Should he stay or should he go?
The sense in Washington seems to be unanimous that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has done enough damage to civilian-military relations and to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan to justify removal from his post. But the real questions go deeper:
Do his remarks REQUIRE his removal? What would do more damage to our national interests: bringing in new leadership at this pivotal moment in Afghanistan to carry out a strategy that McChrystal himself designed, or leaving the general in place, despite the harm he has done?
But even that isn’t the important question. The real question is: Do WE stay or do we go?
In comments yesterday, I noted that McChrystal’s staff in the Rolling Stone piece had floated the option of requesting even more U.S. troops next summer, the point when current strategy says we will start reducing our footprint in Afghanistan. So I posed a question in comments: Who believes such a step would be appropriate?
Not a single person, right or left, wrote in favor of such an approach. Not one.
What we’re seeing, then, is a breach not just between the Obama administration and parts of the U.S. military, but between the American people and its military. It is not by any means a breach of affection or respect, but instead of perspective.
The military comprises people who by instinct and training are fighters who hate to lose. They never want to be pulled from the fight having failed to achieve their objective. If one approach isn’t working, they are always willing to hold out hope that if we give it a shot, some other approach might. That’s how they ought to be; that’s how we need them to be. Those are the kind of people you want defending your country.
But that’s also why the ultimate decision cannot be theirs, but ours. I fear that we have reached the point when our respect for and in some cases deference to military leadership is causing us to betray them. We are letting them continue to fight and die for us solely because we lack the heart to tell them to stop.