The reasons why President Barack Obama fired his top field general, are probably more significant than the firing itself.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s “insubordination” in the celebrated Rolling Stone article, was not really insubordination at all. His comments were largely true and the article seems an excuse to get rid of him.
Had the war in Afghanistan been going as planned and as scheduled, McChrystal could have been quoted saying anything he liked, and he’d have kept his job. But Afghanistan is a mess.
Obama has never been comfortable with the “surge” plan that worked so effectively in Iraq for Gen. David Petraeus – friend and mentor to McChrystal. Obama had to be dragged grumbling and hesitant into going along with his Joint Chiefs of Staff’s recommendations for the war. Obama trimmed the troop numbers requested and delayed decisions.
We don’t know yet, but it’s possible Obama may now review the whole Afghan scenario, and decide the war is no longer worth it. There’s nothing in his background or thinking that indicates any empathy for things military. Maybe now he’ll start pulling out.
Forget that nonsense that the firing is an attempt to refute the thinking of those who think Obama’s weak. He’s not weak in that way, he just doesn’t appreciate contrary opinions.
In a sense, the unidentified quotes in the Rolling Stone article that were snarky about many of the people around Obama, and on whom Obama depends, were not by McChrystal, and had the flavor of a bunch of guys sounding off over a beer.
They were the sort of cracks that happen in every office about management.
An oddity about this president who is hopeless about his own military, is that he’s now fired two field generals in the middle of a war – David McKiernan in 2009 to make way for McChrystal, whom Obama had never met.
Of several generals who challenged the president in the past, McChrystal’s remarks are the least inflammatory and most easily dismissed with a wrist slap.
In 1977 Maj. Gen. Jack Singlaub was chief of staff of U.S. forces in Korea, and publicly disputed then-President Jimmy Carter’s announced intention to withdraw American troops from the peninsula. Singlaub warned this would be disastrous, and open the way for the North to take over.
He was fired – but Carter canceled withdrawal plans. Singlaub today is a hero in Korea and among American soldiers. As an aside, Singlaub was a warrior rather like McChrystal, in that he’d parachuted into France in WWII to work with the resistance, was behind the Chinese lines before the Korean war and was a counter-insurgent in Indochina. Medals galore. Singlaub today is in his nineties and revered.
In 1951, President Harry Truman had to fire Gen. Douglas MacArthur who was not only openly contemptuous of Truman, but wanted to use the atomic bomb against the Chinese. He had to go.
In WWII, Gen. George Patton could easily have been fired for challenging higher authority and for slapping and calling a shell-shocked soldier a coward. But Patton was a winner. His foibles were excused because he was victorious on the battlefield. The president didn’t want to lose him.
If Afghanistan was a winning war – McChrystal’s admitted error in judgment would have not only been forgiven, but seen as a credential.