Gen. Stanley McChrystal has paid the price of indiscretion, and has resigned as the commander in the war in Afghanistan, accepted by President Obama. Gen. David Petreaus, currently commander of CENTCOM, will replace him.
Considering the circumstances of the Rolling Stone article, President Obama displayed considerable graciousness in accepting McChrystal’s resignation, praising his capabilities as a soldier. McChrystal in turn displayed graciousness, once again expressing regret for allowing criticism of the commander-in-chief and his national security staff to appear in the pages of Rolling Stone.
Obama also displayed a rare instance of adroitness by naming Gen. Petreaus, architect of the victory in Iraq, as the new commander in Afghanistan. It is unknown at this time whether the president will also take the opportunity to address some of the deficiencies in strategy and personnel that McChrystal complained about, albeit inappropriately, to a Rolling Stone writer. That would include the July 2011 withdraw deadline, which many in the military regard as unrealistic and prone to encourage Taliban and Al Qaeda resistance and discourage support of Afghan allies. Some have also complained about questionable rules of engagement which tie the hands of soldiers in combat.
The relieving of McChrystal and the appointment of Petreaus are both fraught with irony. Obama himself had relieved Gen. McChrystal’s predecessor and named McChrystal as commander in Afghanistan. Obama had also supported, albeit tepidly, McChrystal’s strategy for winning in Afghanistan. McChrystal believes that subsequent actions by the administration and its people have served to undermine that strategy.
The appointment of David Petreaus is even more fraught with irony. When Petreaus was appointed by President George W. Bush, both President Obama and Vice President Biden, as senators, attacked Petreaus and his surge strategy. Left-wing supporters of Obama were even more vicious, calling Petreaus “General Betray-us.” Both Obama and Biden suggested that defeat in Iraq was inevitable.
But, as they say, that was then and this is now. There is nothing that quite argues for a strategy than its success — or for the man who formulated and executed that strategy.
The question that remains is will Gen. Petreaus have a better relationship with his commander-in-chief than McChrystal? Part of McChrystal’s complaint was that Obama was detached from Afghanistan strategy, and that he did not feel he had a good relationship with the commander-in-chief and his people.
Will McChrystal’s departure prove to be a wake-up call for the Obama administration, forcing it to pay more attention to the need for executing a winning strategy in Afghanistan? If so, McChrystal, in a kind of strange way, may have done his country a service.
McChrystal Out, Petraeus In as Afghanistan Commander Following Critical Remarks, Fox News, July 23rd, 2010