The Four Reasons Why Obama HAS to Fire Stan McChrystal
Posted by Michael Cohen
So I've read the Rolling Stone article that everyone is talking about and it seems patently clear that if civil military relations still mean anything in this country President Obama has to fire General McChrystal. Here are four clear reasons why.
Insubordination: This one isn't really a close call. From a perception standpoint, you can't have a prominent general making disparaging statements about the Vice President as well as other civilian leaders - particularly in front of his own staff. Imagine if some colonel under McChrystal's command was caught by a reporter saying these things that McChrystal is quoted saying - his military career would be done. And so should McChrsytal's. From Obama's perspective if he lets McChrystal stay it's hard to see how he will have any credibility left as the nation's commander-in-chief. No president, Democrat or Republican, can allow such insubordination to stand, particularly since McChrystal has already pushed the envelope on this issue last fall in London.
By the way, here is Article 88 of the UCMJ on insubordination - this is pretty clear cut:
Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
Unfathomable Stupidity: Any regular reader would know that I'm not a huge fan of General McChrystal, but I figured he's a pretty smart guy to rise through the ranks the way he has . . . I'm revising that judgment after reading this article. What in god's name could McChrystal have been thinking openly disparaging the Vice President and other civilian leaders in front of a reporter - and not just any reporter, but a Rolling Stone reporter? This is just an absolutely stunning lack of judgment on McChrystal's part . . . which leads to the third reason Obama should fire him.
Arrogance: What I find perhaps so striking about the Rolling Stone article is the complete arrogance of McChrystal. The announced "disappointment" he felt after meeting Obama for the first time (who cares what he felt after meeting his boss), the sense of betrayal at Eikenberry for disparaging his COIN strategy (who the hell is McChrystal to be feel betrayed by our Ambassador in Kabul) and the clear comfort he felt in mocking civilian leaders in front of his staff. There seems to be a sense here among McChrystal that he can, say and do whatever he wants with little repercussion. I guess after you rolled the White House last fall through a calculated series of media leaks and public appearances to support a troop surge, I suppose you pretty much think you can get away with anything.
McChrystal's COIN Blinders: This is the part of the story that will likely get the least attention - but it should get the most. In a session with enlisted men complaining about McChrystal's overly restrictive rules of engagement that prevent them from using lethal force and put American troops in harm's way from insurgents, McChrystal trots out the old hearts and minds cliche and makes the historically irrelevant point that the Soviets killed one million Afghans and "that didn't work" (as if it was that simple). He is also quoted as saying, "This is the philosophical part that works with think tanks . . but it doesn't get the same reception from infantry companies."
And it doesn't; because it's a load of hooey - and the men on the ground, rightfully aren't buying it. What I found striking about this interlude - and tracking General McChrystal's other public statements - is that he seems oblivious to obvious signs that his COIN strategy is not working and that it is a terrible fit for a war like Afghanistan. He has seemingly so evangelized COIN that even when presented with evidence from his own troops that it's not working on the ground; or analysis from the Ambassador in Kabul that Karzai cannot be trusted as a partner, it's ignored or shunted aside for what he derisively calls the "philosophical part." What's worse, you have a senior military official in Kabul floating the possibility that "we could ask for another surge of US forces next summer if we see success here." It really makes you wonder if that whole 18-month timeline for commencing withdrawals, which the President declared at West Point, has penetrated the military chain of command. Apparently not.
But in the end, this isn't really a close call, McChrystal screwed up big time. He disparaged the civilian leadership; he showed stunningly bad judgment and his slavish adherence to a failing COIN strategy - and the dubious assumptions underpinning it - demonstrates a lack of adaptability that should be deeply concerning. The third one isn't necessarily a fireable offense (although apparently it's why General McKiernan was relieved), but the first one most certainly is.
My understanding is that McChrystal is right no flying back to Washington.
When he gets to the White House, President Obama will almost certainly fire him - and damn well he should.