General Stanley McChrystal, the Allied commander in Afghanistan, reportedly has submitted his resignation to President Barack Obama. McChrystal was the subject of a profile in “Rolling Stone” magazine entitled “The Runaway General.”
McChystal’s letter of resignation would relinquish his command. In 1961, Major General Edwin Walker, an openly reactionary individual who distributed anti-communist literature from the John Birch Society to his troops in Germany and called Harry Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt “pinkos,” was relieved of his command by President John F. Kennedy. Walker resigned his commission rather than retire, which meant he forfeited his pension.
General McChrystal has not done anything so drastic. If President Obama accepts his resignation, he may retire A West Point graduate (Class of ’76), he has 34 years in the military service and has maxed out his pension. He has been a general officer for 9 and 1/2 years.
Some political pundits believe that McChrystal’s public criticism of his commander-in-chief, the likes of which has not been seen since Douglas MacArthur defied Harry S Truman during the Korean Conflict, is a case of “covering his ass.” McChrystal’s troop surge has failed, this argument goes, so he is shifting blame on to Obama and his administration.
He may seek a career in Republican politics after the military.
The introduction to the Rolling Stone article reads, “Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”
McChrystal’s comments were perceived by many political pundits as rank insubordination due to the disrespect shown by the four-star general and his aides for his civilian superiors. Under the U.S. Constitution, the military is under civilian control. The Founding Fathers were hostile to the idea of standing Army, considering it as threat to democracy.
Under President George W. Bush, generals were allowed unprecedented latitude to criticize Bush’s war policy, a type of political posturing that General of the Army George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff during WWII, would have found abhorrent. Marshall was of the opinion a solider should have no political opinions. (As a civilian, Marshall won a Nobel Peace Prize as Harry S Truman’s Secretary of State. He also served Truman as Secretary of Defense.)
McChrystal has been recalled to Washington by his commander-in-chief and will meet with Obama on Wednesday, June 23. The President now is faced with the choice of accepting or rejecting it after meeting face to face with his wayward general.
The senior media adviser to the general already has resigned, according to Reuters. Before submitting his own resignation as theater commander, General McChrystal issued a public apology.
The Rolling Stone Profile
The Rolling Stone profile is rather remarkable for General McChrystal and his aides do not cover up their contempt for President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and members of the Obama administration. The only Obama Administration member who gets a pass is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom McChrystal is grateful to for her unstinting support of his mission.
McChrystal and his aides insult the President’s personal envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, long-time diplomat Richard Holbrooke, and Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry,, a former three-star general. They also insult General James Jones, the former Marine Commandant (of four star rank), who is the President’s national security adviser.
Jones is called a “clown” who is stick in 1985, still fighting the Cold War. The Washington Post reports that Jones may leave the Obama Administration at the end of the year.
Even more remarkably, McChrystal denigrates his commander-in-chief, Barack Obama. Obama is portrayed as out of touch, intimidated by the top Pentagon brass. The commander-in-chief of the armed forces is portrayed by a McChrystal aide as more interested in a photo opportunity than having an in-depth dialogue with the general l when Obama summoned him to the White House to assume the Afghanistan command.
An aide tells Michael Hastings, the author of the article, about the meeting between the two men: “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his [expletive] war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”
James P. Pinkerton, in a piece on Fox News’ Web site, believes that General McChrystal will not be fired. He cited the cases of the sacking of Major General George McClellan by President Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War and of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur by Harry S Truman during the Korean War.
“Little Mac” infuriated Lincoln, the commander-in-chief, by not being aggressive. In the case of Douglas MacArthur, it was a case of rank insubordination and interference in politics. (MacArthur’s father, Lt. General Arthur MacArthur was similarly sacked for insubordination bby future President William Howard Taft, who was then the military governor of the Philippines.)
General McChrytal’s case actually is more evocative of that of Douglas MacArthur, as last year, he went public with his need for more troops, essentially going over his commander-in-chief’s head to play politics. He got them. What Douglas MacArthur seemed to want was to fight World War III against the Soviet block, which had been expanded by the 1949 communist victory in mainland China over the Nationalist Chinese forces of Chiang Kai-shek.
As the overall commander of U.S. and United Nations troops in Korea, MacArthur had rolled up the North Koreans from the South and pushed them back to the Chinese border. Communist Chinese troops then crossed the border and intervened, turning the tide of the war. The Allied troops were pushed back across the 38th parallel into South Korea.
MacArthur wanted to attack China, but Truman was determined that there would not be another world war six years after the end of the last one. Both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were nuclear powers, but Truman did not believe atomic weapons would be decisive in Korea.
MacArthur is Fired
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, a hero of two world wars, publicly defied President Harry S Truman, as he had vetoed MacArthur’s desire to use atomic weapons and attack China. MacArthur actually sent a letter to Joseph Martin, the former Republican Speaker of the House, criticizing President Truman’s policies.
Truman’s aim was to keep the Korean War limited to the Korean peninsula and avoid triggering World War III. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, like MacArthur, favored nuking the Red Chinese troops of Mao Zedong. MacArthur’s letter seemed to call for fighting the Soviet Union in Europe.
Martin actually read the letter criticizing the Administration’s war policy on the floor of the House, and copies were distributed to the press. (The Republicans would win back the House in the 1952 elections, making Martin the Speaker once more.)
As a result of MacArthur’s interference in the political process, in April 1951 Truman removed him from his posts as Supreme Commander of the U.S. & United Nations military forces in the Far East. Truman consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, eventually making a horse trade with them, which was not revealed publicly for many years.. In exchange for giving them some control over atomic weapons, with the President relinquishing his monopoly on the U.S. atomic arsenal, the Joint Chiefs publicly backed his firing of MacArthur. The Joint Chiefs, however, would not agree that MacArthur’s actions were actually insubordination.
Relieved of his command but not reprimanded, MacArthur returned home a darling of the GOP and conservatives, particularly the anti-commnuist crowd who whose power was at full tide. He received a ticker-tape parade in New York City and addressed a joint session of Congress. Some politicians wanted to give him a sixth star.
Pinkerton of Fox News claims that Obama will not fire McChrystal for political reasons. Obama does not want to see the general wind up on the 20102 Republican Presidential ticket.
Both McClellan and MacArthur had political ambitions. “Little Mac” actually won the 1864 Democratic Presidential nomination and faced off against his former Commander-in-Chief in November. Lincoln, bolstered by General William Temumseh Sherman’s conquest of Atlanta, Georgia, won.
“Dugout Doug” MacArthur had designs on the 1952 Republican Presidential nomination, but another General of the Army, Dwight David Eisenhower, snagged the GOP nod. Ike went on to serve two terms as one of the most popular Presidents in U.S. history.
Like Harry S Truman, President Barack Obama will have to be careful how he treads. He will have to negotiate General Stanley McChrystal’s future with the Pentagon so that he doesn’t alienate them while disciplining his insubordinate general, which is necessary so he doesn’t appear weak in public and legitimate McChrystal’s criticism of him.
Fox News, Why Obama Won’t Fire McChrystal
Library of Congress, Lincoln Fires McClellan
New York Times, Excerpts From Rolling Stone’s McChrystal Profile; McChrystal Is Summoned to Washington Over Remarks
Reuters, Top aide to General McChrystal resigns
The Telegraph, General James Jones and the Jewish joke: what was he thinking?
Time Magazine, Stan McChrystal: The New U.S. Commander in Afghanistan
U.S. News & World Report, Truman Firing of MacArthur Hurt Approval Rating but Saved War With Red China
Washington Post, Obama has free rein to act on McChrystal, but system is still complex