Fired or Forgiven: McChrystal Faces the Boss

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Talk about a bombshell: Rolling Stone set the political world ablaze Tuesday with a blockbuster story in which Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, and several of his aides disparaged, sometimes in bracing terms, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and members of the president’s war council. Though the general spent most of the day apologizing for the article and even offered his resignation, an “angry” Obama has recalled McChrystal to Washington for a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday to explain his remarks. What does this situation mean for McChrystal, Obama and the future of the war effort?

  • James Fallows of The Altantic thinks it's pretty cut and dried: McChrystal should be sacked. "If the facts are as they appear -- McChrystal and his associates freely mocking their commander in chief and his possible successor (ie, Biden) and the relevant State Department officials (Holbrooke and Eikenberry) -- with no contention that the quotes were invented or misconstrued, then Obama owes it to past and future presidents to draw the line and say: this is not tolerable. You must go."
  • Marcy Wheeler of left-leaning Firedoglake says that the real story is that the article reveals that American strategy in Afghanistan is kaput. "McChrystal’s counter-insurgency plan is failing. It’s failing not because some of his aides said mean things about Biden, and not because he’s got a long-running spat with Karl Eikenberry, our Ambassador to Afghanistan. It’s failing because the Special Ops guys, whom McChrystal led killing bunches of people in Iraq, are not hard-wired to win hearts and minds."
  • Kori Schake of Foreign Policy magazine hopes that, despite the tone and content of the remarks, the general and his men are cut some slack. "It's not polite, and it certainly isn't politically correct, but these are people doing deadly work. They develop cynical attitudes about civilians and our often impractical ideas. They do not feel understood, much less appreciated, by the political wheelers and dealers in Washington, and politically-motivated attacks on McChrystal will aggravate that. This is what rough men sound like, and we shouldn't want to wring that toughness out of them. They will not long remain a war-winning army if we do."
  • Writing in the conservative Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol and Thomas Donnelly believe that while McChrystal should be fired, the dust-up allows Obama an opportunity to clearly stake out his position on the war moving forward. "No one—not his lieutenants, nor his cabinet, nor his generals, nor the American people, nor our allies, nor the Afghans, nor our enemies—can be sure whether the president wants to win the war or just to end the war. The McChrystal contretemps creates an opportunity to right many of these wrongs; the White House should not waste this crisis. Anything less than a clean sweep will leave the war effort impaired." 
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