Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fairness and McChrystal

Count me among the few who think the McChrystal flap may be overblown.

Granted, he and his staff said things that were over the line: extremely and inappropriately insulting to their civilian superiors and colleagues. Obama has a right to be angry.

Granted, the UCMJ imposes obligations on military personnel that it does not on civilians.

Granted, that I don't know what the best thing to do in Afghanistan may be, but a shooting war seems unlikely to succeed.

But, let us be fair.

McChrystal did not make these comments in a speech or even in writing. He was bitching about his boss and his coworkers.

Bitching about the boss and coworkers is an American tradition. It happens. It happens a lot.

I believe McChrystal is wrong on the facts about his boss and his coworkers. But he did not disobey orders or publicly criticize his CinC. What McChrystal did unwisely is either forget that he had a reporter around, or not change his behavior when one was.

A reporter's job is to report. If the most interesting thing to report is your bitching, it's gonna get reported. That's the job.

Others may talk about whether McChrystal is a key person at a critical point in Afghanistan and so irreplacable; still others may talk about whether military/civilian relations require more respectful attitudes.

Still others may worry that this situation will result in reporters being even more excluded from war coverage.... and I believe that would be bad.

In my opinion, if McChrystal had made his remarks in a more deliberately public way, then it would be clear insubordination and grounds for dismissal. But this is nothing like the MacArthur situation, in which a uniformed general publicly ignored a clear presidential directive.

But I believe in fairness. Bitching in private and forgetting a reporter is around ... or not faking it when a reporter is around ... let's be fair, folks!


Sarah said...

I think this is a great (and calm, & reasonable...) opinion. Thanks for taking a minute to step back and not provide a knee-jerk reaction like so many others!

rewinn said...

I'm definitely in the minority on this. And let me be clear: the "Counterinsurgency" strategy that failed so spectacularly in Vietnam isn't working any better in Afghanistan, especially when the key component is a central government that the people respect ... and our man Karzai isn't it.

I still think the talk of McChristal and his posse is not a good reason to can him; if he was being successful I would bet he'd be kept on. But that's something we will never know, since he is now out ... and "Counterinsurgency" is maintaining its track record of failure.

More conventional opinions from people I respect:
Contrary Brin