In putting General Stanley McChrystal in charge of the Afghan war effort, President Obama knew he wasn’t hiring a choirboy. Tough as nails, McChrystal was known as a “can-do” and “results driven” leader, definitely rough around the edges, but then again so too was General George S. Patton during World War II. In staking the success of his surge on McChrystal, Obama apparently saw something in this man that he liked.
But McChrystal and his staff have not returned the favor. Based on comments from interviews conducted by Rolling Stone, they see Obama as ill-prepared and uninvolved, hold Vice President Biden in contempt, and view National Security Advisor James Jones (a retired Marine Corps general) as a Cold War fossil who’s well past his prime.
Such blatant disrespect can neither be dismissed nor ignored nor tolerated. In attacking his own chain of command so egregiously in public, McChrystal has broken a fundamental rule of military discipline. And for this he must go.
But it’s not for this reason alone that he should resign. Our policies in Afghanistan, not promising to begin with, have absolutely no chance of success if the president and his handpicked theater commander can’t forge a working relationship based on mutual respect. McChrystal, it is clear, has little confidence in Obama and his national security team (with the apparent exception of Hillary Clinton). How then can Obama have any confidence that McChrystal will work to implement the president’s agenda?
Chemistry between senior leaders is vital, especially in matters of life and death, and clearly Obama and McChrystal’s mutual chemistry is of the combustible variety. At the moment it’s generating plenty of heat, but no light.
And for that reason as well, McChrystal must go.
The article has also been published at Huffington Post.
William J. Astore, Retired Lt. Colonel, US Air Force.