Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who until last week was the leader of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has resigned in the wake of derogatory comments made by the general and his staff during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
One can only guess at this point why the general chose to publicly disclose his feelings on an array of topics in an on-the-record capacity to a journalist associated with this particular magazine, not one generally associated with thought-provoking foreign policy pieces. The President chose wisely in quickly replacing Gen. McChrystal with someone with impeccable credentials and a record of accomplishing military objectives that at first glance may seem to be unobtainable.
You may remember this man as Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander of forces in Iraq who crafted, implemented and led the famous surge that ultimately saved countless American and Iraqi lives.
This is the same David Petraeus who faced the wrath of the uber-progressive MoveOn.org during that same timeframe. MoveOn launched a controversial ad entitled “Petraeus Betray Us,” which drew the wrath of a majority of Americans who felt it wholly inappropriate to attack a United States general who was in the field leading American personnel into battle. At the time, 72 sitting United States senators agreed.
On September 20, 2007, Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) offered Senate Amendment 2934, which set out to: “express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.” The measure passed overwhelmingly with 72 “yeas” to 25 “nays” and 3 not voting.
It will not surprise many of you to see the likes of Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer or Harry Reid voting against a measure that supported the leader of our armed forces engaged in battle in favor of a progressive grassroots organization. But what should concern many of us is that then-Sen. Obama decided to seek political refuge by not casting a vote. Then-Sen. Joe Biden did the same.
Gen. McChrystal, despite his proud military record, exercised extremely poor judgment in allowing such dismissing comments about the Obama Administration to be aired in a public forum. The President’s choice to replace him is an understandable decision.
Less understandable is how President Obama can demand a respect he has been inconsistent in offering to others. In 2007, he was unwilling to stand up to the liberal elements of his party in defense of Gen. Petraeus. As he now calls on that same general to rescue him from the political firestorm flowing today and continue the surge in Afghanistan, I express only the greatest admiration for the honor and integrity of David Petraeus.
The war in Afghanistan stands at a crucial point as more American forces pour into the region. While I have nothing but confidence in Gen. Petraeus, the resignation of Gen. McChrystal is an unfortunate loss, and one symptomatic of the tension between the civilian and military dimensions of this effort. As President Obama and Gen. Petraeus move foward in this conflict, I hope the President will begin to take proactive steps to reconcile this divide, listen to the counsel of generals in the field, and increase coordination between all aspects of the fight in Afghanistan. That country, and ours, can afford no less.