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Should McChrystal be Fired? Pundits Weigh In


Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET

Condemnation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's derisive remarks about the Obama administration in Rolling Stone can be found on just about every corner of the Internet. But while some political pundits say McChrystal must go out of simple, clear respect for the chain of command, others say the general's insubordinate remarks reveal deeper problems with the war in Afghanistan that President Obama is responsible for.

McChrystal's job as top commander in Afghanistan is in peril after he and his staff made a number of insulting comments about President Obama and other high ranking members that appeared in a Rolling Stone article.

Steve Clemons, publisher of the blog the Washington Note blog writes at the Huffington Post that Mr. Obama must fire McChrystal to show that "pugnacious disdain" for leaders must be dealt with respectably in the military.

Dan McLaughlin at the conservative blog agrees that McChystral unquestionably must go.

"A military man who wants to open both barrels in public against the political leadership has a time-honored way to do that: resign his commission and enter politics," he writes. "As Harry Truman understood when he fired Douglas MacArthur - then a national hero - at great political cost, a president who doesn't show the generals who is boss is no longer running anything."

Robert Haddick at Small Wars Journal writes, "To allow McChrystal to apologize and stay on would set a bad precedent, send the wrong signal regarding civil-military relations to the rest of the military, and would cause great uproar among Obama's civilian staff."

Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post, on the other hand, says that while McChrystal may be at fault for expressing his frustrations to the magazine, Mr. Obama is to blame for the feuding factions of leadership over the Afghanistan strategy.

"Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal should not lose his job because of the article about him in Rolling Stone magazine," Diehl writes. "If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration's internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama. For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December. The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan."

Johns Hopkins professor Eliot Cohen writes at the Wall Street Journal that McChrystal and his staff cannot be excused for their poor judgment, which "calls into question their broader competence to wage an acutely difficult war."

Still, he says, "The larger predicament here is not the general's fault. The Obama administration has made three large errors in the running of the Afghan war."

Foreign Affairs editor James Hoge similarly writes at the Daily Beast that McChrystal must go -- for the purpose of trying to bring some cohesion to the administration's approach to the war.

"If Obama is to have any chance of succeeding in winding down the U.S. military engagement with some semblance of accomplishment and honor, he must end the policy divisions within his administration and the insubordination of military leadership on the ground," he writes. "These efforts must start with a decisive heave-ho of General McChrystal. Anything less will reinforce the emerging calculation that Obama is a wuss."

Norman Solomon contends at the Huffington Post that McChrystal's comments are irrelevant because the war is already a lost cause.

"When the wheels are coming off, it doesn't do much good to change the driver," he writes. "Whatever the name of the commanding general in Afghanistan, the U.S. war effort will continue its carnage and futility."

For his part, the author of the explosive Rolling Stone article, Michael Hastings, says that if Mr. Obama doesn't fire McChrystal, it will prove the president can "be pushed around by the generals, and that they can more or less get away with whatever they want." However, he says, "I would be quite astounded if Obama does fire him. It would likely cause all sorts of headaches on the ground, delay the already delayed operation in Kandahar even further, and bring plenty of unwanted attention (from the White House's perspective) to the president's Afghan policy."


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Stephanie Condon

Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for

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