldn't that history be a red flag to McChrystal's staff?
Perhaps the negligence of President Obama to be an interested party in the relationship between himself and his commanding General in the field is at play. As is written here, that disconnect is the defining difficulty.
I’m not suggesting that with earlier close acquaintance Obama might have spotted the seeds of McChrystal’s “enormous mistake” — as White House spokesman Robert Gibbs described it at press briefing Tuesday. I’m suggesting that better leadership from Obama himself would have averted this mess altogether. Whatever comes next for McChrystal, the biggest lesson here is one the commander-in-chief himself has yet to master.
It’s this simple: To win this war, America, and its generals, need to be led by someone who really wants to win the war. Someone who believes his country is great, and extraordinary, and deserves to win its wars. Someone who takes a direct and genuine interest in those he sends to the frontlines. Someone who makes a point of really getting to know the general he puts in charge. Someone, in sum, who does what’s needed to inspire loyalty and respect.
Democrats enjoyed hailing military officers who criticized President Bush in executing two wars, yet now it is not so cool to "speak truth to power". Interesting, right? And predictable. The irony is that then Senator Obama was leading the chorus of the MoveOn.org campaign of belittling Petraeus and his operation in Iraq as "General Betrayus". Obama has shown his contempt for the military. Now he has to rely on General Petraeus to take command of the war in Afghanistan. Karma, baby.
The fact that Obama came out and said, as he spoke about McChrystal's resignation, that he didn't accept the resignation out of a "sense of personal insult" says it all. Of course that was it, why else even bring that up, if it is a regular Obama straw man in the decision?
McChrystal violated the chain of command with his poor judgement of making remarks about the administration while in the presence of a reporter looking for a juicy story. His aides provided snarky remarks and credited McChrystal with many of them, from previous meetings. All of this was wrong. Will Dana, Managing Editor of Rolling Stone, appeared on Imus in the Morning televised radio show and said that all of the offensive quotes were acquired within the first twenty-four hours of the reporter's embed with McChrystal. They were in Paris for McChrystal to seek more support for the war in Afghanistan among European nations and they were drinking, which apparently led to tongues loosening. Unfortunate.
From the office of Eric Cantor, Republican Whip: "Without question, the article in Rolling Stone raises a lot of concerns, but our top priority must be to ensure that our forces in Afghanistan have what they need in order to successfully execute their mission and win the war there. At the moment, Democrats in Congress are standing in the way of a clean bill to fund our troops and provide the resources needed because they want to lard it up with domestic spending. We need to get our troops these funds, and should do so without any pork or unrelated domestic spending items thrown in."
General McChrystal ends a stellar military career under a cloud. General Petraeus technically takes a demotion from his current command to accept this assignment. There is no doubt that Patraeus will succeed. And now, President Obama and our country owe him a debt of gratitude for accepting this new challenge.