General Stanley McChrystal has more staff, more strategists, more financing, and more clout in the field than Richard Holbrooke, Karl Eikenberry, General Jim Jones, Vice President Biden and the NATO allies that he and his allies disparaged.
He created a culture of disdain for civilian leadership and showed intolerance for views that differed from his own – even though he was king of the hill as far as the Afghanistan surge. What McChrystal has done is to challenge not the President directly or even the chain of command — but rather he and his command staff have undermined the very foundation of public trust in the White House’s legitimacy and leadership.
McChrystal was the only one whose job was ‘not’ in danger over Afghanistan. While Holbrooke, Jones and Eikenberry scuffled — McChrystal sat comfortably with a near monopoly of resources, a handful of strategists and press staff, and the certainty that he had the confidence of Barack Obama. He has now — all on his own — thrown his own legacy and America’s operation in Afghanistan into chaos. Tens of thousands of American men and women serving under his command deserve better leadership and also vitally need someone who can partner with other key players in the US government.
Barack Obama has to use this mistake by McChrystal as a learning moment — reminding the nation that the President is the Commander in Chief and reminding the US military that pugnacious disdain for diplomats, civil society builders, for strategists, Vice Presidents, and ISAF allies with whom they may have differences is something that they must learn to deal with responsibly and respectably.
– Steve Clemons
Editor’s Note: This short essay was first solicited by the Huffington Post.