Much has already been said about today’s Rolling Stone article. General McChrystal — and more so his staff — were wrong to say what they did (and, frankly, were wrong to grant such widespread, on-the-record access to an antiwar publication). However, the general was not, technically, insubordinate to his boss, President Obama. McChrystal is not directly quoted criticizing the president, and does not say — nor give the impression — that he is unwilling to execute the orders of the president.
Personally, I think it would be a travesty if McChrystal steps down, or is forced out. The Afghan surge is at a critical juncture, with an important Kandahar offensive forthcoming. Rampant uncertainty about the future of the conflict remains — with a looming withdrawal deadline in July 2011, and a president who refuses to name the enemy or use words like “win” or “victory.” The outcome of the war in Afghanistan is definitely in doubt.
That said, the closest path to success in Afghanistan still lies with McChrystal and his strategy (properly resourced, that is). We certainly won’t succeed in this war by removing the general in the best position to win it. The Obama White House — which is notoriously thin-skinned — will definitely shame the general tomorrow. But at the end of the day, I hope they have the intestinal fortitude to see past an agenda-driven article, and instead focus on the mission on the ground.
CNN is now reporting that McChrystal has submitted his resignation to the president. Assuming this is true, it would be a remarkable move tomorrow if, rather than accepting the resignation, the president refused his resignation, slapped him on the wrist, and then took a hard look in the mirror about McChrystal’s underlying comments and told him to go win the war. What a turning point that would be . . . but I won’t hold my breath.