And the nonsense continues (and I love James Fallows)…
Look, Obama doesn’t HAVE to fire McChrystal. Personally, I would, but I generally don’t trust people that arrogant with anything. Additionally, I’m sure Gates and company would like to rip out the good General’s heart and eat in front of the entire Pentagon brass. And Obama would be within his rights to fire him. Hell, he is within his rights to fire him for anything.
But Obama doesn’t have to do anything, and I hate how this constant din in the media manages to artificially place limits on the President’s ability to govern. If Obama decides the offense is forgivable and that he wants McChrystal to continue his job until the timeline is ended next year, that is well within his rights. It doesn’t make him “weak” should he do that, and firing McChrystal wouldn’t make him “strong.” Obama doesn’t “have” to do anything he doesn’t think is the right thing to do. If he decides the offense is unforgivable and would create such a bad precedent and a rift within his staff that he needs to be fired, so be it.
Can you imagine going through life with all this artificial nonsense dictating your decision making process? I like those shoes, but do they make me look “weak?” I really would like some spicy mustard on my sandwich, but is it too “elitist?” My employee is a mouthy little shit who gets the job done, but do I have to fire him to show I am “tough” even if doing so hurts my business? Sure, I’d like to go to the opera, but will that make me look like a pussy?
*** Update ***
James Joyner says I’m not reading this right:
In fairness to Fallows, he’s not arguing that Obama has to do it lest he look weak but rather because generals can’t be allowed to disrespect the chain of command.
McChrystal has committed a criminal offense in violation of Article 88 of the UCMJ, after all.
Does Obama “have” to fire McChrystal? Could he forgive this? No and yes were this happening in a vacuum. Given that there’s a pattern here, though, I think firing is the right course of action.
*** Update #2 ***
And, tucked away in the spam filter is Mr. Fallows:
Honored to be mentioned here, and appreciate the attention; but as a few of your commenters have mentioned, I didn’t say anything whatsoever about Obama needing to show his “strength” by firing McChrystal. Here are two relevant parts of the argument:
It’s about civilian control of the military, respect for the chain of command, and the concepts of disrespect and insubordination. Every officer and enlisted person in every military branch is well schooled in what those concepts mean.
If the facts are as they appear—McChrystal and his associates freely mocking their commander in chief and his possible successor (ie, Biden) and the relevant State Department officials (Holbrooke and Eikenberry)—with no contention that the quotes were invented or misconstrued, then Obama owes it to past and future presidents to draw the line and say: this is not tolerable. You must go.
The first step is for the civilian Commander in Chief to act in accordance with Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution and demonstrate that there are consequences for showing open disrespect for the chain of command. And, yes, I would say the same thing in opposite political circumstances—if, for instance, a commander of Iraq operations had been quoted openly mocking George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Resign in protest: yes, a course of honor. But protest and mock while in uniform, no.
Just for the record: I understand the exasperation with the “Obama has to show his political strength” narrative. But that is not at all what I wrote, or is on my mind. (I take for granted that the right will attack him with equal ferocity but opposite arguments either way.) You can read it for yourself.
I think I’ve pretty clearly butchered his remarks and intent.