(NOTE: Stay current and read the latest article “Obama vs McChrystal, round 2“)
Last week, a media firestorm brew over a perceived push against President Obama’s authority by General McCrystal. McCrystal, the Commander of US forces in Afghanistan, made a few public speeches and interviews expressing his doubt about the current state in Afghanistan while laying out his case for additional troops on the ground, and that time is an issues. The debate capped off when McCrystal stated during a 60 Minutes interview that he only talked with the President once since being placed in charge. This has left an impression that the General is growing impatient with the Administration and that the President has been dragging his feet so he doesn’t have to make a difficult and controversial decision. The White House attempted to do some damage control by noting that correspondence about the war is shared on a daily basis between the two men. I have two questions on this topic.
The first question: “Is General McCrystal right?” I do believe that McCrystal is right that he needs more troops and a change in strategy in the war. As we saw in Iraq, the troop surge combined with a new strategy that involves the local populations worked. It improved security in the nation as well as cooperation and trust with the local Iraqis. Additionally, time is of the essence, as the sooner we improve the conditions on the ground (for both our troops and the locals), the sooner we can turn the tide as well as bring our troops home.
The second question: “Is General McCrystal in the right?” By this I mean, does the General have the authority to discuss the situation and the need of more troops in public settings, as well as pressuring the President to act sooner rather than later? This isn’t as easy to answer. We have a few examples of Commanding Officers during wars expressing their frustration with their civilian leadership, including General MacArthur and General Patton during World War II, as well as General Abizaid during the Iraq War. In these three cases, the Generals were reprimanded or in some cases recalled due to their insubordination. Will McCrystal be recalled and replaced with someone else? I doubt it due to his expertise in this type of war, however, I do think he was counselled in the proper chain of command when he met with Obama aboard Air Force One during the Presidents trip to Denmark to champion the Chicago bid for hosting the Olympics.
I do not think McCrystal was in the right. There are more appropriate ways for him to express his opinions as well as the urgency for action without doing it on public television. But I do believe he is right. The President has had months to consider his plan of action. Time is working against us, and the President needs to act now.
The Washington Post – “Obama’s Busy AfPak Week”
ABC News – “Gibbs Explains Why the President Has Only Talked to General McCrystal Once in 10 Weeks”
CBS News - “Unplugged: Obama Adviser’s Afghanistan Comment ‘Stunning’”
The Clare County Review – “Iraq and a hard place”
Washington Examiner – “Will Obama play politics with Afghanistan?”