Whatever your opinion of President Barack Obama and General Stanley McChrystal, and whatever you think about the nature of McChrystal’s remarks or the circumstances in which they were said, I would hope you would agree that the change in military command that took place today is emblematic of the democratic values that have preserved the American experiment over the past couple centuries.
In many other nations, including many democracies, the president or prime minister would have been reluctant to remove a top general under similar circumstances out fear of how the rest of the military might react. But here in these United States, our President had to remove Gen. McChrystal for exactly the same reason.
The President is the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, and under our principle of civilian control such public mockery of the President by a top general and his staff is no more acceptable than public mockery of the general by his lieutenants. Regardless of the immediate impact on the war in Afghanistan, had President Obama not accepted McChrystal’s resignation of command, it would have set a dangerous example that could only lead to further insubordination, and a deterioration of military discipline.
While many pundits seem surprised by President Obama’s actions, it’s hard to see how he had any other choice.