McChrystal clear blunder: A Costly Price for a Simple Lesson on Authority

June 25, 2010

Gaffes, bloopers, faux pas, slips, misspeaks, blunder. Call it any way you want, but it won’t erase the fact that General Stanley McChrystal’s mistake was serious, huge and irrevocable. Sadly, the price he had to pay for it was a lifetime of dreams shattered and a future that only seemed destined for glory until, of course, this one tragic error of judgment.

What was this General thinking, talking the way he did about his Commander- in- Chief and his handpicked leaders? It didn’t seem at all that he cared even if the whole world heard about it. It wasn’t like he was set up and taped surreptitiously as Sarah Fergusson had been when she was caught on tape selling access to Prince Andrew. Gen. McChrystal was, in fact, in full control of the situation. He knew what he was saying and knew fully well who was listening.

Rolling Stones freelance writer, Michael Hastings, however, was reportedly stunned to learn that his piece on Gen. McChrystal caused the fall of this highest ranking officer in Afghanistan, the man he labeled in his article, “The Runaway General.”

“I thought Gen. McChrystal was essentially un-fireable, that his position in the administration and in the war was very secure,” Hastings said in an interview with CTV in Kabul. Three or four days of political crisis were all the trouble Hastings thought it could get the General into but he was so wrong.

And so did General McChrystal. Obviously, like Hastings, he, too, didn’t think those derisive remarks could cost him his job. Never mind that he and his men “had labeled the president timid and disengaged, called the national security adviser a clown, referred to the vice president as “Bite Me” and otherwise trashed top diplomats and allies.” Never mind that “it wasn’t the first time the general had publicly defied the White House.” McChrystal and his close aides flagrantly mocked their superiors, in spite of the clear and definite accountability in the language of Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which states:

Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the president, the vice president, Congress, the secretary of defense, the secretary of a military department, the secretary of transportation, or the government of legislature of any state, territory, commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court martial may direct.”

Still probably believing his role in NATO operations in Afghanistan was irreplaceable, Gen. McChrystal confidently fired back, “Come on, you know better than that, No!” when asked by NBC News on the morning of his firing whether or not he had offered his resignation.. The General had no clue. Up till the time he went to the Oval Office to see his President, he still didn’t get it.

President Obama’s announcement of the ‘change in personnel but not a change in policy,’ in relation to the firing of Gen. McChrystal and US policy in Afghanistan declared in no uncertain terms, that the general’s conduct violated the code of ethics in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system,” the President pointed out.

How could McChrystal believe he could get away with this insubordination? Had he put himself in the President’s shoes and asked himself if he could pass up punishing such careless, if not arrogant display of lack of respect for authority, he would have acted better.

In the face of this reckless behavior, the Commander-in-chief acted accordingly. He showed his subordinate who’s the boss.

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