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.