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McChrystal firing allows Obama to reassert leadership at critical moment

A few quick points on Obama's decision to relieve Stanley McChrystal of his command.

* In retrospect, it was inevitable that Obama would act swiftly to remove a quasi-insubordinate general at a time when Obama's leadership is coming under harsh attack on other fronts. With Obama facing mounting criticism for failing to mount a firm, hands-on response to another unfolding crisis -- the Gulf oil spill -- permitting a subordinate to openly flaunt disrespect for his leadership, without decisive action to remove him, just wasn't really an option.

It's not impossible that the McChrystal crisis will turn out to have an upside for Obama. While it has obviously created a short-term political crisis, it has also given him the opportunity for a very high-profile reassertion of control at a critical moment. It's hard to imagine a single pundit on either side questioning Obama's leadership in the wake of this decision and Obama's execution of it. In short, Obama finally did kick an ass.

* It's good that Obama gave strong voice to the need to reassert civilian control over the military. McChrystal's conduct, Obama said, "undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system, and it erodes the trust that's necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan."

On one level, Obama was making it clear that this is about something larger than merely reasserting his own authority. But it was also a tacit acknowledgment that tensions between the military and civilian leadership are endangering the mission.

Obama suggested, without saying outright, that removing McChrystal would allow the healing of this rift to begin. Whether this will bring more success is an open question, but this buys Obama a bit more room to try to unify his team.

* The choice of General David Petraeus to replace McChrystal brings some continuity to what otherwise would have been a moment of potentially wrenching transition. Indeed, Obama took pains to point out that Petraeus helped design the current strategy.

The choice of Petraeus also makes it all but impossible for critics to fault his decision to remove McChrystal. And even though Obama ruled out any change in strategic direction, the Petraeus pick all but forces a lull in criticism of the war among Congressional Democrats, which was becoming a real political problem. Dems will be reluctant to keep up the criticism without giving Petraeus a chance to succeed. This buys Obama more time -- though without a change in strategy, it remains to be seen how much good this will do him in the long run.

By Greg Sargent  |  June 23, 2010; 2:33 PM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy and national security  
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It played out like I said it would.

When he entered the Pentagon this morning; McChrystal told an NBC reporter that he had not offered to resign.

Yet President Obama accepted his resignation. They made the General and offer he could not refuse: save face and resign, or be fired.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 23, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Nice post, Greg.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 23, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Finally. Good post, Greg. Petraeus was a political move as well as a strategic one. Hope both of them stick to the pull out deadline. This is not a winnable war.

Posted by: amkeew | June 23, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

NICE POST, GREG? Did Obama post that?

Obama is not a leader. He isn't RE-asserting anything. He doesn't have any more of a clue about the military, foreign policy, the security of the United States than he did when he snorted coke in college. All he has learned is how to say some words.

Posted by: chatard | June 23, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

"It was also a tacit acknowledgment that tensions between the military and civilian leadership are endangering the mission. Obama suggested, without saying outright, that removing McChrystal would allow the healing of this rift to begin."

Great point, Greg.

Re Petraeus, VDH at The Corner has some ironies:

"There will be no more “General Betray Us” ads or “suspension of disbelief” ridicule), because his success this time will reflect well on Obama rather than George Bush. It is a further irony that Obama is surging with Petraeus despite not long ago declaring that such a strategy and such a commander were failures in Iraq."

Posted by: sbj3 | June 23, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Chatard, your user name is offensive no matter how accurately descriptive it might be.

Posted by: Scipio_Africanus | June 23, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Had to be. No way Gen McC could have had a fruitful working relationship with Amb Eikenberry or NSA Dir Jones after those remarks got out.

Posted by: jzap | June 23, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Nice analysis Greg. I thought Obama did a great job of explaining his decision in non-political terms which should keep the GOP at bay. And the buying time angle is something I hadn't thought of.

Posted by: lmsinca | June 23, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

and his remarks about hating to attend a dinner thrown by a high level Representative of the French Government, would have

Posted by: Liam-still | June 23, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Great comments, Greg, spot on.

"Obama took pains to point out that Petraeus helped design the current strategy"

It will be interesting to see if COIN works any better in Afghanistan under Petraeus.

A cartoon:

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 23, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

At first blush the appointment of Petraeus as successor seems to imply continuity, but of all people Petraeus is the one whop could credibly help change strategy if he became convinced that things weren't going well and weren't going to get better.

Last night Jonathan Alter said that Obama was really frosted that McChrystal was trying to box him in on the troop surge last year. Maybe he felt McC was trying the same thing again--undermining the deadline and setting up for a big troop request which Obama hopefully realizes is a budget-buster and probable non-starter with Dems.

Posted by: Mimikatz | June 23, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"Chatard, your user name is offensive no matter how accurately descriptive it might be.

Posted by: Scipio_Africanus | June 23, 2010 2:53 PM"

OK, I am confused. I Googled the name and the only references I get are to a Catholic High School in Indianapolis. How is this offensive?

Posted by: msmollyg | June 23, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Spencer thinks the selection tells us more than we may want to know. It's a double down on the strategy and a fuzzier timeline.

"The strategy is supposed to undergo a review in December. Don’t expect that review to be so substantial. Petraeus will only be in theater for a few months. While he may not want to launch his own strategy review, he’ll surely want to keep his options open, and will be able to argue that the extraordinary conditions that put him back in charge of a war will necessitate that delay. Make no mistake: This is Obama intensifying his strategy. That’s the major change that has emerged after Gen. McChrystal’s unexpected self-immolation."

Posted by: lmsinca | June 23, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

This site needs to be able to use HTML tags like "blockquote" and italics. Why not?

Posted by: msmollyg | June 23, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

msmollyg -- let me try to get an answer to that. I know I've been promising you all an answer for some time but now I swear up and down I will get you one, by God!

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 23, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

The Obma mess list.

Look at the list: Afgan is a mess; the Gulf is a mess; employment is a mess; federal debt is a giant unpayable mess; Israel is a mess;

Mexico going great. No barrier to entry to the US for illegals thanks to the Prez.

Iran riding high. Turkey says no to Obama. Sarkozy thinks Obama is a wimp.

Great record for 20 months.

Posted by: cpameetingbook | June 23, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

msmollyg, You are probably right. I assumed that the individual in question was simply attaching 'tard to something.

Posted by: Scipio_Africanus | June 23, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Scipio. I am sensitive to this stuff momentarily, because I've just come back to this site after a certain abusive commenter was finally banished. I don't want to see us return to ad hominem attacks, but to have spirited discussions with lots of substance. That's why I'm here, although frankly I don't contribute a lot.

Posted by: msmollyg | June 23, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Greg: in addition to html tags, a reply feature would be great to help us follow the discussions. (And I want a pony.)

Posted by: msmollyg | June 23, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

And live links please.

Posted by: lmsinca | June 23, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Good Lord. Now look at what BP is doing. They have removed the cap, and all the oil is gushing into the Gulf Waters.

Is there no military solution that can be applied to implode the entire well, and entomb it.

How about bunker busters, striking where homing device signals have been located. What about guided under water cruise missiles, or torpedoes.

From McClatchy News.

"BP oil leak setback: 'Top hat' removed, oil flow unhindered

last updated: June 23, 2010 01:41:43 PM

WASHINGTON — Workers pulled the "top hat" device collecting crude oil from BP's gushing Deepwater Horizon well Wednesday morning in a major setback to efforts to contain the leak.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the Obama administration's point man on the BP oil leak, told reporters in his daily briefing that the long term impact of the decision was uncertain, but video from the leak showed crude gushing unhindered into the water for the first time since the "top hat" device, also referred to as the Lower Marine Riser Package, was set in place June 3.

It was unclear how soon the top hat might be put back in place, Allen said. He said he had only learned of the problem as he was headed to the Coast Guard headquarters briefing room in Washington. A BP press statement later said the incident had occured at 8:45 a.m. Central time.

BP called the measure temporary, but provided no information on when the device might be reinstalled.

The incident came a day after BP collected the most crude oil captured at the site -- more than 27,000 barrels, including 10,429 that were burned by the Q4000 drilling rig.

Allen said the Discoverer Enterprise drilling ship, which has been collecting oil through the "top hat," removed the device from the bleeding well after workers detected what appeared to be gas coming directly into the ship through a line that was being used to run warm water into the top hat to prevent a buildup of ice-like hydrate crystals. With the ship burning off thousands of cubic feet of natural gas each day, workers were concerned the gas might ignite, creating an explosive situation aboard the ship.

Allen said it was unclear how the gas came to be in the warm water line, but that initial suspicions centered on the possibility that a robot vehicle working neaer the top hat had accidentally bumped it and closed one of the vents through which the crude continues to escape. That may have increased pressure within the top hat, forcing gas into the warm water line.

Allen said workers would have to determine if hydrates had formed into the top hat and pipeline leading to the Discoverer Enterprise. If so, new pipe will have to be run to the top hat before collection can begin again."

Posted by: Liam-still | June 23, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Africanus? Isn't that OFFENSIVE?, i.e. I thought you were adding anus to the end of your tag.

Y'all becoming Nanny Word Watchers.

Posted by: Papagnello | June 23, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

msmollyg, I don't know about the reply function.

The last time I gave people a reply function in response to several requests, over at the old platform, everybody else threatened to desert the site in protest. :)

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 23, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

With Petreaus, AfPak is now "The War Goes On War." Obama is shilling MICs "never-ending" business without using Bushspeak.

Posted by: Papagnello | June 23, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

You can't reassert something you never did in the first place.

Posted by: shewholives | June 23, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

papag, Touche' although my buddy Scipio is somewhat famous.

Posted by: Scipio_Africanus | June 23, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

i agree that petraeus is a good move politically, but i'm not greatly encouraged re policy. we'll soon see if they hold to the withdrawal timetable.

our presence there, chasing after some nebulously described and unobtainable 'victory' only acerbates the situation. that said, totally withdrawing and then turning our backs on the region, again, is not wise.

i hope that obama uses this opportunity to make sure he has a good policy going forward and that petraeus can the implement that policy.

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | June 23, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

It actually can work the other way. Since Petraeus is the one General that Right Wingers have to respect, if he reports, next year, that we have done all that we can in Afghanistan ,and we can never make a functioning modern nation out of the place, that would clear the way for President Obama to reduce the mission to just pulverizing the bad guys, where ever they crop up; be it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somali, Yemen, or...............

The bad guys are in a lot of countries, and we can not invade them all, so why not just keep pulverizing them, without making our military sitting ducks in places and fights that they can never win, or change.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 23, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

From the Good News Department (which is frequently out-of-stock):

Is it my imagination or is real journalism coming back into fashion? McClatchey, who has been stalwart throughout. Rolling Stone, whose investigative journalism is grossly under-appreciated and just delivered a nation-moving news piece. Here at WaPo, Greg coming aboard, joining Ezra Klein. (Frankly, I think the New York Times lags.) CNN appears to have moved from a 4th Grade level to an 8th grade level. And even I saw Tweety the other day actually listening to someone explain something. I swear!

Now this good news all around. In addition to the obvious reasons, real journalism will make it much harder for the GOP to peddle its fantasy-world propaganda.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 23, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

fwiw, i'd vote against a 'reply' function -- it seems to make the discussion much more difficult to keep up with as it evolves. you have to keep checking the whole thread, which, in the case of extended discussion, can be quite tedious.

of course, it helps when commenters in chronologically displayed threads mention the name and time stamp of the commenter and specific comment they are replying to.

and a blockquote function greatly facilitates this.

i'd also vote in favor of links and all the standard basic html tags...

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | June 23, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

blah, at Greg's last site, we thought we wanted a reply button....till we got it, that is!

Blockquote would be sweet! If we can only choose one html tag, that's the one I'd vote for.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | June 23, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I liked the little happy faces. I really miss those. You could say something mean with a happy face and all would be forgiven. It was like signing a "Dear John" letter "with love". LOL

And everyone, I hope the incident of Greg banning Bilgeman doesn't turn us into an extreme censorship site. It was an unusual situation but let's not go overboard.

Posted by: lmsinca | June 23, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I would like a Peek-A-Boo feature, which I can use to appear to not be here. I would also like to have the use of a Plumline Rabbit puppet, to do my swearing for me, like Craig Ferguson has.

Of course; since there is only seven days left, before I retire from all politics and blogging, Greg, will have to put in a rush order for my Cussing White Rabbit puppet.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 23, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

The BUSS mess-it up-list before leaving office:

Look at the list: Afgan is a mess (bush did nothing); the Gulf is a mess (since Katrina); employment is a mess (bush did nothing; federal debt is a giant unpayable mess(thanx to Haliburton and Cheyney); Israel is a mess (will always be);

Mexico going great(thanks to Repubs). No barrier to entry to the US for illegals thanks to the Prez(what did bush do for 8 years and his father before him?)

Iran riding high (after Bush killed an innocent man). Turkey says no to Obama. Sarkozy thinks Obama is a wimp(and Sarkozy's wife is bimbo).

Great record for 12 years between his father and himself.
If none of the above are guarantees, there are some americans who will willingly "F" things up to make someone else look bad.

Posted by: brndmnd04 | June 23, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

The underlying assumption is that Obama is actually a leader.
So what was Petraeus promised as part of the 30 pieces of silver? The betting is, if he succeeds, C of JCS and a 5th star.
Meanwhile as part of this dance the troops continue to die, money is shoveled into a government so corrupt even Chicago is envious and the Afghan power players laugh all the way to the American bank.

Posted by: KBlit | June 23, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

"allows Obama to reassert leadership"???

RE-what? WHAT leadership???

Posted by: thebump | June 23, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

You got what you voted for with empty suit which was "light skinned and dialect free" to fill a lily white liberal socialist democrat narrative........

What about that lefty love for "speaking truth to power"?

The General was wrong, the President is still inept.........

November is when normal Americans get to get even with the antiAmerican democrats

"Obama" means "failure" in several languages.............

Posted by: georgedixon | June 23, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse


McCain: "We are confident that General Petraeus' leadership will have a … positive effect."

Graham: "There are lines you cannot cross in the military... David Petraeus is our best hope."

Lieberman: "A decisive show of presidential leadership.... This was a commander in chief."

Kerry, Boehner, Skelton all nod in agreement.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 23, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

let's see, kb's comment has the following:

* unsupported ad hominem attack on obama

* paranoid conspiracy theory

* a most likely new found concern for casualties -- were you so concerned about casualties when bush/cheney were in the white house?

* repetition of the tedious rightwing meme about chicago politics

sadly, these are just typical teabagger talking points. do you really want to have a discussion and real debate or are you just interested in gratuitously dumping on obama and everyone in the center and to the left of center?

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | June 23, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

george says @4:56

i'll ask you the same question: do you want to have a real discussion and debate or are you just here to through tired insults that you didn't even originate?

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | June 23, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Interesting new crop of sloganeering trolls.

Posted by: akaoddjob | June 23, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Sargent said: "The choice of Petraeus also makes it all but impossible for critics to fault his decision to remove McChrystal. And even though Obama ruled out any change in strategic direction, the Petraeus pick all but forces a lull in criticism of the war among Congressional Democrats, which was becoming a real political problem. Dems will be reluctant to keep up the criticism without giving Petraeus a chance to succeed."

Completely disagree. Petraeus was the focus of the Left's disdain just a couple years ago, remember? The embodiment of everything they hate about war. Obama himself castigated Petraeus in 2007 for his surge strategy in Iraq, stating along with the rest of the Dems that it would not and could not work. Of course it did, and that's why Obama has now reached out to him to save his ass like he saved Bush's. But the Left won't like it. Even now, most of them claim that winning in Afghanistan was never "their" requirement, and they are PO'd that Obama is still there. Watching this play out will be fascinating. But don't look for the Left to be quiet on this.

Posted by: CREEBOLD | June 23, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

All, come check out our Happy Hour Roundup, just posted:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 23, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Excellent discussion with Fareed Zakaria at cnn, some excerpts:

* Obama's choice of Petraeus a 'masterstroke' *

CNN: What do you think of the president's decision?

Fareed Zakaria: This is a masterstroke. Petraeus needs no on-the-job training, knows the theater, and is beloved by the troops. He understands COIN [counter-insurgency strategy], literally wrote the book on it, and most important -- knows how to execute it. He has superb political skills and understands that a close working relationship with his civilian counterparts from the State Department, White House, and other agencies is not a bother but at the heart of the mission's success.


The question I have, which in some ways is greater, is not whether Gen. McChrystal is guilty of insubordination but of incompetence.

CNN: In what way?

Zakaria: What I mean by that is this -- the counterinsurgency strategy depends upon a very close joint implementation of military, political, economic and diplomatic efforts. That is at the heart of it.

What you see in Gen. McChrystal is someone who is openly disdainful of and sets himself up almost in opposition to the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, the State Department high representative Richard Holbrooke, the national security adviser, the vice president.

So you have to ask yourself how would it be possible that they would actually be implementing a counterinsurgency strategy with that level of disconnect and friction between the military and civilian authorities. If McChrystal and his team are so contemptuous of these other people whose support is absolutely critical to the success of the mission, then he's failing at his mission. This is not about his manners, this is about his ability to effectively execute the task he's been asked to execute.

If you compare McChrystal's attitude toward his civilian counterparts with that of Gen. Petraeus in Iraq, it's night and day. Petraeus was extremely respectful of Ryan Crocker, the ambassador, extremely respectful of the State Department, always talking about how he really admired and appreciated their efforts and wanted them more involved, held almost all his briefings along with Crocker. And that clearly was a crucial part of why the surge succeeded, because the whole premise of the surge is that the military part is not by itself going to be enough. You need a great deal of activity on the political, economic, social and diplomatic fronts.

Good article.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 23, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Obama to be assertive?.. Hahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahhahahha!

you mean PRESENT!

Posted by: Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief | June 23, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Barry the incompetent boob Obama is a thin-skinned egomaniac and his firing of the top general based on a "magazine article" shows his inability to lead.

Miserable failure Obama

Posted by: screwjob16 | June 23, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Obama must've done something right because the non-sequitur attacks by the trolls have commenced.

I'll miss teasing Bilgy about the Civil War, tho'...good times.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | June 23, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Dumb article about Obama reasserting his leadership. Just the opposite occurred.
The military now has President Obama backed into a corner.

Obama can't afford to fire two top Generals over Afghanistan policy. No one except a narrow band on the extreme left will believe all the Generals are wrong and Obama's staff is right. The new General's leverage to get what he thinks is needed has increased immeasurably.

This is the case of a shrinking Presidency that lacks leadership. If the President doesn't understand that the Generals have increased leverage, he's not as smart as people say he is. (I've never thought he was dumb, just ineffective and weak)

Who would have thought Rolling Stone magazine would be the instrumemt the Generals used to get their way with the White House? Ismn't it odd hat Rolling Stone got so such access to McChrystal?

The military acts as a team to promote the common good as they view it. General McChrystal took one for the team.

General McChrystal's successor benefits through increased leverage while the President's power shrinks due to other failures in the economy, the debt, the Gulf oil spill, heathcare. None of these issues went away and they are pulling Obama down like a rock. The military just effectively insulated themselves from some of the side effects of Obama's fall.

The military saluted Obama when he came to office and will salute him as he leaves. In the meantime, they are trying to save their part of the Government from polution of the decaying pieces Obama is leading down the drain.

Posted by: jfv123 | June 23, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Note to amateur writer:

In order to reassert leadership you first have to assert leadership.

Clueless Comrade Barry has never led anything in his life.

He’s a follower, a true believer, a Marxist, an academic, a poser, a narcissist, an agitator, a teleprompter reader, a Redistributor-in-Chief, yes, but a leader?

He couldn’t lead a one car funeral.

Posted by: PauvrePapillon | June 23, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I am so tired of hearing that Petraeus is a god and that the surge was a rousing success. The surge was one of a host of things that led to the decrease in violence in Iraq. The biggest reason that there were fewer deaths and violence in Iraq was that the sectarian violence subsided after the ethnic cleansing of Bagdad and the surrounding area was pretty much completed. Bribing the Sunnis to not openly oppose the govt was another big factor. Sure the surge was 1 factor, but it wasn't even the most important one.

Petraeus and his vision for Afghanistan is fatally flawed. There is no surge and in fact no external intervention short of nuking the whole country that will keep the taliban out of power in the long run. Didn't we learn anything in Viet Nam? The Afghan population overwhelmingly doesn't want us there. There is no victory when the people that your are ostensibly defending hate your guts worse than they hate our enemies.

Posted by: srw3 | June 23, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

@PP:He’s a follower, a true believer, a Marxist, an academic, a poser, a narcissist, an agitator, a teleprompter reader, a Redistributor-in-Chief, yes, but a leader?

Marxist? Really? Do you even know what that means? Have any Marxists ever been in power in the US? Teleprompter reader? Really? Really? You should ask the Republican caucus who he eviscerated when they invited him to talk to their meeting in VA or the Republican leadership when he pwned them in the health care summit. It is typical of the no-nothing right wing to list academic as some kind of disadvantage. Who would want a smart person in as their leader. Better to go with GWB legacy abuser in chief.

I am just curious...Who did he follow on his way to the presidency?

At least Bilgey was sometimes original and modestly clever in his trollery...

Posted by: srw3 | June 23, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

To: screwjob16 and Pauvre

IGNORANT - So I guess you two unenlightened people also believe in the "man in the moon". I really, really wish that everyone would do away with "comments" sections (or at least try to screen people). Freedom of speech if one thing. . . believing things without doing your own research, then trying to comment on something one is totally ignorant to is another. On the premise that PRESIDENT OBAMA is "dumb", "stupid", etc. could someone please explain to me how he got where he is. Bring up George Bush, ok, so maybe there were some that voted for him that didn't want another Republican in the White House, but say what you want, this is a SMART man - black, white or indifferent - this is an EDUCATED man - unlike so many commenters I've been reading. And he will go down in history forever - where is your legacy????

Posted by: CarolFriend | June 23, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Ah, srw3 - another person who thinks "well, he's better than Bush" is the same as "he's a good president".

Obama's making loads of mistakes right now, and when his fanboys can only feel good about themselves when they're comparing him to another inept president.

Posted by: charlesbakerharris | June 23, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it amazing! The only A-- that Obama could find to kick would be a man who has risked his life for his country his entire adult life. The incompetents in the White House and those that Gen McChrystal was complaining about are sitting pretty. At least he replaced him with Gen Petraeus so Afghanistan won't completely collapse under Obama's incompetence. Can you imagine though, what Gen Petraeus think of Obama? It wasn't that long ago that Obama's arrogant left wing friends were calling him Gen Betrayus! It must be hard for Gen Petraeus to bit his tongue.

Posted by: valwayne | June 23, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Interesting article, but you ignore the crux of the issue. The frustration expressed by Gen. McScapegoat and his people was not based on some military vs. civillian ideology, it was based on the fact that the rules of engagement increase the risk to our troops. We have all but abandoned our greatest military advantage, which is air support. When we do call in air support, the pilot has to have visual contact with a Taliban target before dropping ordinance, so we send one of our boys out in the open to draw fire so the pilot has something to see. Our children, used as BAIT! Trying to fight a "war" with no collateral damage is an unsupportable military strategy. We learned that in Viet Nam, and have conveniently forgotten. This will only get worse as long as we continue this course of action. Fight to win, or go home! We were winning until we tightened the rules of engagement.

Posted by: angryvet2 | June 23, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

This column is the journalistic equivalent of window-dressing.

If Obama wants to get serious about winning in Afghanistan, he should hire McChrystal as a national security advisor once the general becomes a civilian (which should be soon) and listen to him carefully.

McChrystal was a hero in Iraq. It's a damm shame he had to go out this way. But the fault is not entirely his own.

Posted by: theduke89 | June 23, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

You don't reassert leadership with a firing and a speech. You reassert leadership with action. What the Rolling Stone article underscored is that the commander-in-chief has been MIA for about a year. Plainly no one has been in charge of the military and civilian leadership appointed to direct Afghanistan policy and strategy. The result has been bickering and one-upsmanship. If Obama wants to be considered the commander-in-chief, he needs to become the commander-in-chief. He needs to take responsibility for the Americans he's put in harm's way and for the trillions that Congress has committed to the war effort.

Posted by: judithod | June 24, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

this is BO's THIRD general in 18 months for Afghan, what kind of leadership does THAT show?? NOT MUCH!!

Posted by: morphy | June 24, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Untethered. The silliness of this article slots right in with all the other silly articles that suggest Obama has the ability to lead. The man has no clue, and truly does not want to be at war with anyone, anywhere, any time. His appeasement by niceness reflects the core left belief that America is an aggressor, not beneficent, country and that all of the problems we see with foreign countries and religious zealots is our own fault. If we can just be nice to everyone, the problems and conflicts will disappear.

The man is just flailing and thrashing about with no leadership whatsoever of anyone or anything. This administration is coming apart at the seams and I doubt any amount of liberal media support can do anything to stop the ultimate failure of this presidency.

Posted by: gmonsen | June 24, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Other points to consider Greg: 1) No one talks about McChrystal reviewing the article before it went to print and knowing it would show up in an liberal, anti-war publication. He's a very bright person and I suspect there is more to that angle; 2) you talk about Obama's leadership shining but his inability to prevent previous civilian leaks (likely Eikenberry) to the NY Times and public comments (Biden saying troops would for sure be out by July 2011) created disagreement and uncertainty among the top. That's a failure of leadership. Also, go back and look at then Sen. Biden and Sen. Obama's comments to Gen. Petraeus prior to the Iraq surge. Easy to see why the military has little respect for the Prez and Vice Prez. Especially Biden whose ideas have ultimately been wrong.

Posted by: phil413 | June 24, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Reassert his leadership? Ahahahahahaha
He never showed any (all of his life), and this political decision (as we all so clearly know it is, versus strategic for our military's safety and success), will weaken him even more so.

If this is all you've got, God help us.

Posted by: notbuyingit | June 24, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I find it funny how this is somehow a sign of Obama's strength. His lead, hand-picked general is caught bad mouthing the leadership - that's not good any way you look at it. It means the military doesn't buy into the plan they are tasked to execute. As for accepting his resignation or firing him, what choice did he have? Basically if he didn't fire him he'd have been left to ridicule as being even weaker than we thought.

Posted by: ted22 | June 24, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Let's hope General Betrayus fares better this time with the Democrats in Congress (and his Commander In Chief).

Posted by: MikeMcLamara | June 24, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

obama re-asserts his thin-skinned reputation.

hurt his feelings and he is right there; ask for additional troops, help on the border or take the oil spill seriously and he takes forever to get engaged, only digging in after being totally embarrassed.

he used mcChrystal hoping it would prove he's not a lightweight instead it solidified just that.

Posted by: ChooseBestCandidate | June 24, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

What choice did Obama have? If he kept McChrystal, Obama would display his inability to manage his generals. But our allies and enemies know what is going on. As Nero fiddles, Rome continues to burn. His policies are like Neville Chamberlains's and that lead to World War II. Unless the rules of engagement are changed and the President rescinds his timeline, even a general like Petraeus can't win this war. It is like Vietnam all over again. We are either all in, or get the hell out. Unfortunately, the ass that Obama kicked can't kick back and stay in the military. How about kicking Ahmadinejad's ass or Kim Jong II's ass, Obama? They regularly kick you in the ass. I hope in 2012, the voters come to their senses and kick your ass out of the White House.

Posted by: Wes69 | June 24, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Newcomers, please come check out the homepage of this blog:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 24, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

obama re-asserts his thin-skinned reputation.

hurt his feelings and he is right there; ask for additional troops, help on the border or take the oil spill seriously and he takes forever to get engaged, only digging in after being totally embarrassed.

he used mcChrystal hoping it would prove he's not a lightweight instead it solidified just that.

Posted by: ChooseBestCandidate | June 24, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

obama re-asserts his thin-skinned reputation.

hurt his feelings and he is right there; ask for additional troops, help on the border or take the oil spill seriously and he takes forever to get engaged, only digging in after being totally embarrassed.

he used mcChrystal hoping it would prove he's not a lightweight instead it solidified just that.

Posted by: ChooseBestCandidate | June 24, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

So... obama fires a General that badmouths him.

This makes obama 'a better Leader'?

Only the "in the Tank for obama" media would push that line.

Posted by: wilsan | June 24, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse


look it up, spread it like cheese

Posted by: GregBuls1 | June 24, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

It is hilarious to watch the lefty press and Democrats fall all overthemselves to praise Gen Petreaus as a"brilliant" choice when they all trashed him and called him stupid in 2007. Do they think we can't look these things up anywhere on the internet? No wonder the Obamacommies want to control the internet just like the Chinese.

Posted by: kalamere | June 24, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I got it! We have a lousy president who needed to make an example of someone so he could "reassert his leadership" as this lackey writer suggests. The MSM is hard at work defending their little messiah, huh?

Posted by: BillCarson2 | June 24, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I wish those that have never been IN the military would get their facts correct before they start spouting "insubordination".

In the military, "insubordination" is narrowly defined as refusing to obey a direct order.

McCrystal did not do that. He was not fired. He resigned.

My fellow Democrats called Gen. Petraeus General Betray Us during the war with Iraq.
So please explain exactly how Obama is reasserting leadership? Just curious.

Posted by: Belle6 | June 24, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

1. Odumbo has NEVER run any organization as an executive. He doesn't KNOW what leadership even is.
2. Odumbo et al VEHEMENTLY criticized Petraeus during Bush's tenure. NOW Petraeus is a Brilliant choice?
3. The Rolling Stone article (1st page or so) included some ill chosen comments not nearly as nasty as comments that show up in these posts. THIS amounts to a "firing" offense. Most of the snarky stuff was by aides and subordinates. I couldn't tell from the article if McChrystal was even present when they were made.
some day the WaPo will get a story right but today is not that day and this story is not that story.

Posted by: JohnLeeHooker1 | June 24, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

When people has to write a column to remind us that the president 'reasserts leadership' or is acting "executively" is when you know he's neither a leader or an executive.

Posted by: CuriousCitizen | June 24, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Sargent confuses power and leadership.

Posted by: Xdem | June 25, 2010 4:07 AM | Report abuse

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