In accepting the resignation “with considerable regret” of Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, President Obama framed the argument well: this is about a sacrosanct component of American democracy: civilian control of the military. McChrystal’s jaw-droppingly indiscreet comments were nothing less than insubordination, and no President – certainly not one leading two wars – can tolerate such dissent.
"We have to remember what this is all about,” Obama said. “This nation is at war." He added "I welcome debate…but I will not tolerate division."
The President could have made today’s Rose Garden announcement alone. Instead, in a show of unity, Vice-President Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen stood with him – along with Gen. David Petraeus, who Obama has nominated to fill McChrystal’s shoes.
Although the President praised McChrystal’s long record of service, his anger was reflected in his public rebuke of the General – something Obama rarely if ever does. That anger erupted Monday night when the President read the now infamous Rolling Stone article, which criticized nearly every member of Obama’s national security team - including the President himself.
But Obama said his sacking of the General wasn’t taken from “any sense of personal insult. “
“The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general,” the President said. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.”
"I've got great admiration for (McChrystal) and for his long record of service in uniform,” Obama said. "But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president. And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security.“
So what happens now? Petraeus, who briefly passed out during a Senate hearing last week (dehydration, we are told), will return for what will likely be an easy confirmation hearing. As for McChrystal, former Generals have no worries. He’ll go the usual consulting/corporate boards/TV/speeches route – this in addition to a hefty military pension.