General McChrystal: history repeats itself

Well, well. So the top US General in Afghanistan has been summoned to Washington, where his fate hangs in the balance. He should, of course, be fired by Obama. According to an article in Rolling Stone, it seems that McChrystal and his aides spoke critically of nearly every member of the president’s national security team, saying Obama appeared “uncomfortable and intimidated” during his first meeting with the general, and dismissing Vice President Joe Biden as “Bite Me.” Big mistake, as Fabio Capello might say.

For a long time now, the US president that Obama has most reminded me of is Harry Truman (IMHO the most under-rated president of modern times). He was also faced with an insubordinate general, Douglas MacArthur, and on April 11, 1951 fired him.

“With deep regret [said the White House statement] I have concluded that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur is unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the United States Government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining to his official duties. In view of the specific responsibilities imposed upon me by the Constitution of the United States and the added responsibility which has been entrusted to me by the United Nations, I have decided that I must make a change of command in the Far East. I have, therefore, relieved General MacArthur of his commands and have designated Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway as his successor.

Full and vigorous debate on matters of national policy is a vital element in the constitutional system of our free democracy. It is fundamental, however, that military commanders must be governed by the policies and directives issued to them in the manner provided by our laws and Constitution. In time of crisis, this consideration is particularly compelling.”

Later, in an article in Time magazine, Truman wrote:

“I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”

Maybe it’s something about generals with “Mc” (or “Mac”) in their names?