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McChrystal Must Go

By       Message Richard Wise     Permalink
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Everyone seems to be treating General Stanley McChrystal's disastrous Rolling Stone article as a bungled media event. It's not. It is a clear case of insubordination, and McChrystal should be fired and replace at once.

The Forbes article advises people in situations like McChrystal's to (1) do their homework on the media outlets they grant interviews to; (2) be selective in the reporters they speak to; and (3) don't go native or let down your guard.

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That's fine advice for civilian honchos but not for military leaders. McChrystal's problem is not his lack of media savvy, although he seems to have little of that; it's his failure to understand and accept that he has a boss; and that his superior, the commander-in-chief, is and always must be a civilian.

The lowest seaman or private gets that. The newest 2nd lieutenant or ensign gets that in spades. It's part of the indoctrination. But they seem to forget that lesson on their way to becoming generals or admirals.

This is not McChrystal's first political gaffe. In early 2009, right after Obama took office and was deciding what to do about Afghanistan, McChrystal went public with his "demand" for 40,000 more troops. The implication was that if Obama did not bend to McChrystal's will, the war would be lost and it would be Obama's fault. He got a talking-to from the Pentagon and the White House for that. Strike one.

A few months ago, McChrystal went public with the revelation of a trillion dollars' worth of mineral reserves in Afghanistan; this, to pressure civilian leaders to give him $34 billion more starting in July. Again, if he didn't get the money the war would be lost and it would be Obama's fault. Strike two.

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Now this: openly contemptuous and critical statements from him and his direct reports regarding the civilian leadership. Strike three.

Forbes says in McChrystal's defense that most of the derogatory comments described in the article came from unnamed aides to McChrystal. That doesn't matter. Whether he makes the comments himself or "causes or allows" them to be made is immaterial. Either way, they demonstrate McChrystal's failure to lead, to set a positive example; to demonstrate loyalty "up and down the chain of command," and to subordinate himself to the civilian leadership.

Those shortcomings have a negative effect on morale throughout the organization and they cannot be tolerated. An officer in McChrystal's position has only one option: resign. Resign or be fired.

Some media outlets have wrung their hands over whether anyone can replace McChrystal. That is to be expected. MacArthur was irreplaceable too, until General Ridgeway replaced him. So was McClellan, until Lincoln replaced him, ultimatelywith the drunken, slovenly, and undistinguishedUlysses S. Grant.

There are something like 12 four-star and 50 three-star generals in the Army right now. If we can't find one of those people capable of taking over a field command, then the Army's has far bigger problems than General McChrystal's mouth. That situation would also tell us we have been getting hosed to the tune of $700 billion a year to support a military operation that can't fight a war.

(Or, to quote an old boss of mine, "If I wanted this job to get f*cked up, I'd have given it to somebody less expensive than you to f*ck it up for me.")

Obama should keep in mind the immortal words of Harry Truman, when he fired MacArthur: "I fired him because he didn't respect the authority of the President " I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son-of-a-b*tch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail."

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McChrystal has got to go. He is apparently ready to resign. He should, and Obama should accept it.


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Rick Wise is an industrial psychologist and retired management consultant. For 15 years, he was managing director of ValueNet International, Inc. Before starting ValueNet, Rick was director, corporate training and, later, director, corporate (more...)

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