As many of you know, I occasionally dip my toes into the waters of commenting on policy or major media events about our government. I don’t do it often because as an officer, I’m held to a higher standard and sometimes that means keeping my mouth shut (you have no idea how much of a challenge that truly is).
Anyway, for the last two days, we’ve been watching the talking heads in the media pick apart the Rolling Stone profile of GEN Stanley McCrystal. There’s been everything from rabid defense of the general to rabid calls for his public flogging. I read the article after hearing about the furvor on the news and if you haven’t, I encourage you to read it.
Because it’s no where near as bad as the media made it sound. Why do I say that? Well, for one, when people like Maureen Dowd criticize the general and his aides for machismo and “towel slapping”, I get annoyed. Why is it we as a society have taken machismo and manly, war like behavior and turned it into something to be condemned? Hello, he’s a general in the army. He’s not supposed to be handing out flowers and candy. He sends soldiers to kill people. That is what he does and the manner in which he carries out his mission, while subject to discussion and debate, should not be held up against some liberal version of ideals that say we can all just get along.
Additionally, as the leader of forces in Afghanistan, GEN McCrystal is the face of the war and, well, the public is sick of the war and I’m reasonably certain the politicians are, too, if media talk is any indication. The problem here becomes a few off hand remarks are turned into crimes nearly worthy of treason by a media that, despite protests to the contrary, are still very left leaning and anti war. And while the media have made good strides in not portraying soldiers as baby killers and pot heads like they did during Vietnam, there is still an underlying current that the soldiers shoulder the burden of being lumped in with the antiwar sentiment.
The fact that President Obama has seen fit to either accept GEN McCrystal’s resignation or to remove him from command remains firmly the president’s decision. What I see in a general that makes me respect and admire him, civilians look at as barbaric towel slapping. There is a disconnect between what we in the military deem appropriate or effective behavior and what civilians deem appropriate or effective.
In the end, this decision will be judged by the history books. Just as former President Bush’s legacy will change based on the long term success or failure of Iraq and his policies there, President Obama will be counted among the presidents responsible for the win or loss in Afghanistan. He made his decision after personally speaking with General McCrystal. He did not knee jerk and fire him via VTC or teleconference. He spoke to him face to face. I have to accept and believe that he made his decision based on the facts as he saw them and I will not question his decision. He is the commander in chief and I have an oath to obey his orders, just as all officers do.
GEN McCrystal served honorably and with the greatest admiration and respect of his soldiers. He was not necessarily loved but being in command isn’t about being loved, it’s about accomplishing the mission and taking care of soldiers. It is a true shame that a reporter with an ax to grind against the war and the military chose to publish this article about this general to grind said ax.