McChrystal’s out; now for Obama’s test

Removing outspoken Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of the war in Afghanistan, and replacing him with his boss, Gen. David Petraeus, is a quintessential Barack Obama move: It’s an attempt to placate both those people who said McChrystal had to go after Rolling Stone magazine published his disdainful comments about the president’s team and those people who said the war was at too crucial a juncture to make such a change.

The president’s statement that his decision was about neither policy disagreement nor personal insult underscores this sense. If it’s not about p0licy or personalities, why the change? Was the president really already on the cusp of making such a jarring change before the article came out?

By turning to Petraeus, who was McChrystal’s boss at U.S. Central Command and who successfully executed a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy in Iraq and will now try to continue one in Afghanistan, Obama can argue that he’s keeping as much stability and continuity as possible while closing the book on an often-testy relationship between president and general.

Maybe it will work. For the sake of the soldiers still over there, we should all pray that it does.

I fear, however, that this is the beginning of a Washington consensus that the war has failed and it’s the military’s fault.

Until now, the left has pilloried George Bush for ignoring Afghanistan. The right has gone relatively easy on Obama when it comes to Afghanistan, although there has been plenty of criticism that Obama dallied in settling on a strategy in that war, erred in setting a July 2011 deadline for winding it down, has not been visible as disputes among his various representatives there boiled over (this last bit, not personal attacks on the president and vice president, makes up a large part of what the bulk of the Rolling Stone article actually detailed).

There will be a temptation now, I’m afraid, to blame McChrystal’s loose lips for dooming this war. The magazine article also highlighted discontent with the general among some soldiers in Afghanistan; the COIN strategy would have worked, we’ll hear from some quarters, if McChrystal hadn’t been such a hard head, an egomaniac, an envelope-pusher, a ______.

Never mind that the ultimate goal has been vague, the political support tentative, the attention paid to it (under Obama as well as Bush, by the public as well as politicians) sporadic.

I hope I’m completely wrong about all of this, that Petraeus comes in, kills more bad guys, identifies more good guys and empowers them — and that Obama does what is necessary on his end to ensure Petraeus’s success. Because if my fears come true, that’s when we truly will have landed back in Vietnam.

193 comments Add your comment

Jefferson

June 23rd, 2010
2:21 pm

Bring the troops home.

The Snark

June 23rd, 2010
2:28 pm

Why do you assume that the President’s decision was motivated by the desire to “placate” anyone, or that he’s worried about what he can “argue”? The Rolling Stone interview was not the first time that Gen. McChrystal caused problems in the chain of command — there has been enormous friction between him and his civilian superiors in intelligence and national security (notwithstanding the fact that most of them are former high-ranking military officers.)

By the way, I read the Rolling Stone article and it contains no “attacks on the president,” from the general or any of his staff, and only one feeble joke about the Vice-President’s name from a staff member. Significantly, not a word of criticism of the President or the strategy in Afghanistan (which is largely the general’s own strategy.)

TehranDawg

June 23rd, 2010
2:33 pm

The right has been soft on Obama for the simple fact that he didn’t pull all the troops out of Afghanistan on Day 1 of his presidency. As long as the war is prolonged, repubs will remain in favor of Obama’s war policy. Next year when troops start to leave the region, watch republican support whittle down to nothing.

For all you who will blame Obama for firing the general, how many Generals did Bush replace in Iraq after they disagreed with Rumsfeld’s policies? I count at least 4.

Troglodyke

June 23rd, 2010
2:34 pm

Though I’m hardly a “lefty,” I agree with Jefferson. I almost want to ask, “what’s the worst that could happen if we start bringing them home now, and to hell with peace in the Middle East.” The region is already unstable; we are seen by many as interlopers; “our” brand of democracy is patently untenable in that region. So why do we continue to waste the lives of our citizens for an unwinnable war?

When are OUR budget deficits and other problems at home going to become our first priority? How, exactly, is this war keeping us safe?

As for “classic Obama,” what would you have him do? A general who craps on his leaders cannot remain in power–this is the law of the military. He must be dealt with, so as not to undermine the effort and get more innocent soldiers killed.

If he was stupid enough to say what he did and not think he’d pay for it, then he has no business being in charge.

Shaun

June 23rd, 2010
2:39 pm

Let this be a lesson to all of you. DONT MESS WITH BARRY!

Kyle Wingfield

June 23rd, 2010
2:39 pm

Jefferson and Trog: Absent a clear mission and committed leadership, bringing them home may be the only good course of action.

Orlando

June 23rd, 2010
2:41 pm

He should be dishonorably discharged. If I were to make those type of remarks about my boss’s boss’s boss, I would be in the unemployment line!!!!! Who the heck does this EX GENERAL think he is.

Mr. Holmes

June 23rd, 2010
2:44 pm

Surely, Kyle, you afford better political instincts to Obama than this. Lay an entire war at the feet of one man–one *soldier*, no less? Who is he, Chamberlain on Little Round Top?

We have doomed ourselves to defeat in this war if we classify “victory” as nothing less than the installation of a Western-style government and the total eradication of the Taliban. The Afghans simply aren’t ready as a culture for either one of those.

Does that suck for us? Absolutely. But what’s the alternative? Only one I see is to establish a permanent military presence in Afghanistan. This war is coming up on 10 years and we’re basically a well-coordinated airstrike further along than when we started.

Ask the Russians. They found out the hard way too.

Marilyn

June 23rd, 2010
2:46 pm

We’re already in Vietnam-land! Bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq! And close many of our military bases around the world. With the money saved, we could repair our infrastructure. Kyle, unfortunately, you don’t know, what you don’t know!

Jefferson

June 23rd, 2010
2:47 pm

You can always drop bombs and launch cruise missles when you find the camps of “bad guys”. Boots on the ground — to win what ?

The Snark

June 23rd, 2010
2:53 pm

Roger that, Mr. Holmes.

And while we’re canvassing countries with relevant experience in Afghanistan, you can add Great Britain, Iran, and Pakistan to the list. Ain’t nobody gone in there and come out better.

Victory in Afghanistan for me means only one thing: no safe haven for terrorist training camps.

hotlanta

June 23rd, 2010
2:55 pm

TEST wow why is folks keep talking about Obama being tested as if he is being graded as if he was in school. This is reality stupid this isn’t like this is fake. This is the armed forces we are talking about. First the President was accused of being too soft and not getting tough when it came to the BP crisis. I guess yall forgot about him getting tough with the Republicans at their own meeting on live television concerning his health care. Yall forget about him getting tough with McCain again on live television saying the classic line “the campaign is over we are here to talk about healthcare”. He mad a lot of white folks mad when he talked to a white man like that. My all time favorite was when he chastised the Supreme Court justices on live television on their vote for corporate America having a lot of control during the elections. That is classic Obama. He gets tough on his time and no one else’s. GO OBAMA GO!!!!

Bill

June 23rd, 2010
2:55 pm

Yes, bring the Troops home so we can fight the War on Terror here, at home.

KevinM

June 23rd, 2010
2:56 pm

Simply stated, there’s no win….Obama has a thin-skin for any controversy. All those guys can come on home….Obama not interested in getting a solution…he doesn’t know how.

Stop It

June 23rd, 2010
2:57 pm

Did he not turn in his resignation? Apaprently he did not want to be there. Some people are making this out to be more than what it is. No matter if you are to the left and right, NO one should disresepct the commander in chief-PERIOD !

Just Another Female Vet

June 23rd, 2010
2:58 pm

Bring our men and women home now. In the time that we’ve been there, the mooney we’ve spent could have rebuilt, from the ground up, the entire Afghan region…tenfold. We spend 1 million dollars/day for each troop over there. That is sheer and utter nonsense when the Afghan GDP is less than 20 Billion per year.

Ever wonder why our media NEVER lets us see or hear from the ‘average’ Afghan man or woman on the street? I’ll bet it’s because the overwhelming majority of them would tell our military to stop spending 1 Billion dollars per day on a war that’s NOT benefitting them (and that’s NOT making us safer in the US) and instead use it to build schools, infrastructure (i.e. fresh water facilities, in-door plumbing, telecommunications), enhance thier ability to grow food, etc? Can we even fathom the positive impact we’d receive from the general population with such a humanitarian, commen-sense change in focus? We would be able to completely leave the country better than we found it. At this moment, what do we have to show for a war that is already longer than our invasion of Vietnam?

Last Word

June 23rd, 2010
3:04 pm

KW:

Wasn’t the course of action taken in Afgahnistan Patraeus’ and McChrystal’s idea to begin with?
Didn’t Obama acquiesce to their recommendations and strategies?
He was measured in his decision process, thought it through and went with what his generals were telling him?
HOW do you find fault in the President here?
I suspect McChrystal saw the writing on the wall:
that this was a no win scenario, so in light of his inevitable relief from duty he might as well launch a preemptive strike and hope for a Republican political future!

jconservative

June 23rd, 2010
3:05 pm

Obama made the only decision possible. Getting rid of McChrystal was crtical to the future of the US military.

Now Afghanistan. Bush correctly sent troops to Afghan on a mission to get Osama bin Laden. That mission failed completely. The troops should have been out before the end of 2002. They were not and Bush does take the blame for that.

And what happens then in Afghan? Mission creep.

Going forward the question is how do we prevent future mission creeps?
Whatever happened to “clearly defined mission”?

Real American

June 23rd, 2010
3:07 pm

Poor Kyle….LMAO….you actually got an ulcer over seeing Petraeus standing behind the President didn’t you? LMAO

blkshepherd-Vet

June 23rd, 2010
3:07 pm

As a former military soldier I cant help but ponder why would the general even say such things when He had to have known the fall out that surely came behind it. I am a fed government worker working for a government agency led by a director. How would it look to our clients if I trashed My Director? Well I wouldnt be in my position for very long. Yes they do fire federal government employees..Its Not ALL that hard if they REALLY want you out. Apparently this general spoke his mind because HE REALLY WANTED OUT! Its MESS over there and He saw it first hand. So thats why he spoke his mind. Maybe a little tacky and un becoming of a senior officer but..as I stated. this guy WANTED OUT. Rather than quit, he put his self in a position that would force him to be replaced..hes happy now I bet. Like I said..its a mess over there..I would want OUT TO.

joe

June 23rd, 2010
3:08 pm

Thank the Good Lord Above that Jefferson isn’t one of our military. If he was, we’d be speaking German…or have turned into France.

blkshepherd-Vet

June 23rd, 2010
3:10 pm

correction should read I would want out TOO. not To..oh whatever, You get my point!

You know it's true

June 23rd, 2010
3:12 pm

Hey wingnut, I bet you had two articles prepared. You were going to criticize Obama whatever he did. You have no credibility as a journalist.

Big D

June 23rd, 2010
3:16 pm

If you believe the General should be fired for disrespecting the Commander and Chief, then Obama should be fired for all the times he has disrespected our country and Constitution.

Road Scholar

June 23rd, 2010
3:19 pm

So Kyle, what was the President to do? McChrystal violated his oath to the country under military rules of conduct. If he let him get away with it, how would the troops, and his inner ring, acted?

While not in the military, I’ve worked for many who not only served but led. The one thing they said over and over was” We can disagree; we do not disagree in public.” We never disagreed in front of our “troops”.

So back to my question, what would you have done?

Change is good

June 23rd, 2010
3:20 pm

Well said Hotlanta! Go Obama Go!!

atlshirt.com

June 23rd, 2010
3:21 pm

NO one should disresepct the commander in chief-PERIOD !

I bet you disrespected the last Commander in Chief ??

sb

June 23rd, 2010
3:22 pm

@You know it’s true:

I Agree, his credibility is shot as a journalist. Please make room for some fresh conservative blood on this blog.

Sgt Barnes

June 23rd, 2010
3:22 pm

None of yall know nothing bout the Nam.

Dont mean nothing, brother.

Not a thang.

Big D

June 23rd, 2010
3:25 pm

BLK ShepVet, It’s a bigger mess here,the housing market drops 33% IN ONE MONTH to a all time historic low. The Federal Reserve makes a $2,000,000,000,000 ( two Trillion ) loan to an undisclosed entity and will not divulge who or what it is. Please don’t expect “Black Bart” ( as in Bart Simpson,”I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it, you can’t prove anything”)to come forward and say that it was his half baked B.S. policy that is rapidly killing our country.

Sick of Dems

June 23rd, 2010
3:26 pm

You go Big D- Obama has disrespected the United States many times but I don’t see all the left wingers calling for his resignation. Just another in a long line of Obama showing his true colors and lack of leadership….Oh by the way Obama good job letting BP take the cap of the well.. Idiot

retiredds

June 23rd, 2010
3:27 pm

There is no hope in my reply to you Kyle, Obama, in spite of the right (and mostly wrong) is making the right move. Too bad you and your party just don’t get it.

ArtVandelay

June 23rd, 2010
3:28 pm

hahahaha Kyle your destroy your own argument by finding fault with Obama here. The man LISTENED to a different point of view, saw the light, and changed course (something Bush would have never done). Even when the man agrees with your position somehow he’s at fault for not believing “enough” or not working hard “enough” for a goal his critics even believe in. Unbelievable…just call your column, “I don’t like obama and will never…NEVER agree with anything he does even if I am a proponent of said action…” and save we readers some time

joan1

June 23rd, 2010
3:29 pm

I disrespect Obama too. And I am not out there watching brave young men be blown up by sneaky suicide and car bombers. And I am not there watching us try to win over hearts and minds of a barbarous people who have never been, and will never be, tamed and submissive to a democratic form of government. And it seems like for the last couple of years we have become less Democratic ourselves, and much more autocratic, and dictatorial (Obama!)

Big D

June 23rd, 2010
3:31 pm

Analogy: Electing “Little Barry Sotero Obama” president is like hiring a Chicago cabby to fly a 747 just because he knew Cook county really well, he’s either in over his head or he really hates this country. If you voted for this Idiot you’re and IDIOT.

VotersOfNY

June 23rd, 2010
3:38 pm

I wonder whose fault this is, Bush maybe? What a clown this Obumbler guy is. Dumb as a box of hammers.

Last Word

June 23rd, 2010
3:38 pm

Sick of Dems:

“Oh by the way Obama good job letting BP take the cap of the well.. Idiot”

BP wouldn’t have to be trying techniques never tried before if they had drilled a relief well like they have everywhere else!

Kyle Wingfield

June 23rd, 2010
3:40 pm

I see no one has made it past the first paragraph…

Like I said yesterday, this is a mess Obama definitely didn’t need on top of everything else going on. Like I said yesterday, it’s tough to argue for keeping McChrystal in command.

The only person who could have made a good argument for doing so, in fact, was Obama himself. I disagree with those who said (before his decision) that keeping McChrystal would make Obama look weak. I think the opposite would have been true.

That’s not to say Obama somehow looks “weak” now. But all of this makes the mission in Afghanistan harder, not easier, to complete. Petraeus is a brilliant general, but can he really run Afghanistan at the ground level, as McChrystal did (and Petraeus did in Iraq), and keep things together in Iraq? As I said, I hope he can — but it’s far from clear.

Obama was going to catch flak here no matter what. What I hope does not happen now is for Washington to answer McChrystal’s finger-pointing by turning around and blaming our soldiers in Afghanistan for a morass that’s ultimately of politicians’ making.

VotersOfNY

June 23rd, 2010
3:41 pm

Just read Big D’s post. How true it is. These dopey fools that voted for him are getting what they deserve. Only thing, we’re getting it too.

You know what D? These fools will probably reelect the Dems come November. They are so stupid they can’t see what’s coming until it hits them between the eyes.

Orlando

June 23rd, 2010
3:41 pm

Big D, you are a big D%*k

JF McNamara

June 23rd, 2010
3:42 pm

He should’ve ended this on day one. I’m don’t think he “erred” in the deadline. Hopefully, he gets out on that date regardless. We aren’t winning, and its unlikely that we do win. Let’s literally declare victory on that date and move on. As long as we can still get the terrorist that are there, who cares who is in charge.

Big D

June 23rd, 2010
3:42 pm

Joan, well said.
RTDD, There is a reason it’s called the “right” why don’t we just call Democrats the “wrong”.
Just keep whistling past the grave yard until November. WE will neuter this mutt dog.

Stan

June 23rd, 2010
3:44 pm

And Mr/Mrs VotersofNY…..you think things were so much better under W? You were probably one of the idiots who reelected him…..Are you allergic to original ideas? Must be as W never had one

Rockerbabe

June 23rd, 2010
3:44 pm

I wish General McChrystal all the best in his much deserved and earned retirement. He has done more than his fair share to protect and defend his country and its citizens.

Dusty

June 23rd, 2010
3:44 pm

There is nothing here that can be blamed on the total “body” of our military. They are over there fighting and dying for us. No matter that one commander broke some rules about speech. The rest of our armed forces are still there laying their lives on the line.

If you think that mealy mouth excuse Obama gave for dismissing a top commander made Obama look strong, it did not. He him looked like a wimp dismissing a warrior when the action was not going well. Falling back on Petraeus was just Obama loading all responsibility back on someone other than himself when he doesn’t have a clue..

I feel sorry for Petraeus. He was successful in Iraq when he had a leader backing him. Now Petraeus will have only never trained and never served Obama. Petraeus will have to carry out bad policies that don’t work and whisper sweetly into Obama’s ear at the same time. It is an impossible task for one with integrity. McChrystal proved that.

Big D

June 23rd, 2010
3:44 pm

Orlando, if you voted for this pitiful excuse of a president your opinion of me is a badge of honor.

Big D

June 23rd, 2010
3:45 pm

Orlando, P.S. How do you think I got the Nickname.

Troglodyke

June 23rd, 2010
3:49 pm

Thank the Good Lord Above that Jefferson isn’t one of our military. If he was, we’d be speaking German…or have turned into France

Um, we aren’t talking about WWII. You are absolutely correct that IN THAT CONFLICT, we were right to be there, and the outcome was largely as it was because of our military.

But this is a different war, and a different time. And if you can’t see that, you are not really looking. The war we are in now in NO WAY resembles WWII.

somewhereinga

June 23rd, 2010
3:49 pm

Kyle..”If it’s not about p0licy or personalities, why the change?” .

Perhaps you should read your own newspaper. It reports the reason as Obama stated that the remarks “undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”

Stan

June 23rd, 2010
3:50 pm

Joan 1, you are clearly drinking the kool aid of the Republicans! Are you such a moronse that you do not remember W saying that Americans were either with him or against America???? That sounds like a dictator to me