Afghanistan is a mess. The war doesn’t seem to be going well. Think about it. When was the last time we heard good news coming from that war zone?
Instead, we’ve got drama involving our top general, Stanley McChrystal. He’s been ordered back to DC after an explosive interview with Rolling Stone. (The article hasn’t been posted yet, but a pdf has been posted here.) The first line of the piece is:
General 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.
I read the article and you never hear McChrystal actually use that terminology. But, it’s implied.
This is going to be a test of Obama’s leadership. McChrystal has already been warned, according to Rolling Stone:
Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” The re marks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the f— up, and keep a lower profile.
The General didn’t shut up. And, he’s not keeping a lower profile. In fact, the McChrystal team, in front of the reporter, continued to mock Biden:
Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.
“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”
“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”
Obama can’t have a publicly insubordinate General. He can’t. Obama’s going to have to channel Harry Truman here.
McChrystal has apologized for the interview, but that’s not enough. He’s been ordered back to Washington:
President Obama recalled the top U.S. general in the Afghanistan War, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, following a magazine interview in which McChrystal criticized several top U.S. officials and said he felt betrayed by his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.
In a profile by Rolling Stone entitled “Runaway General,” McChrystal is characterized as an outsider who did not relate well with the administration, and as a military leader who was “disappointed” with his first meeting with the president.
After news of the comments sent shockwaves through political and military circles from D.C. to Afghanistan, McChrystal quickly issued an apology for his “bad judgment.”
The President is meeting with Secretary Gates this afternoon. No doubt, this blow up is on the agenda. It’s a test for the President.
NOTE FROM JOHN: The President is going to talk to his insubordinate Secretary of Defense about his insubordinate General. Just let that one sink in.
Why should anyone be surprised by what McChrystal is saying? I’m sure Gates says the same thing. The entire military got the message when McChrystal pulled this crap last time, and got away with it. And they really got the message when Gates pulled this crap this time, on Obama over the effort to repeal DADT, again and again and again. And the President did nothing to stand up to his own subordinate.
Barack Obama caves. It’s what he does and who he is. He does it on military issues. He did it on the stimulus when the fate of the nation was at stake. He did it on health care reform, his supposed most important issue of his presidency.
I hate to say it, as I supported the man in the primaries, and still would like to see him succeed (for all of our sakes), but the President has this thing about getting rolled, and then not fighting back. And I seriously doubt Joe and I are the only ones who have taken note.
As we have said time and again, the President’s mistakes don’t happen in a vacuum. They reverberate. They define who he is to his enemies. And they come back to haunt him, and us.