Two Reactions on Civil-Military Relations

In response to this argument that President Obama must fire General McChrystal, two reader responses. First, from someone I know to have a long military background:

I don't know the circumstances of the Rolling Stone article, but allowing McChrystal to remain is a mistake. However, the command structure is clearly broken. The covert war between Holbrooke, Eikenberry, and the military as to how to fight the war was increasingly frustrating, particularly for those with skin in the game - ie, those actually fighting the war.

Regardless of what one thinks of these men, these on the scene constant cross currents endanger the young men and women who actually are on the battle field. Given the increasing separation of the military and politicians and the almost total lack of common backgrounds, the distrust of each with the other should be a grave concern.

Next, from someone outside the military:

This is the worst by far, but McChrystal and Petraeus and before them Powell have a too-long history of lobbying through the press. It needs to be stopped in its tracks (should have been years ago) and somebody needs to spend some time thinking about what's wrong in the top ranks of the U.S. miitary that they so freely give themselves permission to do this.

I agree with both.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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