Gen. Stanley McChrystal in hot water with Obama after Rolling Stone interview

Posted by: ST on June 22, 2010 at 8:08 am

Via Fox News:

The top U.S. war commander in Afghanistan is being called to the White House for a face-to-face meeting with President Obama after issuing an apology Tuesday for an interview in which he described the president as unprepared for their first meeting.

In the article in this week’s issue of Rolling Stone, Gen. Stanley McChrystal also said he felt betrayed and blind-sided by his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.

McChrystal’s comments are reverberating through Washington and the Pentagon after the magazine depicted him as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration.

It characterized him as unable to convince some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the nation’s longest-running war and dejected that the president didn’t know about his commendable military record.

In Kabul on Tuesday, McChrystal issued a statement saying: “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.”

NBC reported first Tuesday that McChrystal was called to the White House Situation Room on Wednesday to explain his comments to the magazine directly to the president.

The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.

“I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. “I was selling an unsellable position.”

It quoted an adviser to McChrystal dismissing the early meeting with Obama as a “10-minute photo op.”

Here’s a PDF link, courtesy of The Politico, of the Rolling Stone article.

Jim Geraghty has a good take:

Many people I know think highly of McChrystal, and he has earned his accolades. But a general in the American armed forces cannot, on the record, mock or deride the vice president and the U.S. ambassador, much less the president of the United States. You and I can; we’re just some schmoes; we don’t report to him in the chain of command. I’m sure many generals have thought many colorful expressions of criticism toward presidents over the years, but they cannot blab them to reporters.

Presuming these quotes are accurate and that McChrystal wasn’t foolish enough to think that an “off-the-record” quote of such color and power would stay off the record, one cannot help but get the feeling that McChrystal is ready to leave, and has chosen this manner to do so.

Will be interesting to see the left’s reaction to McChrystal’s comments in light of how they viewed crictism of President Bush from active duty troops who were serving in Iraq an Afghanistan, which is to say they viewed them as a “free speech” issue – especially if the criticism was especially harsh (which was rare). Now, of course, they’ll be on the “correct” side of the issue but not because they believe the CIC shouldn’t be slammed by his own Generals in a time of war, but rather because this particular General criticized The One.

Geraghty is right on criticism of the CIC during a time of war by the Armed Forces. That’s not to say you can’t criticize, but you have to do it in a way that is constructive and doesn’t give off the impression of disunity between the military and the CIC while boots are still on the ground. That was true when Bush was President and is true now with Obama as President and will be true for future Presidents, even in the cases where we might agree with the criticisms.

Am interested in your thoughts, especially those of you who have served in the military (past and/or present). I know this is a particularly sensitive issue for people in the military, especially the ones who want to speak out about a particular issue but feel honor/duty-bound to keep quiet.

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23 Responses to “Gen. Stanley McChrystal in hot water with Obama after Rolling Stone interview”


  1. Anthony says:

    As I recall, this is the second major incident in which McChrystal spoke out of turn (the other being the London speech). That indicates a habit, and this latest interview shows it’s a worsening one. I may agree with everything the general has to say about PBO and other officials (in fact, at first glance, I think I do), but it is absolutely unacceptable for an American officer to speak out against the civilian chain of command like this*. Obama should do as Truman did with MacArthur and fire General McChrystal.

    *(As I understand it, the military defines an acceptable way for officers and enlisted to protest to Congress, though I don’t know the details. At the least, General McChrystal could have made his complaints known at a hearing of the relevant committee of Congress, which would have been acceptable.)

  2. Yeah – can you imagine being the CIC and waking up to find out your General and some of his aides had major issues with you but decided to air them out via the Rolling Stone?

  3. kareling says:

    I just find it interesting that it took so long last year for Obama to meet with McChrystal about Afghanistan, yet it took no time at all for Obama to summon him over this.

  4. The General should not speak out of turn the way he has. On the other hand it must be difficult when you know your commander isn’t qualified to command anything. I’m a veteran and know from talking to some of them that many currently serving in our Armed Forces have little respect for our current CIC.

  5. Good point, kareling.

  6. rj jenkins says:

    no offense to kareling, but your point does not make much sense. to the contrary, look at it this way. no matter what job you have, you may or may not get to meet the CEO and his associates; however, if you come out in a newspaper, magazine, etc. and openly criticize that same CEO and those associates, you would be called into that office ASAP, especially if there was some “contract” (UCMJ) on your job that strictly prohibited your actions.

  7. Tom TB says:

    When in their history has “Rolling Stone” EVER been on the side of the United States military? Why would a General grant an interview, and not expect an ambush?

  8. Zippy says:

    Excellent point kareling. Just goes to show what’s important to PBO.

  9. Great White Rat says:

    ST says:

    Will be interesting to see the left’s reaction to McChrystal’s comments in light of how they viewed crictism of President Bush from active duty troops who were serving in Iraq an Afghanistan, which is to say they viewed them as a “free speech” issue

    We already know how that will play out. As I recall, they treated General Shinseki as a hero for criticizing Bush and came down hard on that administration for slapping the General down. McChrystal will get no such love from the leftists.

    And he shouldn’t get it from us either. You can go all the way back to Truman firing MacArthur for speaking out of turn for modern precedents: while you wear the uniform, you do not criticize your commanders in public. Yes, it is true that Duh-1 has no respect for the military or use for our troops other than to feed his ego by collecting salutes. It is true that (as Kareling observed) Obama has no time to meet with the officers in charge of the war – but plenty of time for hobnobbing with the likes of Paul McCartney and hitting the golf course.

    But if you’re going to speak out about that, you retire or resign your commission first.

  10. Spot on, GWR – and re: Shinseki, you’re right.

  11. Carlos says:

    It doesn’t matter how correct or incorrect McChrystal was in his assessment of PBO, in the military one does not criticize the CiC except through proper channels (and yes, there are even proper channels to do so.)

    McChrystal may be a fool, but he’s not stupid. He knew exactly what he was doing when he gave that interview. He may have awakened the next day with “buyer’s remorse,” but he knew he’d go out with a bang this way.

    And from what I’ve read, he was pretty much spot-on with his comments.

    But, because of discipline issues, he should be fired immediately. Whether you like Duh-1 or not, the military by its very nature has to maintain better discipline than that. And with any luck, there will still be a military after Duh-1’s first and only long term as CiC.

  12. melintexas says:

    The General should be canned for inappropriate attitude towards the CIC, but this speaks to a much larger issue. This is a matter of lack of command from the commander. McChrystel started with respect for Obama and recieved niether respect nor leadership from his boss. Unfortunately, the complete lack of competence and leadership has lead to disrespectful actions from McCrhystal and his staff which should not be excused.

  13. Dee says:

    It’s hard to imagine that Gen McChrystal didn’t realize that running his mouth to a Rolling Stone journo would not come back to bite him in the arse. So either McChrystal is painfully divorced from reality or he did this on purpose as a way out of Afghanistan. It is clear that neither he or his staff have much respect for the current civilian leadership in the WH, so why not express that in most public way possible before departing the stage. Ironically, Afghanistan has become the quagmire that the Democrats worked so hard to turn Iraq into during the Bush years.

  14. Bobbi says:

    I hope McChrystal resigns and campaigns to become POTUSA.
    We need that honesty.

  15. Lorica says:

    Actually, I have to wonder just how low morale is, in Afghanistan. Usually a soldier won’t allow discipline to be broken, unless they are feeling down and out. If McC spoke out, it is because he is between and incredible hard place and a rock. There is only one person that can solve this problem and that is our current CIC. He really needs to act more like President Bush towards our troops, and alot less like President Clinton. That is if he wants to get the actual job done. – Lorica

  16. Royce says:

    My son is a marine fighting in Afghanistan, and there’s certainly much frustration with this administration among the troops. Gen McChrystel should have chosen another outlet, but he is clearly tired of fighting with both hands tied behind his back.

  17. Carlos says:

    @Bobbi: I wouldn’t vote for him on a bet. After all, he admits to having voted for Duh-1, there was last year’s trip to the woodshed and now this. His sense of responsibility can’t be very great, which means his rise through the ranks of the military was politically based.

    We simply don’t need another incompetent politician (which includes most of them, from dogcatcher to POTUS) as our titular head and CiC again.

  18. Old Goat says:

    There comes a point when true leaders can no longer keep silent.

  19. omapian says:

    I, for one, have not read the Rolling Stone report. I have no way of knowing the integrity of the reporter or the accuracy of the quotes so I need to be careful before offering an opinion.
    It seems to me that anyone who reaches the rank of General understands the value of loyalty to superiors and the need to support subordinates. It should be easy to be a general when the leadership and subordinates agree on the mission and the methods to employ. However, if the leadership insists on a timetable and rules of engagement that are at odds with the mission, the general could have a major problem.
    Whatever is going on here, this could be the tip of the iceburg.

  20. Yeggo says:

    I hate to say it, but you make a damn fine point. I understand the DISTINCTION between Shinseki’s criticism coming during an Armed Services Committee hearing and McChrystal’s coming in a magazine. But I don’t see the DIFFERENCE. The reasons my fellow lefties are putting forth as to why McChrystal must resign or be fired seem pretty venue-neutral to me. It’s either wrong for a general to question the civilian leadership, or it isn’t.


  21. MissJean says:

    I read the article and it doesn’t quote McChrystal about Obama. It quotes unnamed “staff members”. That’s a lot different. Sounds like some of the anonymous drama queens need some dressing down.