Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What would Truman do?

Stanley McChrystal has proved himself again and again to be a loose cannon. He has been in trouble before and been called on the carpet before for things that he has said and actions he has taken that have called into question the plans and orders of his superiors. This is not what we expect of a member of the military services, and especially not one who has reached the rank of general.

McChrystal is a checkered character in many ways. There was torture and mistreatment of prisoners under his watch while in Iraq. He's never been called to account for that. He was also at the center of the cover-up regarding the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman, the former NFL star, in Afghanistan. The Tillman death was presented to the world as a heroic death in battle, whereas, in fact, it was a result of a series of errors. A lie was created because the administration in Washington needed a hero to sell the war. McChrystal was complicit in constructing that lie.

And yet with all that baggage, he was still chosen to lead the war in Afghanistan, and so far, that has not proved to be a great success. In fairness to him, it is an almost impossible task, but his performance has not given us cause for confidence.

McChrystal was insubordinate in his ill-chosen comments to Rolling Stone magazine. He was rude, mocking, questioning his boss who just happens to be the Commander-in-Chief of all the military. He has undermined the authority of the President. Not only is this a firing offense, in earlier times, he could have faced a firing squad for such actions.

Now the apologists will say that McChrystal IS the war in Afghanistan. It's his strategy and it would be extremely disruptive and disheartening to the troops in the field to remove their commander at this point. Well, their commander is the President and he's not being removed.

We need to get out of Afghanistan as soon as is feasible and the President has a strategy to do that. McChrystal disagrees with that strategy and that seems to be at the heart of his dissatisfaction with Obama. He apparently wants an open-ended war.

So the question now is, "What would Harry Truman do?" For that matter, what would Abraham Lincoln, that noted firer of incompetent generals, do? For me, the answer is clear. Either of those gentlemen would fire this general's butt! I hope Obama will channel them and not be wishy-washy when facing this man who challenges his authority and his judgement. Fire him.

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