I know you’re just dying to know what I think about General Stanley McChrystal’s impolitic comments (and more than anything, lack of control of his staff in this regard) and Obama’s relieving him of his command.  Basically, McChrystal was really stupid and used incredibly poor judgement.  Like it or not, the commander of a major field of battle is a very political position, and if you can’t handle that part of the job well, it shouldn’t be your job.  Furthermore, if McChrystal truly possessed the military savvy and experience to bring about success in Afghanistan that no other leading generals possess, he’d still be there.  If he were truly indispensable, Obama would not have been dumb enough to dispense with him.  Given that, you really just can’t have your military command in open opposition to civilian leadership.  Ezra Klein has a nice take on this:

The outrage, however, was fueled by military rules and traditions that allow very little public criticism of civilian leadership in order to ensure that political and strategic disagreement doesn’t curdle into a culture of opposition among the people with all the weapons. McChrystal was clearly lax on policing criticism within his command, but when the system was made aware of that failure, the system worked. You did not see politically disgruntled generals rallying around McChrystal.

In short, its good for our way of government and civilian-military relations that McChrystal had to go.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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