Or Will America Turn To A “General Contractor” In 2012?
Something tells me that when General Stanley McChrystal (the top U.S. General on the Afghanistan war) arrives at the White House to meet with President Obama today, he will not be offered a beer in the Rose Garden. There will be no warm and fuzzy “teaching moment.”
What there will be is attitude, ego, and bluster. Probably a few profanities, possibly an obscene gesture or two (depending on whether or not Joe Biden is allowed to attend).
This, of course, stems from General Hoof-In-Mouth’s comments to a free-lance journalist writing an article to be published in Rolling Stone this coming Friday in which he refers to “The wimps in the White House,” alluding to some of Obama’s aides. He referred to Joe Biden as “Joe Bite-me” and made other similar disparaging comments about other White House staff members as well as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Gen. Karl Eikenberry.
This isn’t the first time Obama has called McChrystal on the carpet. In October of last year, Obama went head-to-head with McChrystal over a similar incident where McChrystal wasn’t able to keep his thoughts to himself. At that time, our own Stoutcat pondered whether Obama would force McChrystal out. Ultimately he did not, and it’s to the benefit of every soldier in Afghanistan that he didn’t.
But will Obama fire McChrystal this time? Not if he’s smart.
In the Fox Forum today, James P. Pinkerton writes:
My guess is that McChrystal will survive in his post. The words attributed to him and his team in Rolling Stone–he felt “betrayed” by the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan; James Jones, the national security adviser, is a “clown”; and, perhaps most stark of all, he regarded “the wimps in the White House” as an enemy–were pretty strong, bordering on insubordination, and yet his apology was pretty abject.
And Obama really can’t afford to fire McChrystal in 2010, as Lincoln fired McClellan in 1862, and as Truman fired MacArthur in 1951. If the president does fire McChrystal, his administration will then see an enormous blow-up over Afghanistan policy, with critics on both the hawkish right and the dovish left pounding away at the commander in chief in the muddled middle.
Moreover, Obama might think to himself that if he fires McChrystal, he will be minting a possible new Republican presidential or vice presidential candidate to oppose him in 2012.
But what about McChrystal? Is he, like General George McClellan in the Civil War, uncontrollable? Is he, like General Douglas MacArthur, so outspoken that he will openly criticize his commander in chief?
President Obama would be wise to keep on General McChrystal and listen to his evaluation of life on the ground in Afghanistan. And McChrystal would do well to learn that sometimes generals should be seen and not heard.
As to Pinkerton’s comment about Obama possibly creating a political opponent for the 2012 election, that’s not a comment to be taken lightly: McClellan ended up running against Lincoln in 1864, and MacArthur tried (unsuccessfully) to get the nomination to run against Truman in 1952. But Truman did eventually see the White House go to another general in 1952: Dwight D. Eisenhower.
If history does, in fact, repeat itself, Obama may find himself facing a noble challenger in 2012, but not from McChrystal. Like Truman, it may be another general that takes the spotlight and wins the hearts of Americans. And that might just be General David Petraeus.
Something to think about… Something very good, indeed.