President Barack Obama removed General Stanley McChrystal from his command and named General David Petraeus as the new military commander in Afghanistan. At a Rose Garden press conference announcing his decisions, Obama was flanked by General Petraeus and by Vice President Vice PresidentJoe Biden, who had been criticized by McChrystal and his aides in a profile in Rolling Stone magazine.
The introduction to the Rolling Stone article, which is called “The Runaway General,” 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.”
Even before the issue went to press, the article ignited a political firestorm in Washington, D.C., the likes of which have not been seen since President Harry S Truman sacked General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as the commander of Allied Forces during the Korean War in 1951.
The similarities between McChrystal and MacArthur of one of kind, not degree, as MacArthur went much farther than McChrystal has over the last year. MacArthur contradicted the policies of Truman, a Democrat, and sought the support of the Republican Party for his aim of attacking communist China, something Truman wanted to avoid as he thought it would trigger World War III. MacArthur also wanted to use nuclear weapons on the North Koreans and on mainland China, a policy Truman was opposed to as he did not think dropping The Bomb would end the Korean Conflict.
Genral Stanley McChrystal has not gone as far as MacArthur, though he has been indiscreet. He publicly embarrassed President Obama last year by going public with his demand for 30,000 more troops for a surge.
Some pundits believe that McChrystal’s surge is a failure, and his remarks were an attempt to shift the blame to Obama and his administration.
Looking every inch the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States, Obama was at the height of his rhetorical powers as he praised General McChrystal for his patriotism and his service in Afghanistan during the press conference. Obama explained that he had to remove the general due to the constitutional principle of civilian control of the military. That principle went back to the Founding Fathers, Obama correctly stated.
Obama handled the situation masterfully, as his appointment of General Petraeus, the architect of the successful surge of forces in Iraq in 2007, to be the commander in Afghanistan, is a stroke of genius. Petraeus not only is the “best” soldier the country has to offer, he also is popular with both parties in Congress.
When Truman relieved MacArthur, a five-star general who was a hero of two World Wars, he had wanted to replace him with General of the Army Omar Bradley, another hero of World War II who was serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Truman settled for Lt. General Matthew Ridgway, who did a superb job in the stalemate that developed in Korea due to the Chinese intervention that flummoxed MacArthur.
McChrystal, who had been recalled to Washington by Obama, had reportedly offered his resignation as theater commander to the President. The 55-year-old Army general’s 34-year career, in which he distinguished himself as an advocate of Special Operations, likely is over.
The Rolling Stone Profile
The Rolling Stone profile is rather remarkable for General McChrystal and his aides did not cover up their contempt for President Obama and members of the Obama administration.
In addition to insulting Vice President Biden, who as a Senator had been chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, McChrystal and his aides insulted the President’s personal envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, long-time diplomat Richard Holbrooke, and the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry, a former three-star general. They also insulted former Marine General James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, calling him a “clown.”
Even more remarkable, McChrystal denigrates his commander-in-chief. Obama is portrayed as out of touch, intimidated by the top Pentagon brass. The impression is that McChrystal and his staff thinks Obama is a weakling.
An aide tells Michael Hastings, the author of the article, about a meeting between the President and McChrystal. “Here’s the guy who’s going to run his [expletive] war, but [Obama] didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”
The actual “Boss” of the military wound up pretty disappointed with General McChrystal, which led to this ignominious end to his career.
New York Times, Excerpts From Rolling Stone’s McChrystal Profile; McChrystal Is Summoned to Washington Over Remarks; Obama Relieves McChrystal of Command
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