The blowback from General Stanley McChrystal's criticism of senior administration officials has been fast and furious, leading many pundits to call for President Obama to fire him That's apparently a possibility, as White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters today that "all options are on the table" for McChrystal's face-to-face meeting with Obama on Wednesday. But the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan also has his defenders. Here are the cases against firing McChrystal.
- Would Be Blow to Crucial War Efforts The Washington Post's Greg Jaffe and Ernesto Londoño write, "relieving McChrystal of his command on the eve of a major offensive in Kandahar, which White House and Pentagon officials have said is the most critical of the war, would be a major blow to the war effort, said military experts. ... If White House officials are contemplating ousting McChrystal, they are likely to consider the damage that would do to the relationships McChrystal has built with senior Afghan and Pakistani officials."
- 'Risking Mission Failure' Former McChrystal adviser Andrew Exum suggests, "Shaking up the command in Kabul for the third consecutive summer would throw operations into temporary disarray. A new commander -- Jim Mattis, anyone? -- might not feel comfortable with all of his subordinates or staff and seek to change them, which would be his right as the commander but not so great in terms of continuity. Most crucially, the relationship between the president of Afghanistan and the new commander would have to be re-built. If you think the strategy in Afghanistan is the correct one, then, you are risking mission failure by replacing the commander and his staff at this stage in the conflict. You are in effect arguing that healthy civilian-military relations are more important than winning in Afghanistan."
- Would Damage U.S. Relationship with Karzai A civilian adviser to the NATO force in Afghanistan tells Wired, "It would be a travesty if we fired McChrystal and kept Eikenberry. ... [McChrystal is the] only one with any sort of relationship with [Afghan president Hamid] Karzai." Karzai has since come out in support of McChrystal.
- Could Delay July 2011 Draw-Down Plan Liberal blogger Spencer Ackerman notes, "Firing him carries its risks. There's only a year to go before the July 2011 date to begin the transition to Afghan security responsibility and the Kandahar tide is starting to rise. It'll be hard to fire McChrystal without ripping the entire Afghanistan strategy up, and I've gotten no indication from the White House that it's interested in doing that."
- Comments Were Inappropriate but Maybe Right House Minority Whip Eric Cantor suggests, "Obviously a General and his top brass don't make statements like these without being frustrated, so I hope that the President's meeting with General McChrystal will include a frank discussion about what is happening on the ground, and whether the resources and the plan are there to defeat terrorists and accomplish our mission in Afghanistan. Without question, the article in Rolling Stone raises a lot of concerns, but our top priority must be to ensure that our forces in Afghanistan have what they need in order to successfully execute their mission and win the war there."
- Evaluate His Job Performance, Not PR Performance The New York Daily News' Andrew Bacevich writes, "The general needs to button his lip and attend to his assigned duties. The same goes for his subordinates. For the moment, that should suffice." However, Obama should take a hard look at McChrystal's efficacy in Afghanistan and only then consider canning him. "In his original strategic assessment, McChrystal stated unequivocally that within a year it would be apparent whether his approach was working. Given the stakes involved, it makes sense to allow him that year."
- Rude but Not Insubordinate Foreign Policy's Kori Schake writes, "McChrystal also didn't commit treason, which is what the political backlash makes it sound like. He didn't disobey an order. He didn't go outside his chain of command to undercut the president. He didn't say he knew better than his elected leadership what needed to be done. He didn't even criticize the president other than to say he'd looked uncomfortable the first time he met the military leadership. This is not 'his MacArthur moment,' as commentators are suggesting."