The Left, and even some authority-loving conservatives, are calling for General Stanley McChrystal’s scalp this morning because of remarks they say are “insubordinate.” But insubordination has a very precise meaning; and it does not involve candidly expressing mild disappointment in your superiors. Yet, that, it seems, is the only thing McChrystal did when speaking with a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine.
“I found that time [meeting with Obama for the first time last fall] painful,” McChrystal reportedly said. “I was selling an unsellable position.”
And when asked about Vice President Biden, the General said with a laugh: “Are you asking about Vice President Biden? Who’s that?”
McChrystal also expressed mild annoyance with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Indeed, according to CNN:
At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry, according to the article. ‘Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke,’ he groans. ‘I don’t even want to open it.’ He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance.
Of Eikenberry, who railed against McChrystal’s strategy in Afghanistan in a cable leaked to The New York Times in January, the General said, “‘Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.’
Now, all of this may be impolitic, but it is also pretty tame. And it certainly doesn’t show insubordination. Instead, what it shows is a commanding general who is frustrated with a political leadership that is too often non-responsive, uninterested and inept.
To be sure, McChrystal’s aides seem to be far more blunt in their criticism of the civilian leadership. (“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: ‘Bite me?’”) But even here, as CNN notes, “McChrystal does not directly criticize President Barack Obama in the article” [emphasis added].
The sad and lamentable truth is that McChrystal and his aides are right. They spoke the truth. The White House has been far too disengaged from, and uninterested in, the war in Afghanistan. And Holbrooke and Eikenberry have been singularly inept and dysfunctional, thus forcing the military to pick up the slack and bear most of the burden (military and political) in Afghanistan.
What’s more, the White House has leaked like a sieve against the military. Yet, according to the denizens of elite liberal and conservative opinion, the military is supposed to sit back, take this abuse, and not fight back. Good on General McChrystal and his team for fighting back and working to inform the American people about what is really happening in Afghanistan.
Loyalty, after all, is a two-way street: It runs up and down the chain of command. McChrystal has a solemn obligation to the men and women who serve under him — many of whom are being shot at every day, and some of whom are being killed and maimed on the battlefield.
Of course, as Commander-in-Chief, President Obama is free to fire General McChrystal. That certainly is his prerogative. But let’s not pretend that firing McChrystal would have anything to do with “insubordination,” because that’s nonsense and rhetorical spin.
General McChrystal, after all, never disobeyed his chain of command; nor has he refused to carry out a lawful order. To the contrary: he has been working 18-to-20 hour days to try and win the war. And to that end, he spoke the truth about Afghanistan. Bully for him. We need more like him.