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Brief McChrystal Thoughts

[ 13 ] June 23, 2010 |

The general interest in healthy civil-military relations in the United States is more important than the outcome of the war in Afghanistan. Even were McChrystal absolutely critical to that effort (and that effort absolutely critical to the security of US values and interests) Obama would be well advised to cut the general loose. In this case, the individual importance of McChrystal and the overall importance of the war effort are both in question. McChrystal’s sins have not risen to the Douglas MacArthur level, but the comments by his aides do appear to reflect a general contempt not only for the civilian leadership of the United States but also for the doctrinal principles that McChrystal himself advocates. This raises grave questions about his command.

To put this in terms of the ongoing “executive power” debate, Obama faces a relatively easy task. McChrystal has apparently already offered his resignation. The legal ability of the President to cashier commanders is without serious question. Conservatives have, if anything, been faster than liberals to call for McChrystal’s ouster. Furthermore, McChrystal represents one faction in a bitter dispute within the US Army; although I tend to find more points of agreement with McChrystal’s faction than its oppposite, it’s unclear that the institution as a whole would terribly resent his replacement.

UltimaRatioReg is right (never did I expect to write those words) in suggesting that civil-military relations are always messier than the Huntington model; senior military officers will play a role in the public debate over strategy and doctrine even in healthy democracies. Although I think that some of McChrystal’s earlier advocacy approached the “neutral zone” between civilian and military roles, I don’t believe that he crossed the line. Senior officers cannot, however, countenance or enable open contempt in the ranks for the civilian leadership.

Comments (13)

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  1. Davis says:

    “Conservatives have, if anything, been faster than liberals to call for McChrystal’s ouster.”

    He will suddenly become a conservative hero, though.

    • Malaclypse says:

      He will suddenly become a conservative hero, though.

      Unless Obama keeps him. Then he will be Almost As Bad As Hitler ™.

    • Enoch_Root says:

      Also sort of interesting is that, according to a friend of mine who served under him (but doesn’t know him personally), the General is a spec ops guy. I mean, he is from that discipline. My buddy’s point is that these guys are all sort of gruff and “edgy” – I guess necessarily so.

      • dave says:

        Well, if ‘edgy’ means anything like ‘inclined to break the laws of war and violate the constitution while you’re at it, because that’s what it takes to get the job done’, we’ll manage without, thanks. If it just means ‘too stupid to prevent your staff running their mouths off to journalists about their duly-elected civilian superiors’, then he can eat crow. He’ll be used to it, he’s an Operator.

        • enoch_root says:

          no – I think his (my friend’s) point was that what made him a beloved commander doesn’t translate well in Rolling Stone. Again, as much as I hate to agree with the One, I would have canned him as well.

  2. Enoch_Root says:

    Belling, who does a show in Milwaukee, but occasionally sits in for Rush, has been critical of McChrystal ever since the soft rules of engagement were imposed in Afghanistan. From the perspective of the Conservative Right, two opinions bubble-up.
    1) Obama isn’t concerned whether McChrystal is effective or competent, but is more concerned with being bad-mouthed (the thin-skinned meme), and 2) Afghanistan is going badly… That is to say, there is no blind love on the Right for someone solely because they are wearing a uniform.

  3. [...] institutional push factors and focusing on what’s best for continuity in Afghanistan. (Though Rob makes a valid point above that while the former is fairly clear, the latter is uncertain.) One thing I agreed with Ricks on: [...]

  4. Jamie says:

    Facts: McC is a political beast. He’s smart. He’s ambitious. He’s far too calculating for this to be a cock up.

    My guess: He knows AfPac is doomed, and just indirectly announced his civilian political career.

    • Jamie says:

      Forgot to add: I eagerly await Colonel Mustard’s insightful analysis pointing out that it is unconstitutional for the Muslim Commie to fire McC.

  5. Ed says:

    The right wing is angry with McChrystal because they feel he’s being too soft with the native element. Also, even the nutjobs understand you can’t have a general and his people people sounding off to the press in this way. They seem quite pleased with Petraeus as a replacement.

    I have some sympathy for McChrystal(not much). Obama approved a strategy that would require years to work if it works at all and then set an unrealistic deadline. Well, Obama wanted this war and he got it.

    • Enoch_Root says:

      Good point – I would have fired him – and as much as I don’t like O’Bama (Irish though he may be), a general can’t say this stuff about his Commander In Chief.

    • strategichamlet says:

      Isn’t moving from CENTCOM kind of a step down for Petraeus? What’s in this for him?

  6. maineiac says:

    Yes, UltimaRatioReg wins this week’s stopped clock award.

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