Goodbye, M4, Hello P4
The press conference was quick and dirty–less then ten minutes. Obama was flanked by Biden, Mullen, Gates, and Petraeus. The President announced that he has accepted General McChrystal’s resignation, and has asked General Petraeus to step in as commander of ISAF. McChrystal’s statement was emailed to the media:
This morning the President accepted my resignation as Commander of U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. I strongly support the President’s strategy in Afghanistan and am deeply committed to our coalition forces, our partner nations, and the Afghan people. It was out of respect for this commitment — and a desire to see the mission succeed — that I tendered my resignation.
It has been my privilege and honor to lead our nation’s finest.
The word is that he will not be returning to Kabul; his things will be sent to him in the US. He was not present for the press conference.
I’m down with Petraeus–I don’t know many who aren’t–but man, this whole thing sucked. It’s not even been 48 hours since the AP ran news of the RS article, and McChrystal was summarily booted.
I’ll link to the transcript of Obama’s statement (he took no questions) when it’s up, but the general riff is that the war is bigger than any one man; the military is subject to civilian command and must respect that chain of command; the policy put forth in 2009 regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan remains firmly in place; and while Obama takes no personal insult from McChrystal’s comments, neither can he retain in service a man who does not adhere to the highest standards of conduct demanded of him.
That’s all fair. And I can accept the rationale for cashiering McChrystal. But I still think that if Obama wanted to lead from the front, he would have disciplined McChrystal rather than benching him. If you want your strategy to be effective, you don’t change up command a year in. It’s not that I don’t think Petraeus will be effective–I do–but I do not see with clarity how this serves the mission.
But I guess I also don’t see it as a massive failure of civilian-military relations, which perhaps I should.
ETA: Here’s the remarks.
The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. 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.
My multiple responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief led me to this decision. First, I have a responsibility to the extraordinary men and women who are fighting this war, and to the democratic institutions that I’ve been elected to lead. I’ve got no greater honor than serving as Commander-in-Chief of our men and women in uniform, and it is my duty to ensure that no diversion complicates the vital mission that they are carrying out.
That includes adherence to a strict code of conduct. The strength and greatness of our military is rooted in the fact that this code applies equally to newly enlisted privates and to the general officer who commands them. That allows us to come together as one. That is part of the reason why America has the finest fighting force in the history of the world.
It is also true that our democracy depends upon institutions that are stronger than individuals. That includes strict adherence to the military chain of command, and respect for civilian control over that chain of command. And that’s why, as Commander-in-Chief, I believe this decision is necessary to hold ourselves accountable to standards that are at the core of our democracy.
Second, I have a responsibility to do what is — whatever is necessary to succeed in Afghanistan, and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. I believe that this mission demands unity of effort across our alliance and across my national security team. And I don’t think that we can sustain that unity of effort and achieve our objectives in Afghanistan without making this change. That, too, has guided my decision.