General McChrystal had to Go, but there’s More

It is easy to see parallels between General Stanley McChrystal’s insubordination towards President Obama and that of Douglas MacArthur towards President Truman many years ago.  In both cases you had a war that’s popularity was dwindling–then Korea, now Afghanistan.  And you had the general in charge of operations disrespecting his commander in chief.

However, MacArthur was more popular with the public then than McChrystal is now.  MacArthur was beloved for helping to win the War in the Pacific in World War Two whereas McChrystal is still an unknown to many Americans.  If only McChrystal had been on “Dancing with the Stars,” maybe things would be different.  I guess he was just too busy with trying to win a war against a tenacious enemy with unreliable allies.  Another difference between then and now is Truman was a lot less popular than Barack Obama.

Because of these realities, it was easier politically to oust McChrystal than it was to get rid of MacArthur.

In both cases, it needed to be done.  Setting aside the specifics of their grievances, these military men were subordinates of their presidents.  Such disrespect is not tolerated within the military, and it can’t be tolerated when it is directed from the military to its civilian leadership.  This is not a free speech issue.  The generals weren’t thrown in jail or forced to leave the country.  But there have to be consequences to undermining the chain of command.

But now let’s set aside the fate of the generals, and look at what spurred their insubordination.  MacArthur wanted to fight the Korean War more vigorously.  Truman believed (probably correctly) that MacArthur would have precipitated World War Three.  Truman didn’t think it was worth it.  In McChrystal’s case, if he has a disagreement with our military policy in Afghanistan, it is not evident as I write this.  His problem would seem to center more on the quality of leadership by President Obama and more directly at others in the Executive Branch.

Acknowledging that McChrystal got what he deserved, what did our civilian leaders do (or not do) that prompted such insubordination?  Maybe there is nothing there of substance, maybe there is.  Either way, this is a question to which the American people deserve an answer.