Just as I suspected – an act of ego, not pragmatism.
Here’s the thing: A military leader still answers to his civilian leadership. This is one of the checks and balances which protects our way of life and prevents us from becoming another junta-controlled banana republic. Our military – as designed- does not work effectively when criticism and back-biting is done in public.
Yes, even when the criticism is justified. It’s the way military chain of command MUST work.
Many in the Blogosphere are drawing parallels between Obama/McChrystal and Truman/MacArthur. And while IMHO neither of todays players can but stand in the shadows of their predecessors – Obama damn sure isn’t Truman (yikes!) and McChrystal sure isn’t MacArthur – there is commonality in the cases: a failure of civilian leadership to hear the plight and needs of those who have boots on the ground which triggers public rebuke by the military leadership.
By all accounts (I never met McChrystal) he is a proud – perhaps arrogant – man who carries substantial disdain for those in “suits” along with rabid respect for his troops. Fair enough, but in my career I also worked beside other proud leaders with similar traits – and famous last names such as Abrams, Patton, White, Westmoreland and Powell – who had similar concerns about civilian leadership but (mostly) checked their public voice at the door. Because it’s what the job demands.
And let’s not forget McChrystal has his share of valid criticism to bear. His restrictive engagement policies have led to demonstrable increases in death and injury – specifically for Infantry and Marine “first contact” teams. This for the sake of soothing the political beast. One would have thought Korea and Vietnam taught us better but alas, I fear not.
IMHO, McChrystals greatest tactical blunder is speaking his mind for a dumb-ass liberal wonk rag like Rolling Stone which would never give account for “this is how military guys speak privately” and filter accordingly. Today’s MSM in general looks for the dirty laundry – the killer sound byte – instead of the depth of the story. Being a reasonably good tactician, McChrystal should have known he was exposing himself and his team to a PR flanking maneuver. Even if he is correct (which by all accounts he is) their snarks should have remained behind closed doors and in privileged company. And in the end, such open disrespect weakens morale and military discipline. It cannot be allowed. Showing public disdain for the chain-of-command would get a private or sergeant UCMJ punishment. Like crooked politicians, Generals cannot be “above the law”.
Obama’s best move would have been to censure McChrystal and put him back to work. However, Obama acted on ego (his MO), McChrystal is gone. Watch the Afghan government relationship with the US fall further into disrepair (McChrystal was about all holding that alliance together) and troop morale bottom out for the remainder of the year while new leadership is found and installed. Troop deaths and injuries will rise due to the indecisiveness inherent to instability. The mission will flounder rudderless until Petraeus (a good officer, IMHO) get his arms around the battle plan. This will not be seamless; and being that both Generals are tactically dissimilar (except for willingness to bribe insurgent leaders for cooperation) and confusion will filter through the ranks for weeks, if not months to come.
Obama will blame it on McChrystal – and of course, Bush. We can only hope for another commonality: As MacArthur helped end Truman’s presidency I hope this move seals the fate of Obama’s. I’ll accept anything at this point to see the “Colon-In-Chief” shown the door going OUT.