Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Fire McCrystal tomorrow morning, Mr. President
Comparisons with General Douglas MacArthur, fired by President Harry Truman in 1951 over a disagreement about the strategy to follow in the Korean War, are somewhat irrelevant. This is not about military strategy, or tactics.
It is about TRUST, and clearly this man, McCrystal, cannot be trusted. While he criticizes the U.S. Ambassador for covering his "flank" so that they can blame McCrystal if the war goes sour, McCrystal seems to be spewing blame on all the "wimps" in the administration, Biden, Obama, Hollbrook, the Ambassador, with a disdain that an apology cannot and will not cover.
If Obama does not fire him, in his meeting in the Oval Office tomorrow morning, he risks losing the confidence and trust of the hundreds of thousands of parents and families of the military personnel who serve with honour and distinction in the war. He also risks the contempt of the rest of the military for "preserving" the honour of a man who no longer deserves such support.
In firing him, however, Obama also faces risks: that he looks thin-skinned, since these are mere comments of disdain and contempt for the Commander-in-Chief and his team. This is an argument that bears less weight than the loss of confidence, especially at a time when the war is supposed to be ramping up in what is supposed to look like another "surge" in Kandahar province.
Betraying the President, in the middle of a war is inexcusable, unconscionable and irreversible.
McCrystal has to go!
Part 2, 24 hours later
It was a professional and dignified statesman, The President, who spoke of his acceptance of McCrystal's resignation, "with regret" and who nominated General David Petraeus to succeed McCrystal. This was a president who could not "command" BP to bring her to "heel" after the Gulf oil spill. It was also the president who sought, relentlessly, to obtain Republican support for a more balanced Health Care Reform Act, without a public option. This is also the president who, only hours before his meeting with McCrystal, was receiving "doubtful" critiques about his "political courage" or the lack thereof by some heavy hitters in Washington, including General Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State, Colin Powell, on NPR's "On Point" radio program.
Obama may have bought some public respect with this latest chapter in the on-going story of his "watch" because the one quality for which there was public scepticism finally asserted itself. The commander-in-chief is, after all, just that, and the civilian control of the military must be maintained, especially in the face of a Special Operations General, about which segment of the forces, many doubt the capacity to rise to the level of three or four-star general.
Was this the triumph of politics, and finesse, or the triumph of a military strategy to begin the draw-down of troops in July 2011, a condition Petraeus has accepted with his new appointment? Time will tell.