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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/23/10

Is this Obama's Harry Truman Moment?

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Is this Barack Obama's Harry Truman moment?

The reason for the reference to the 33rd president of course has to do with the plight Obama faces with General Stanley Mc Chrystal i.e. Truman's equivalent to General Douglas McArthur.

Truman, an ex military man himself (having been a Captain in the army during W.W. I) believed strongly in the chain of command and that the president was the supreme commander of the armed forces.

During the height of the Korean War, when McArthur was in charge, he didn't think very highly of Truman (to which Truman personally took no affront).

However, when McArthur started to ignore the president and made statements contradicting the orders he received from his commander, Truman became indignant. He didn't mind what the general thought of him personally, but to Truman McArthur was not respecting the office of the presidency and that was unacceptable.

Truman went to Wake Island met with McArthur and fired him. No easy task considering Truman knew full well McArthur's popularity with the American people and the political hit he would take by firing his top general. But Truman believed he needed to defend the clearly stated Constitutional prerogatives of the office of the presidency and the chain of command that McArthur cavalierly ignored.

Obama is facing a similar moment with the general he hands picked to conduct the Afghan war (though not exactly analogous to Truman and McArthur).

Tuesday's publication of "Rolling Stone" and Michael Hastings article, "The Runaway General" revealed a General McChrystal hardly respecting his commander in chief, saying of the president he was not "very engaged" when they first met in the White House. Yet even more than that were Hastings quotes of McChrystal referring to Vice President Biden as "Bite me", snidely referring to General James Jones (Obama's chief in house military advisor) as a "clown", depicting Karl Eikenberry, the American Ambassador to Afghanistan as a "betrayer" and Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan as someone "wounded, making him dangerous."

Compound this with what we already knew about McChrystal when he superseded his position in the fall of 2009 when he intentionally leaked to the press his absolute need for 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan precisely at the time Obama was conducting his own internal consultations with his top civilian advisors on how to proceed with the Afghan War. McChrystals actions were clearly intended to pressure the president and follow the general's direction.

This was a clear case of insubordination that many people felt at the time demanded Obama take the action Truman had done 58 years earlier with McArthur. He chose instead to retain McChrystal.

The conduct of the war in Afghanistan this past year is essentially the brainchild strategy of General McChrystal to which President Obama has given him carte blanche. It is a failure. Now with the revelations of McChrystal and his staff openly mocking the president and his close civilian advisors clearly indicating their insubordination to the office of the presidency it is time for the president take action. The question remains does Obama know what he needs to do?

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