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” that was highly critical of the Obama Administration’s policies in Afghanistan.
McChrystal and his aids mocked and insulted Vice President Joe Biden, Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, and the Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, who was a lieutenant general in the U.S. Army.
McChystal’s letter of resignation would relinquish his command. 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.
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.
MacArthur v. Truman
In Plain Speaking, an oral biography of former Harry S. Truman written by Merle Miller, the former President described the actual firing of General Douglas MacArhur, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Far East, during the Korean War .
MacArthur had been defying Truman, his commander-in-chief, publicly for eight months. The general had announced his own foreign policy objectives, which ran counter to Truman’s wish to avoid World War III by keeping the conflict limited to the Korean policy. He had also gone public in urging a vote for the Republican Party in the November 1950 elections, as the GOP supported his aim to broaden the war into mainland China, which went communist the year before.
As the overall commander of U.S. and United Nations troops in Korea, MacArthur had masterminded the brilliant landing at Inchon in September 1950. The U.N. forces and the Army of the Republic of Korea (South Korea, or ROC) rolled up the North Korean invasders, pushing them out of the South during 1950 and back across the 38th parallel, the demarcation line of the two Koreas.
MacArthur met with Truman at Wake Island on October 15th, at which he showed disrespect by landing his plane 45 minutes after the President. Truman dressed him down, telling him he might not respect Harry Truman, but he had to respect his command-in-chief. MacArthur then engaged in “ass kissing” that disgusted Truman, who gave the egotistical commander a Silver Star medal to flatter him, much as Franklin Roosevelt had given him a Medal of Honor after losing the Philippines.
At the meeting, MacArthur assured Truman that the “Red Chinese” forces would not invade to help the North Koreans. Ten days later, the Chinese crossed the border and intervened with a force of 300,000-400,000 troops, which devastated the U.S. Eighth Army and ROK troops. The Communist Chinese troops turned the tide of the war, and the U.N. 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 kept issuing press communiques into 1950 announcing his own policies that ran counter to Truman’s. He thwarted Truman’s plans to ask the Chinese for a cease-fire by demanding that they surrender to him personally.
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.
Truman thad had enough. He old Miller about the actual firing.
“And so we went right ahead, and we did it. There were a good many details to be worked out. I asked General Bradley to be sure we had the full agreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which he got; they were all unanimous in saying he should be fired. And we had to arrange to turn the command over to General Ridgway.
“And then of course, we wanted to be sure that MacArthur got the news through official channels. We didn’t want it to get into the newspapers first. I signed all the papers and went over to Blair House to have dinner. Some of the others stayed behind at the White House to decide on exactly how to get the word to Frank Pace [secretary of the army, then in Korea]. Pace was supposed to notify the general.
“While I was still at Blair House, Joe Short [press secretary] came in to where the others were, and he said he had heard that the Chicago Tribune had the whole story and was going to print it the next morning.
“So General Bradley came over to Blair House and told me what was up, and he says if MacArthur hears he’s going to be fired before he officially is fired, before he’s notified, he’d probably up and resign on me. And I told Bradley, ‘The son of a bitch isn’t going to resign on me, I want him fired.'”
It is apparent that General Stanley McChrystal offered his resignation as theater commander tio President Barack Obama so that Obama couldn’t fire him, thus publicly humiliating him. His criticism of the Obama Administration likely was an attempt to shift the blame of his own failed policies to his commander-in-chief.
In this, he is like General Douglas MacArthur, who assured President Truman that the Chinese Communists would not come into the Korean War on the side of the North. Ten days after making this proclamation, they did.
Truman told Merle Miller, “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President….. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the laws for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.
Unlike Barack Obama, who has never served a day in the military, Harry Truman was a combat veteran of the First World War, serving as a captain and commander of an artillery battle. He was tough and was unimpressed by the brass hats of the Pentagon, with the exception of George Marshall, who served him as Army Chief of Staff then, as a civilian, as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. Marshall approved the sacking of MacArthur.
Stanley McChrystal is small potatoes compared to Douglas MacArthur, one of the greatest generals this country has ever produced. It remains to be seen if his conflict with his commander-in-chief will make Barack Obama seem small potatoes, too.
Fox News, Why Obama Won’t Fire McChrystal
New York Times, Excerpts From Rolling Stone’s McChrystal Profile; McChrystal Is Summoned to Washington Over Remarks
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