A half century ago President Harry Truman tamed a rebellious -- and hugely popular -- Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who wanted to dramatically expand the war in Korea by attacking China.
President Obama faces a similar challenge today from his commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who wants to send tens of thousands more American troops to this war.
Like MacArthur in 1951, McChrystal was not shy about airing his dissent from the White House, giving a London speech saying that one of the strategies under consideration by the president -- to concentrate on wiping out terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than trying to wage an endless counterinsurgency war -- would lead to "Chaos-istan."
When asked whether he would support it, he said: "The short answer is: No."
Obama won the first round last week when he summoned McChrystal to a tense showdown aboard Air Force One on the tarmac in Denmark.
But the battle between the general and his commander in chief is far from over.
McChrystal is in for a rude awakening, however, if he thinks he's a latter-day MacArthur, with a vast conservative following ready to rally to his side.
For starters, Afghanistan is not China, which had long and deep commercial, cultural, religious, political and military ties with millions of Americans before its communist revolution triumphed in 1950.
And it hardly needs saying that Afghanistan's "loss" to the Taliban has nothing near the strategic ramifications for the United States that the communist revolution in China had.
When MacArthur publicly rebuked Truman for refusing to pursue Chinese troops across the Yalu River, moreover, America was already in the grip of a national paranoia about communist agents in the U.S. government, media, and Hollywood.
It's impossible to imagine a present-day Joe McCarthy whipping up fears of al Qaeda or the Taliban having secret sympathizers in the State Department.
No, President Obama will find it far easier to dump Gen. McChrystal than Truman did MacArthur if he keeps speaking out.
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