Wednesday, June 23, 2010

General McChrystal Out

Regarding the news that General McChrystal has been relieved of his command, due to comments made about the Political Leadership, I've had a couple thoughts.

First, I am well aware of the historic precedence of this action. General McArthur is one well known example of history. There is another consideration though. In history there are a number of examples of the error of not getting all the information available. In other words, subordinates would not report information to superiors in order to protect them from information that they had made a mistake.

Obedience to orders is important. I chewed out a young soldier once who said he wasn't going to follow the orders of Don't Ask Don't Tell. I told him that President Clinton was the President, and we were sworn to obey him. Not just the orders we liked, but the orders we were given.

Now, that said, I wonder about a number of things. First, was General McChrystal able to give information to the President, through the chain of command, or out of it, about how things are on the battle front? The obvious answer is we don't know. We know that General McChrystal has met sparingly with Obama, but we don't know how many, if any, teleconferences or other communications have been exchanged. We know that the messages from the different departments, State and Defense, were mixed. We know that there is a poor working relationship between the Army and the Ambassador in Afghanistan.

So the question is, was President Obama getting the unfiltered information that General McChrystal was trying to provide? The movie Pentagon Wars, based upon a true story, shows that going outside the chain of command, is sometimes needed. We call those people whistle blowers, and even move to protect them.

Yet, our esteem for the whistle blower who shows us situational or institutional abuses within departments ends at the Department of Defense. There, people are supposed to be closed mouthed and absolutely obedient.

Would I have fired McChrystal? Probably. Do I think that I would have allowed a situation to develop where McChrystal and the Army felt forsaken by my leadership? Probably not. Like the Godfather, I demand bad news be delivered immediately. I want opinions, ideas, and observations, even if they go against my own ideas or opinions. If I've started on a course, that appears to be solid and wise, if indications are that it isn't, I want to hear them immediately. A mistake is understandable, and unavoidable. What we can't do is pretend we didn't make a mistake, or ignore indications that we have tried something that didn't work. Staying a course, that is a mistake, just because the boss ordered that course, is unforgivable in my opinion.

Now, I wonder what the Left will do with General Patraeus who was called General Betray-us.

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