The War Cabinet: Let's Not Play The Blame Game, Round 6

Let's Not Play The Blame Game: Round 6

by digby

Marc Ambinder reports:

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.

If Obama doesn't accept the resignation, I'm guessing this is some kind of "woodshed" moment where there will be reports of an angry president telling his General that he won't stand for any more of this kind of thing and a chastened General taking his punishment like a good soldier. Obama and war cabinet think they look magnanimous while the military and the Republicans take him for a weakling and a fool. Maybe that doesn't matter. (Obama the Muslim, socialist thug doesn't have control over his Generals. What kind of picture does that paint, I wonder?)

BTW: I can't speak for anyone else, but my belief that he should fire McCrystal or at least accept his resignation (which is as far as he should go to appease the military) has nothing to do with any skepticism of the war. It has to do with respect for the constitutional requirement that the military be subordinate to the civilian executive. The military has been acting more and more as a rogue political faction with its own power base for quite some time. No president of either party should allow that (although it must be said that Bush's fetishizing of "the Generals on the ground" and The Man Called Petraeus has contributed greatly to this problem.)

This isn't something to play with. Obama should accept his resignation.

Update: Greenwald tweets that he thinks this from NRO will probably be the way it goes. I'd bet so too:

One Way Obama Could Save Face . . . [Daniel Foster]

Refuse McChrystal's resignation. The general is a man of honor, and no idiot. There's a good chance he'll show up in Washington with a resignation letter in hand. President Obama could refuse it, and then go to the public and say something like, "our efforts in Afghanistan are too important to let an unfortunate lapse of judgment like this undermine them. So I told General McChrystal that he must finish his task, and that I would not accept his resignation at this time."

This might allow Obama to look like the bigger man while having it both ways. He'd avoid adding instability to his command structure at a crucial juncture in the war in Afghanistan, and avoid looking weak by not dismissing an insubordinate general.

The messaging would be: McChrystal knew he goofed up, and came to me with his gun and his badge. But this was my call, and I did what was best for the country.

Notice that it's Obama who will be "saving face" by doing this.

Imagine if McChrystal had done this under Bush. They'd be calling for this "man of honor" to be Court Martialed.

On the other hand, Howard Kurtz is absolutely right about this too (tweet):

If McChrystal not cashiered, I predict new round of stories questioning Obama's toughness, with obligatory references to Truman.

And if he does do it, the very same people will call him a thuggish dictator who has no respect for the military.

This isn't something for political calculation because he can't win on that basis. He should just do the right thing. And the right thing is to protect the constitution.