Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Civilian Control of the Military: The Summer of Our Discontent

In the new issue of Rolling Stone, which will hit stands on Friday, Michael Hastings interviews Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan. The article will be brutal against the Obama Administration and, in some cases, against Obama himself.

Here is a description of article from MSNBC:
In Rolling Stone, McChrystal is described by an aide as "disappointed" in his first Oval Office meeting with an unprepared President Barack Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.

"I found that time painful," McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. "I was selling an unsellable position."

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. And the White House's troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.


The article portrays McChrystal's team as disapproving of the Obama administration, with the exception of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who backed McCrystal's request for additional troops in Afghanistan.

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war "by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House."

It quotes a member of McChrystal's team making jokes about Biden, who was seen as critical of the general's efforts to escalate the conflict and who had favored a more limited counter-terrorism approach.

"Biden?" the aide was quoted as saying. "Did you say: Bite me?"

It seems that even before the war is over individuals are attempting to dissociate themselves from the Country's longest war.

This is not good for anyone involved: the military leadership, the troops, the president. The insubordination in the interview probably undermines civilian control of the military, especially for Democrats. It certainly provides Republicans with a damning critique of Obama, from someone who voted for him, for the 2010 and 2012 elections. It creates a familiar fault line within the Democrats between Obama and Clinton, which has been a developing Republican meme (see Red State and Peggy Noonan).

Update: McChrystal apologized. Obama has summoned him to Washington. McChrystal will probably get removed from his post as it is fairly uncommon for leading military people to call out the Commander in Chief and even less probable that they survive in their position when they do. This works well for McChrystal as he gets to publicly denounce the strategy and is no longer responsible for the implementing the plan. Now that is responsibility.

With the blood in the Gulf, it seems as if it is time to strike.

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