I have no bone to pick with General Stanley McChrystal — I’m positive he’s a nice guy, good general, probably misunderstood.
But after the Rolling Stone interview that showed members of his staff insulting the president, and McChrystal himself dissing on the civilian leadership of the military, enough was enough. He had to go. Not so much for him, but because Obama has to bring the military to heel. And, fortunately for the nation, even Republicans like Sen. John McCain seem to be agreeing.
An example of the problem was a poster on one of my blogs last week, a 40-year military veteran and Air Force employee, who talked about other members of the military who said:
What the troops really want is for us to vote that pinhead they have to pretend to respect out of office. That would make them happy: to have a CiC who is a true patriot, not a pantywaist Marxist.
His attitude is hardly unique. The extreme polarization of politics in this country is, very dangerously, showing up all too often in the military. I know one civilian commander at Hill Air Force Base who, when he took office, had to remind the very GOP-leaning members of his staff that they WILL hang pictures of Obama in the office because, just like Bush whose pictures they reluctantly took down, Obama was their commander in chief.
This lack of respect for the civilian rule of the military by people in the military is beyond dangerous. It threatens the nation itself. We can’t have it. If McChrystal’s staff was showing lack of respect for the president and his civilian staff, he and they are in direct violation of the Military Code of Conduct and had to go.
I’m not the only one who sees this and is concerned. See this op-ed in today’s LA Times by Bruce Ackerman.
We simply cannot have a politically driven military. Yes, people in the military have every right to have political opinions, but when they join the military they take an oath to uphold the Constitution and that Constitution includes absolute respect and obedience to the President. When that fails, the nation fails.
The Uniform Code of Military Conduct makes this absolutely clear. If soldiers want to play politics, they need to get out and be civilians. This is doubly so for the officer corps.
Interestingly, Andrew Bacevich says McChrystal should not have been fired, but goes on to say Obama should rethink the Afghanistan strategy and get the heck out. Bacevich is a well-known commentator, a conservative, a former military man and a father who lost a son in Iraq. He is highly critical of the US quasi-colonial power reach around the world, and I usually agree with him, so it’s interesting to see his take on all this.
Here’s what’s really scary: I agree with George Will 100 percent on this whole mess.
Will calls the war Sisyphean and a fools errand, but mess is a good word as well. A hopeless mess. A FUBAR.
It involves forces we do not understand and have no hope of controlling, such that our presence, at best, mitigates only in the areas covered by our guns. People who say we could win if our troops didn’t have rules of engagement that prevent them from shooting more but, as McChrystal said, the Russians killed a million Afghans and got their butts kicked out anyway.
We’re heading for the same fate so, for me, the time to leave is now.
Right behind McChrystal.