The General vs. “the wimps in the White House.”

"Stan, you got some explaining to do."

America’s longest war–the one we’ve forgotten about–in Afghanistan drags on (and on and on) with no end in sight.  It was George Bush’s problem in 2001 and it’s still Barack Obama’s problem in 2010.   The other problem for President Obama is the guy he picked to fight the war, General Stanley McChrystal is apparently an idiot with a big mouth.

McChrystal  granted an interview to Rolling Stone where he ridiculed and disparaged “the wimps in the White House.”

WASHINGTON – The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has been summoned to Washington to explain derogatory comments about President Barack Obama and his colleagues, administration officials said Tuesday.

The move came hours after General Stanley McChrystal apologized for comments by his aides insulting some of President Barack Obama’s closest advisers in an article to be published in Rolling Stone magazine.

In the magazine profile, his aides are quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S. representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The first victim in the growing controversy was the Pentagon’s PR official who set up the interview with McChrystal. NBC reported that Duncan Boothby, a civilian member of the general’s public relations team was “asked to resign.”

According to administration officials, McChrystal was ordered to attend the monthly White House meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in person Wednesday rather than over a secure video teleconference. He’ll be expected to explain his comments to Obama and top Pentagon officials, these officials said.

President Obama was described as “furious” about the remarks while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen told McChrystal of his “deep disappointment” in a conversation late Monday, a spokesman said.

The interview describes McChrystal, 55, as “disappointed” in his first Oval Office meeting with Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama appointed McChrystal to lead the Afghan effort in May 2009. Last fall, though, Obama called McChrystal on the carpet for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.

“I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. “I was selling an unsellable position.”

The article also reported:

  • McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”
  • One aide called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four star general, a “clown” who was “stuck in 1985.”
  • Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. And the White House’s troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.
  • The article portrayed McChrystal’s team as disapproving of the Obama administration, with the exception of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who backed McCrystal’s request for additional troops in Afghanistan.
  • It quotes a member of McChrystal’s team making jokes about Biden, who was seen as critical of the general’s efforts to escalate the conflict and who had favored a more limited counter-terrorism approach. “Biden?” the aide was quoted as saying. “Did you say: Bite me?” Biden initially opposed McChrystal’s proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.

In Kabul on Tuesday, McChrystal issued a statement saying: “I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.”

“I extend my sincerest apology for this profile,” the statement said. “It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.”

There are several reasons of why it is a terrible idea for a soldier to speak critically of his superiors.

The first is it’s a bad message to send to our allies, our enemies, but most importantly, the soldiers who have to carry out the orders when the military commander, the POTUS and his advisers aren’t of one mind.

The second is where in the world can you make published remarks dogging out your boss and his management team and not be in deep crap? Would you loudly rip the boss in the company cafeteria and be surprised when he later calls you into his office to discuss what you said?

The next is if you’re so flat-out stupid that you’d even grant an interview to Rolling Stone for God’s sake it calls into question your judgment and intelligence.

The general has every right to think the president is a fool. He deserves to be fired if he says the president is a fool. Commander-in-chiefs sack generals all the time. Sometimes because they’re doing a bad job and other times because they’re not on board with the president’s wishes. Either way, there’s no shortage of generals to choose from. The problem is Obama already relieved one general in Afghanistan to appoint McChrystal and there could be political fall-out if he does it again.

McChrystal should offer his resignation to the President. The President should accept it. Obama risks looking like a bigger wimp if he permits his generals to publicly question and ridicule him.

"It is possible I misspoke."

3 thoughts on “The General vs. “the wimps in the White House.”

  1. I hadn’t heard about this, but it’s very interesting. I’m glad that there has been a follow-up to the general’s comments; often times I think bureaucracy and free speech can tangle things up. I agree with you: don’t talk poorly of your boss if you don’t expect to get fired. While there does need to be a system that includes criticism to keep the powers that be honest, that system can be delicate when the nation’s solidarity is at stake and words are not chosen with care.

    Good post.


  2. Bye bye Stan. General David Petraeus takes over and automatically raises the credibility of the mission. I can complain about my employer, but I can’t expect them to brush it off if they hear about it. I think McCrystal deserves praise for his service, but he needed to go.


  3. It’s one thing to take shots at your boss when you leave your job or retire but a sitting general should understand that the chain of command is not to be toyed with. As a military man, General McChrystal should have realized that like General Douglas MacArthur before that questioning those in charge of overall policy in the White House is a recipe for getting yourself dismissed.


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