Tuesday, June 22, 2010

360 Feedback?

The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has been summoned to the White House to explain biting and unflattering remarks he made to a freelance writer about President Barack Obama and others in the Obama administration. The face-to-face comes as pundits are already calling for McChrystal to resign for insubordination. McChrystal has been instructed to fly from Kabul to Washington today to attend Obama’s regular monthly security team meeting tomorrow at the White House. An administration official says McChrystal was asked to attend in person rather than by secure video teleconference, “where he will have to explain to the Pentagon and the commander in chief his quotes about his colleagues in the piece.”--Gordon Lubold

Now, what the general did is disrespectful and dishonoring to the President, his boss. He needs to reconcile with Obama, and take appropriate discipline, which could include resignation.

I hope that Obama does use this opportunity to improve his game, though. McChrystal has served our nation under Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr, Clinton, and Bush Jr. He's no pup, but a grizzled veteran who led our Special Forces in Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

I was really disappointed with Peter Orszag (see previous post) talking about "halving the deficit" after more than tripling it, who seemed so reasonable before his White House appointment in his previous post heading up the Congressional Budget Office. But I am thinking that his replacement will be even more of a kool aid drinker.

One simple test of a leader is to see the type of people following him or her. And look at the ones who are quitting: are they the good ones, or the ones that need to be culled for the greater good?

UPDATE: Intrade has listed a McChrystal departure contract here.

If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration’s internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama. For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December. The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan, led to frequent disputes over tactics and contributed to a sharp deterioration in the administration’s relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The virtue of the Rolling Stone article is that Obama may finally have to confront the trouble. But the dismissal of McChrystal would be the wrong outcome. It could spell disaster for the military campaign he is now overseeing in southern Afghanistan, and it would reward those in the administration who have been trying to undermine him, including through media leaks of their own.--Jackson Diehl

I don’t know why he and his advisors thought they could crack wise to a Rolling Stone reporter and not read about it later. But then again, I don’t know why he thought he could vote for Barack Obama and not find himself, as a battlefield commander, at odds with the “wimps in the White House.” Sounds like poor situational awareness, lack of command and control of his mouth. Sounds like he just called in fire on his own position in the middle of the minefield he planted for himself. --Jules Crittenden

So - should he stay or should he go now? I say he is out - the December review was going to be a minefield anyway, since the anti-war left should be in full Vietnam/Iraq flashback mode by then (and their Iraq flashbacks end with the surge in January 2007). Obama won't want to admit that Bush was right in not trying to put a big army into Afghanistan, which is a logistical nightmare. But Obama won't want to back a general who has alienated everyone and is delivering results that are at best uneven. Get rid of McChrystal and hand the ball to a new general who just might engineer a face-saving de-surge for Obama, or at least buy time for a delay in the review - that will be the ticket.--Tom Maguire

There is no stinging criticism by McChrystal of Obama or other senior administration officials. It's just not in [the Rolling Stone article]. So why is McChrystal apologizing?--William Jacobson

The most striking example of McChrystal's usurpation of diplomatic policy is his handling of Karzai. It is McChrystal, not diplomats like Eikenberry or Holbrooke, who enjoys the best relationship with the man America is relying on to lead Afghanistan. The doctrine of counterinsurgency requires a credible government, and since Karzai is not considered credible by his own people, McChrystal has worked hard to make him so. Over the past few months, he has accompanied the president on more than 10 trips around the country, standing beside him at political meetings, or shuras, in Kandahar. In February, the day before the doomed offensive in Marja, McChrystal even drove over to the president's palace to get him to sign off on what would be the largest military operation of the year. Karzai's staff, however, insisted that the president was sleeping off a cold and could not be disturbed. After several hours of haggling, McChrystal finally enlisted the aid of Afghanistan's defense minister, who persuaded Karzai's people to wake the president from his nap. This is one of the central flaws with McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy: The need to build a credible government puts us at the mercy of whatever tin-pot leader we've backed – a danger that Eikenberry explicitly warned about in his cable. Even Team McChrystal privately acknowledges that Karzai is a less-than-ideal partner.--Michael Hastings, the journalist who started it all

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