Saturday, July 17, 2010

Obama commits wartime blunder

Ron Fink/Commentary

Well, President Obama and his crew have chosen to sack Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Commander of International Security Assistance Force and Commander, United States Forces Afghanistan, because of remarks he allegedly made to a “reporter” from Rolling Stone, an anti-establishment, left-wing entertainment magazine.

Who would you want to go to war with — a general officer with

36 years of experience or a president with only

18-months experience as an executive?

Gen. McChrystal’s career ( lication/19396/biography_of_gen eral_stanley_mcchrystal.html) began as a platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., and ended abruptly late last month. Qualifying for leadership in an Airborne Division is far removed from the life experiences of the man who relieved him of his command. You see, in McChrystal’s world you are qualified by your command presence, problem solving ability and physical condition, not by your ability to organize fringe groups or by misleading people.

McChrystal seemed to follow the more difficult path his entire career, earning three Legions of Merit and a Bronze Star as he moved from the Army Airborne to Rangers and Special Forces assignments. Always a part of “point-of-the-spear” units and was appointed as a four-star general by Obama in 2009.

The reason he was fired is attributed to disparaging remarks he made concerning the political leadership of the Afghanistan campaign; remarks that are forbidden by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 88 of the UCMJ says. “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 Governor or 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.”

But, I am suspicious of how the reporter acquired the information in his article. I doubt very seriously that he stood in front of McChrystal, pad in hand and asked him the direct questions that lead to the remarks he quoted. A more likely scenario is that he was on the fringes of a conversation between soldiers, including McChrystal and his staff and repeated “off the record” remarks.

If you read the article it was full of similar locker-room comments (“Google it” yourself).

This doesn’t lessen the impact of the remarks; for any officer, especially a general officer to use “contemptuous words against the President” in any forum is not only unusual, but also intolerable. So, McChrystal is guilty of acting stupidly, a trait that is not uncommon to Vice President Joe Biden almost daily.

The left-wing media, like the Huffington Post, are heralding McChrystal’s firing: “When Rolling Stone’s profile of Stanley McChrystal was published this week, it took down a general who had managed to retain his post as the most senior military commander in Afghanistan despite previous failings and personnel issues.”

Missing from their assessment of this action is the propaganda implications of “taking out” a top general in wartime. Our enemies scored a major victory, one that they could not have accomplished themselves, by the removal of the commander of Afghan operations.

So, who did Obama choose to replace him? In effect, he demoted Gen. David H. Petraeus from the commander of Central Command to a lower level role as the field commander in Afghanistan. He may not have realized it, but by doing this he may have adversely affected troop morale.

In military circles it is uncommon to take a person charged with managing multiple missions and reassign him to a subordinate command position unless he has demonstrated that he cannot handle the higher level assignment. Frequently, this is viewed as a career ending move.

Maybe this is an indication of why McChrystal thought Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by a roomful of military brass, because he is and doesn’t have a clue how the military hierarchy of command works.

Ron Fink is a longtime Lompoc resident and a community activist. He can be reached by e-mail at

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