Obama Should Decide, Now, What to do About McChrystal
The U.S. war effort is endangered until he does
President Obama will probably speak about Gen. Stanley McChrystal's Rolling Stone article later in the day, and I expect him to signal two things: 1) that McChrystal's judgment was poor and that Obama is disappointed in him. And 2) what's most important is winning the war, and that question will override any other questions pertaining to a magazine article.
The buzz today inside Washington is that the White House is deliberately letting McChrystal twist in the wind for a day as a way of showing displeasure. I don't think this is true. Nothing about this incident is more harmful to the war effort than the notion that the President and his general are out of sync. The quicker they get in sync, the better it will be from the standpoints of our coalition allies and our soldiers. Strategic communication matters, and this sort of indecision projects weakness in a way that tangibly harms American interests right now. (McChrystal might submit his resignation, pro forma, by the way.)
It's clear that Obama's war cabinet (I'm told this includes Vice President Biden) is quietly advising him NOT to fire McChrystal. Sec. Gates's statement makes clear that Gates does not believe McChrystal committed a firing offense. He pivots very quickly to the need to demonstrate "unity" and talks about "going forward," as if McChrystal's comments were part of a larger pattern. Whether Obama thinks the article stems from malevolence or from staff frustrations compounded by McChrystal's lack of political sophistication, I don't know.
Predictably, many Congressional skeptics of the war effort are calling for POTUS to fire McChrystal; many supporters are making a distinction between publicly differing over strategy and complaining/mocking the commander in chief. I'm not sure that's a very good distinction to make, however, because the latter could in some circumstances be more harmful than the former.