General McChrystal Needs to be Canned
General McChrystal is currently serving as Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan. The issue of Rolling Stones magazine coming out this week contains a profile of the General including quotes from his staff. In the article Gen. McChrystal is critical of both his civilian counterpart in Afghanistan, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and the president. In discussing the president, Gen. McChrystal described being disappointed in President Obama in their first meeting despite having voted for him.
Obviously, voting for Obama reflects poorly on McChrystal's judgment. Worse than that is a senior military officer even disclosing who he voted for in any election. An officer remains a citizen with a right and duty to vote. However, an active duty officer should not engage in active politics for several reasons. Our national has been well served by having separate and distinct civilian leadership over the military. A military clearly subordinate to elected officials protects us from the coups seen in other young nations and should make us less likely to enter into military action unnecessarily. Additionally, it can be argued that revealing which party or candidate a senior officer supports could overly influence his troops.
Beyond all that, this situation also reflects poorly on Gen. McChrystal's job performance. How's that you ask? He is leading troops in a war zone and now he is being called to DC to answer to his boss about some stupid magazine article. Rather than leading his men he has become a distraction. He and his staff are now more engaged in saving their own bacon then the war effort. This was an unforced error and his troops deserve better.
I'm not a fan of President Obama, but this issue is bigger than the man currently holding the office. He needs to fire Gen. McChrystal to maintain our concept of civilian leadership over the military. We can always get another general. It is much harder to reinstate a chain of command structure after allowing it to break down. This was true when Truman was forced to relieve MacArthur and it is still true today.