Obama administration turns the politics of personal destruction onto General McChrystal

I found this news snippet interesting, beyond the fact that Obama, the missing and passive Commander in Chief, is at odds with his general (emphasis mine):

According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.

The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago’s unsuccessful Olympic bid.

Gen James Jones, the national security adviser, yesterday did little to allay the impression the meeting had been awkward.

Asked if the president had told the general to tone down his remarks, he told CBS: “I wasn’t there so I can’t answer that question. But it was an opportunity for them to get to know each other a little bit better. I am sure they exchanged direct views.”

An adviser to the administration said: “People aren’t sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn’t seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.”

In London, Gen McChrystal, who heads the 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan as well as the 100,000 Nato forces, flatly rejected proposals to switch to a strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces operations against al-Qaeda.

The tone of the message is obvious, especially with that quote from the unnamed “adviser to the administration”: McChrystal is a neophyte, shaking in his shoes because his boss is angry.  The subtext in the message from the White House is equally obvious:  General McChrystal isn’t man enough for the job and needs to go.

But, really, I wonder on which side the awkwardness really was.  On the one side, you have a four star general with decades of experience as a leader.  His wikipedia entry just goes on and on and on with a listing of his accomplishments and responsiblities.  On on the other side, you have a guy whose only success is running for office.  Whether as a law review editor in chief, a young lawyer, an Annenberg Challenge leader, a state senator, a United States Senator or a President of the United States, his is a record replete with (a) an absence of any accomplishments and (b) completely failed policies.  In his last job alone (that would be nine months as President), every single one of his initiatives has, so far, failed.  With specific regard to McChrystal and these failures, a leaked document exposed Obama as someone who is hiding from his generals, whether because he finds his Commander in Chief responsibilities boring or frightening.

With that information in mind, take a mental trip to that face-to-face meeting between Obama and McChyrstal.  On the one hand, the seasoned, experienced, responsible United States general; on the other hand, a green neophyte whose greatest accomplishment is reading scripts prepared for him by others.  With that picture inyour mind, ask yourself this:  Who was scared or awkward in that meeting?  And who was “naïve or an upstart?”  And who isn’t “ready for this Washington hard-ball?”

As for the “hard-ball” stuff, it’s obvious that Obama, with this attack on McChrystal is practicing his own particular brand of Chicago hard-ball, which involves the politics of personal destruction.  But just as I thought it was stupid for the administration to pick an open fight with the CIA, I wonder how smart is it for Obama, with his pathetic executive resume, to pick an open fight with the United States military.

Because Obama is nominally the boss, he’s going to win any short term fights with McChrystal and the military.  In the long run, however, not only will our country and our military suffer, Obama is going to suffer too.  And that’s the kind of short-sighted political calculation for which Obama is eventually going to be remembered.

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  • 11B40


    Back in my infantry days, my favorite Platoon Sergeant used to have a useful concept he called “training the trainable”. The long version of what he meant was that there will be infantrymen who cannot be trained, including and perhaps most importantly from his perspective, officers. His preferred course of action was to remove those individuals from his area of responsibility as soon as possible, but in the mean time (intentionally two words) make their military lives as unpleasant as possible, thus establishing for the trainable the errors and consequences of the un-trainable. I think that President Obama may have something like this in mind for General McChrystal.

  • socratease

    On the one side, you have a four star general with decades of experience as a leader. His wikipedia entry just goes on and on and on with a listing of his accomplishments and responsiblities.

    Better get a screenshot of that entry, it’s likely to change in the near future.

  • kali

    McChrystal has to understand this–no one gets to 4 stars without being a really good politician, and I’m certain he’s studied the man from the Annenberg Challenge.

    I’m also certain he won’t fall on his sword to save Obama’s face, either.

  • suek

    I read somewhere recently that after Vietnam top ranking officers mutually agreed not to accept again being placed in the position of having to order troops into an unwinnable war. I don’t know if that’s true…don’t remember where I read it (as in, how reliable the source was).

    So…if I assume that the statement is true, and that it has been integrated into the military ethic as has been the concept of “no soldier left behind”, what will be the consequence here? The possibilities are certainly sobering to consider…

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    They will resign their commission rather than to see troops die for no gain.

  • suek

    >>They will resign their commission rather than to see troops die for no gain.>>

    And leave the troops with no leaders? or clearly unqualified leaders?

    That too is a bad option.

    If there were some way to get the soldiers out and _then_ resign, I’d be for it. I don’t think that can happen, though. I’m not sure those commanders will abandon their troops – though I’m also not sure there’s another way for them…

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    MacArthur tried to do it, though his resignation wasn’t accepted and Truman decided to fire him. As if this was a hard decision to make. MacArthur could not tolerate rules of engagement designed for nothing except to hold a piece of ground for UN diplomatic deals.

    What we got with Vietnam was a bunch of Generals liking the restrictions on ROE and trying to make it work. Well, it didn’t work. To be more accurate, successive competent generals made something work under Nixon, but it was erased by the Democrats, again. If it ain’t Democrat Presidents mucking things up, it’s McNamara. If it wasn’t McNamara, it was the Democrat COngress.