Gen. Stanley McChrystal has been summoned to the White House by a reportedly "furious" President Obama tomorrow to explain critical remarks attributed to the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and his advisors in a bombshell new Rolling Stone article. McChrystal's aides describe Obama as ill-prepared, unengaged, and "intimidated" during initial meetings with general, while McChrystal himself is quoted apparently mocking Vice President Biden and accusing Kabul ambassador Karl Eikenberry of "[covering] his flank for the history books" by questioning the general's request for more troops. McChrystal has apologized for making a "mistake," but should he lose his job anyway? (Watch Rolling Stone's editor discuss McChrystal's comments)
This untrustworthy general must resign immediately: McChrystal has acknowledged that his conduct fell short of professional integrity, says Jonathan Capehart in The Washington Post. "That is the height of understatement." With this "journalistic IED," McChrystal has abused the trust that Obama placed in him to carry out his war policy faithfully, and without question. When he enters the White House, "he should have his resignation in hand. And the president should accept it."
"McChrystal must go"
Obama must take the initiative and fire him first: The "concepts of disrespect and insubordination" demand that Obama must fire McChrystal, says James Fallows at The Atlantic, and not let him fall on his sword. To be shown "freely mocking" both the commander in chief and his possible successor, the vice president, shows no "respect for the chain of command." Obama owes it to the office of the presidency to "draw the line and say: This is not tolerable. You must go."
"Obama has to fire McChrystal"
But firing McChrystal carries its own risks: It's only a year until the U.S. is set to hand over security responsiblity to the Afghans, says Spencer Ackerman at Firedoglake. Getting rid of McChrystal now would mean "ripping the entire Afghanistan strategy up." More likely Obama realizes a "chastened McChrystal" would quit mouthing off to reporters, and get on with the job in hand.
"McChrystal apologizes, but the question remains: defrock the pope?"
And could that position the general as Obama's 2012 political foe: Actually, Obama "really can't afford to fire McChrystal," says James P. Pinkerton at Fox News. Such an act would not only ignite "an enormous blow-up over Afghanistan policy" from critics on both left and right, it could also position the general as "a possible new Republican presidential ... candidate to oppose him in 2012." My guess? "McChrystal will survive in his post."
"Why Obama won't fire McChrystal"
Update 1:40 p.m., June 23: According to White House officials, President Obama has relieved General McChrystal of his duties and replaced him with General David Petraeus. To read The Week's round-up of breaking opinion on the Petraeus announcement, click here.