General McChrystal’s Criticism of the Obama Administration Results in a Change in Personnel

President Obama announced June 23 that he will accept General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation and is replacing him with General David Petraeus. 

 McChrystal’s “poor judgement” resulted in significant  repercussions, but relieving a general of his duties during war is not without precedent because President Truman fired General MacArthur at the height of the Korean War. The general continued to support expanding the war while the president was working towards peace negotiations with North Korea and China.  Truman was clear about his reason for firing MacArthur when he said, “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the president.”

Obama said, “This is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy.”  He continued, “I believe that it is the right decision for our national security. The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general.”

Obama acknowledged that it is hard to lose the general, but the “war is bigger than any one man or woman” and that while he welcomes debate among his team, he won’t tolerate division.

The relationship between McChrystal has been a rocky one with a great deal of public attention.  Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan and then last fall, Obama was very angry with McChrystal’s call for more troops in a report that was leaked to the press.  According to a June 22 article on, “Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. The White House’s troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing troops home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.”

With that deadline a little over a year away, it seems unlikely we’ll be able to meet it given that the Afghanistan government is far from stable. Afghan President Hamid Karzai continues make controversial and troublesome comments.  A June 7 New York times article, “Karzai’s Isolation Worries Afghans and the West” asserts that Karzai is insecure and acts erratically.  It says that this insecurity “has left Mr. Karzai alternately lashing out in anger and searching for new allies, turning to Iran and elements within the Taliban. Both are antagonistic to American interests.”

The Rolling Stone article reports, “In June, the death toll for U.S. troops passed 1,000, and the number of IEDs has doubled. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the fifth-poorest country on earth has failed to win over the civilian population, whose attitude toward U.S. troops ranges from intensely wary to openly hostile. The biggest military operation of the year – a ferocious offensive that began in February to retake the southern town of Marja – continues to drag on, prompting McChrystal himself to refer to it as a bleeding ulcer.”

This month Afghanistan officially outpaced Vietnam as the longest war in American history.  Like Vietnam, the constant onslaught of bad news over time has many Americans losing faith in our ability to win this war.

Critical thinkers must ask, can we win this war without our own military leaders’ support of their Commander in Chief and President of the United States?

McChrystal and his team criticized Obama administration officials and Obama personally in an upcoming article for Rolling Stone magazine called, “The Runaway General.” This upcoming article, which appears in the July 8-22 edition, has already launched debate over President Obama’s command of the war in Afghanistan. 

President Obama is the Commander in Chief and we are at war.  In fact, violence continues to increase as counterinsurgency efforts appear to be stalled. Is this the time for criticism or the time for support?  Why would McChrystal consent to an interview with Rolling Stone and how does he have time to critique the administration especially when two of the United State’s biggest allies, the Dutch and the Canadian’s, have recently announced plans to pull their combat troops out of Afghanistan?

McChrystal’s remarks are also confusing because they consist more of personal attacks rather than ones on strategy.  Some argue that his remarks indicate the frustrations of a general who knows he can’t win this war. Did he then make these comments with the hopes of getting a way out?

If Obama can’t rely upon our allies and military leaders for their support, what is left?  Will the change in personnel help Obama maintain control? 

McChrystal issued a statement in Kabul on Tuesday that said, “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.” He continued, “I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.” 

It’s interesting that he hasn’t retracted what he said, however.


3 thoughts on “General McChrystal’s Criticism of the Obama Administration Results in a Change in Personnel

  1. The Rolling Stone article “half-truthed” the facts, and here is why.
    There are two types of Army General: the corporate type and the soldier type. Gen. McCryistal is a soldier’s, soldier, and everyone in the world knows it. He is frustrated and bucking authority because the Commander-in-Cheif has not, until recently, been listening to his requests. The General is an expert at what he does, and is effective at getting “the suits” attention. He has proven himself, expertly.

    Our “President” is not a king, this country is not a monarchy (yet) and the General has the same First Ammendment Rights as any other US citizen. Absolutely no one in the military respects Obamas dislike of all things military. COIN being item number one on the complaint list. Rolling Stone said this was the General’s plan. The General is performing his duty by following orders in terms of the currently confused mission. Unfortunately, the General is under orders to all the corporate types in the Pentagon.

    How can a war be fought when the ground pounders are not allowed to engage the enemy? A war against terrorism is not fought by building schools, digging wells or by performing any other sort of UN or Peace Corp function. That “mission” is futile because the Afganis will always hate the US. All able members and assets need to be in the field seeking out, and then dispatching terrorists. The new structures and services we build are being used by the enemy. Soldiers know this and it annoys them. COIN was not the General’s brainchild it was Obama’s. Obama will not admit to it because it’s a mission designed to fail and the General has kept his mouth shut about that.

    General McCrystal has more than done his duty with little to nothing and now has fallen on the sword of COIN. Also, 1000 casualties compared to 54,000 Vietnam casualties is beyond miraculaous, especially considering the convoluted Afgan mission plan.

    Do not allow those heros to die in vain.
    If what we are currently doing does not work, do it differently.
    Nothing is impossible.

  2. Mr. Balsiger, I also have a First Amendment right to not have Congress restrict my free speech. But whatever I choose to say about my boss, I have to be ready to accept the consequences. Fortunately for me, I have nothing but praise for him.

    Even the most incompetent President [and we have recently met him] is still Commander in Chief and gets to uphold the standard in this country that the military obeys civilian command. That chain of command is supported by the Uniform Code of Justice, which can and does limit certain rights and privileges enjoyed by civilians. It also adds responsibilities and duties.

    Certainly one of those soldierly duties is to carefully reflect beforehand whether one’s words or actions are beneficial to one’s fellow soldiers. And especially to the mission of the troops under command. General Patton had a very hard time remembering that, and paid the price.

    General McChrystal certainly deserved firing over his insubordinate statements, an outcome he had to be expecting.

    I submit that we Americans have many decisions made by this President to object to that suggest to us that he also deserves to be fired. But not this one.

    • I believe General McChrystal knew exactly what the consequences of his words would be. He is a frustrated general who believes this is a war he can’t win and that Obama’s July 2011 deadline is nearly impossible to meet. I also agree with Lloyd that Obama made the right choice in accepting McChrystal’s resignation.

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