The open disdain and personal ridicule of the President and his advisors by General Stanley McChrystal and his subordinates in the new issue of Rolling Stone leaves only two acceptable options: Either General McChrystal resigns or is fired.
If he has any honor, he'll step down.
I know something about this. In 2006, I worked with two Generals, appearing in national television ads critical of President Bush and his strategy in Iraq. Or, should I say, retired Generals. Major Generals Paul D. Eaton and John Batiste each made the painful decision to leave the military they loved so they could speak out. To that point, they had held their tongues.
Because the order and efficacy of our Armed Forces falls apart without respect for the chain of command. Whether it's a grunt respecting his company commander, or a General respecting the Commander in Chief, every single thing is predicated on the integrity of the chain of command. As soon as someone -- especially someone as high up as General McChrystal -- violates that respect, every single person under him begins to not only question the orders they've been given from above, but is given the signal that it's OK to openly disagree or mock his or her superior.
And violate that respect General McChystal and his subordinates have. Among other things, the Rolling Stone story reports first-hand that:
- McChrystal was disappointed with his first meeting with the President, and that he feels the President is uncomfortable and intimidated with military brass.
- McChrystal's aid calls National Security Advisor James Jones a "clown."
- Another aide says of envoy Richard Holbrooke, "The Boss [McChrystal] says he's like a wounded animal. Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous."
- Bolstering that, McChrystal himself, receiving an email from Holbrooke says, "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke. I don't even want to read it."
- On Vice President Biden, who disagreed with the General's strategy in Afghanistan, McChrystal says while laughing, "Are you asking me about Vice President Biden? Who's that?"
- An aide, mirroring his boss, adds, "Biden? Did you say Bite me?"
Anyone of lower rank would be immediately dismissed if he or she said of their superiors what General McChrystal said, or what he allowed members of his team to say.
This, of course, isn't the first time that the General has been in trouble. Following a very public campaign for his preferred strategy in Afghanistan, which included a 60 Minutes interview that challenged the President, McChrystal landed in some hot water with the President, and was told to cool it. Frankly, McChrystal got off easy.
When General Eric Shinseki testified to Congress about his opinion on the force levels needed to invade Iraq, countering the strategy laid out by President Bush and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he was forced into retirement. Shinseki, unlike McChrystal, was asked his opinion, under oath, in front of Congress. There's a difference between that professional conversation, and personal attacks on your superiors. Shinseki didn't lead a public campaign to air his views, either. At any rate, McChrystal was given a second shot, where Shinseki was not.
Whether he continued his insubordination purposely, or stupidly and unintentionally, isn't an issue. The issue, here, is that it happened. Again.
I cannot fault McChrystal for believing in his strategy. That's what you want out of a General - someone who gives the President strong advice, and believes what he says. But what cannot be allowed to stand is when he believes in his strategy more than the command structure and order of the Armed Forces, and his duty to uphold it.
It's clear, now, that General McChrystal is unable or unwilling to work within the chain of command, and set an example for all those who serve under him. That is why I say, if he has any honor, he'll offer up his resignation. And, if he doesn't, the President must fire him.