Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

President Obama must relieve General Stanley McChrystal of command

This simply cannot stand:
In a new magazine profile, the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and his advisors appear to ridicule Vice President Joe Biden and are portrayed as dismissive of civilian oversight of the war.

The article, in Rolling Stone, says McChrystal's staff frequently derided top civilian leaders, including special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. One anonymous aide calls White House National Security Advisor James Jones a "clown."
Since Rolling Stone (which has a history of publishing provocative articles) first released an advance copy of the article to the press, it has dominated headlines, sparking an apology from McChrystal (who claims to have misspoken... yeah, right) and summonses from both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barack Obama. Obama is reportedly furious and no doubt itching to give the general a private dressing down.

But the president should do more than that. He should fire McChrystal and relieve him of command. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (Article 88) makes it clear that insubordination by commissioned officers is simply unacceptable:
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.
McChrystal's comments are unbecoming of a general who has been given the important and difficult responsibly of managing a military occupation abroad. The disrespect that the Rolling Stone article depicts must be dealt with. Allowing McChrystal a reprieve would set a bad example.

As Jon Soltz wrote in the Huffington Post, "Anyone of lower rank would be immediately dismissed if he or she said of their superiors what General McChrystal said, or what he allowed members of his team to say."

There shouldn't be a double standard for generals and commanders. If anything, generals and commanders should be held to a higher standard, because they set the tone for those they command. A general who cannot conduct himself or herself professionally should not be a general, period.

President Obama can look to President Harry Truman for inspiration. During the Korean War, Truman fired popular general Douglas MacArthur "because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President," as Truman told Time Magazine in 1973. At the time, MacArthur's firing drew strong condemnations from Republicans (especially Robert Taft of Ohio), but it was the proper course of action to take.


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