Media Pushes ‘Rift’ Between McChrystal and Obama

By
Monday, October 05, 2009 at 3:26 pm
Army Lt. Gen. Stanely McChrystal (defenselink.mil)

Army Lt. Gen. Stanely McChrystal (defenselink.mil)

In a London address on Thursday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, repeatedly defended President Obama’s review of Afghan strategy; encouraged open debate on the controversial question of what to do about the bleak-looking war; recapitulated his argument that a counterinsurgency approach holds the best chance of success; and declined to answer any questions about increasing troop levels before Obama reaches a decision. Yet since then, McChrystal has been portrayed in the press as disloyal to Obama for saying anything at all, and all sides are trying to put an end to the controversy.

The New York Times portrayed McChrystal’s brief defense of the virtues of stabilizing Afghanistan as a public rebuke of Vice President Biden, who contends that restricting the mission to hunting terrorists and emphasizing Pakistan is the wiser course of action. In an op-ed in The Washington Post on Saturday, Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman said McChrystal had “no business making such public pronouncements” and was in “plain violation of the principle of civilian control” of the military. On CNN Sunday, ret. Gen. Jim Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, curtly replied that “better for military advice to come up through the chain of commandthan in public pronouncements. Speaking Monday morning to the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “It is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations – civilian and military alike – provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately.”

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Shortly after Gates’ remarks, a spokesman for McChrystal, Air Force Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, signaled that McChrystal wished to end the controversy. “General McChrystal concurs with the secretary and shares his perspective that the president’s military and civilian policy advisers need to provide candid but private advice,” Sholtis told TWI. Sholtis added that McChrystal does not have any additional public appearances planned.

Sources close to McChrystal have privately expressed concern that the general’s remarks have been misinterpreted as insubordinate. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have lamented that many European allies have wavered in their support for the Afghanistan war, and so, far from engaging in what the Washington Post called a “public campaign” to influence Obama through the press, McChrystal has sought to address the concerns of skeptical troop-contributing publics since taking command in June. In London, speaking to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, McChrystal said, “I think the more deliberations we have, the more debate we have, the healthier this is gonna be.”

McChrystal’s London remarks, delivered at the U.K.’s premiere security think tank, the Institute for International and Strategic Studies, may have been delivered the day after Obama’s war cabinet met to debate Afghanistan, but they were the result of weeks’ worth of planning.  “The IISS invited General McChrystal to address the Institute, having learnt of his intention to travel to the UK,” said Adam Ward, the director of the Institute’s studies, who added that the institute’s invitation had been extended “some weeks before he came.” Ward added that McChrystal appeared “very careful to appear not to be overstepping any boundaries,” noting that the general, far from rebuking the adminsitration, repeatedly declined to answer questions about troop levels ahead of Obama’s decision.

“From our perspective, we just wanted to hear him set out his thinking on Afghanistan,” Ward said.

Far from breaking with Obama, McChrystal, in his talk to the IISS, defended the Obama strategy review repeatedly. “People are re-looking what our goals and objectives are and redefining and clarifying those, and I think that’s helpful,” the general said. His only remark that addressed a question up for debate in the strategy review was a contention that “a strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy,” something the Times reported as a shot at Biden. (Despite reports that McChrystal called Biden’s plan “Chaos-istan,” the full context for what McChrystal said was “A paper has been written that recommends that we use a plan called ‘Chaosistan,’ and that we let Afghanistan become a Somalia-like haven of chaos that we simply manage from outside,” an option he indeed rejected.) But for the better part of half an hour, McChrystal dodged questions on a prospective troop increase, and portrayed the strategy debate, rather than the troop request, the more urgent consideration, saying, “I don’t think we have the luxury of going so fast [on debating strategy that] we make the wrong decision,” a remark that, if anything, inverted an argument made by Obama’s domestic critics.

Nor were those remarks unique. In mid-September, after he completed his assessment of war strategy to the Pentagon in late August, McChrystal spoke to reporters at the Dutch Defense Ministry, where he likened his role to a “mechanic,” who tells the owner of a car “what the situation is and what it will cost to make the vehicle run correctly.” McChrystal also spoke recently at a Dutch security think tank, known as the Clingendael — also at its invitation — where he gave what Sholtis described as essentially the same speech he provided to the IISS.

Officials throughout the Obama administration, military and civilian, deny any rift and contend that the controversy over McChrystal’s remarks is a media-driven event with little substance. Some noted that Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has set himself up as a key swing vote in the debate over changing Afghanistan strategy, has zealously guarded the administration’s freedom of action, and reacted very badly to the leak of McChrystal’s assessment — which did not, several civilian and military officials confirm, come from McChrystal’s staff. “The impact may be the opposite of the leaker’s intent,” said an official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “This will increase the determination of the civilian leadership not to be rushed or pressured.”

In the past, Gates has not hesitated to rebuke or fire officials he has found lacking. Unlike predecessor Donald Rumsfeld, who allowed two wars to deteriorate and only fired the leadership of the Army for defending a scrapped artillery system and saying the occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of ground troops, Gates fired McChrystal’s predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, over a perception that McKiernan was an insufficiently aggressive and innovative commander; and acquiesced in the departure last year of Adm. William Fallon, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia,for criticizing the Bush administration’s Iran policies in a magazine interview.

Gates’ willingness to fire senior leaders has been cited by uniformed personnel to play down media speculation over a civilian-military split. At the Army conference Monday, Gates attempted to preempt any such division, or a similar media narrative interfering with Obama’s decisionmaking, telling the hundreds of officers in attendance, “Speaking for the Department of Defense, once the commander-in-chief makes his decisions, we will salute and execute those decisions faithfully and to the best of our ability.” The defense secretary is scheduled to meet with President Obama Monday afternoon for a private talk.

Follow Spencer Ackerman on Twitter


Comments

138 Comments

chrisjay
Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

Pretty sad that, as the wingers strive to fabricate this 'rift' in pursuit of their relentless imperative to undermine POTUS at home & abroad, meanwhile tragic events in Nuristan are left to the adults in the room to ponder and analyze as they craft a strategy to move forward in Afgh. The right doesn't seem to care about the troops anymore, they're completely absorbed with their cheap political sniping…


"Army Lt. Gen. Stanely McChrystal (defenselink.mil)" and related posts | Emerva Network
Pingback posted October 5, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

[...] Original post: "Army Lt. Gen. Stanely McChrystal (defenselink.mil)" and related posts [...]


mikefromarlington
Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

Mainstream has become garbage. Absolutely pathetic how it tries to create conflict for its own purpose.

Is there any chance a group of you prominent truth seeking bloggers out there could get a PBS gig called Meet the Real Press?


"Army Lt. Gen. Stanely McChrystal (defenselink.mil)" and related posts | Emerva Network
Pingback posted October 5, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

[...] View original post here: "Army Lt. Gen. Stanely McChrystal (defenselink.mil)" and related posts [...]


marc
Comment posted October 5, 2009 @ 11:33 pm

The MSM prefers to write stories about food fights and horse races. Thus avoiding the time and tedious leg work necessary to research then explain complicated policy options. They are fast, they are easy, they don't strain the brain of either writer or reader and they get everyone out of the office in time for cocktail hour.


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Comment posted October 6, 2009 @ 12:15 am

Seven years in Afghanistan. Isn't that enough wasted American lives and Zillions of Tax Dollars? Bush lost the 1st Afghan War when he lied to Congress about WMD so he could illegally invade Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with 9-11, But Did have lots of OIL.

This war is now Obama's. He should make one last might attempt to get Osama, kill a few for Al Quaida, Delcare Victory And LEAVE.
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Clinton, Gates Defend McChrystal in Joint Appearance | GSA Schedule Services
Pingback posted October 6, 2009 @ 3:45 am

[...] At a forum sponsored by the George Washington University to be broadcast tomorrow on CNN’s new Christiane Amanpour program, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a strong endorsement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, despite the media-fanned controversy over his London comments. [...]


MichaelDrew
Comment posted October 6, 2009 @ 8:23 am

Wishful denialism. Disgraceful. This asks us to agree that black is white. There is a broad consensus that the general's conduct has been borderline insubordinate. The 'rift' is obvious, and the reports of denials is spurious. It may nor be a rift, but the tension is obvious; General Jones having to make any statement on the topic at all is evidence enough. Stop clouding the waters, WashInd. McChrystal is a problem and will remain so until he learns certain obvious lessons in public relations. Luckily, it seems he is beginning to

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Media Pimping Mythical Obama-McChrystal Rift | Obama Biden White House
Pingback posted October 6, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

[...] rift,” he has the media dead to rights. In a long and link-rich piece on the Windy, entitled “Media Pushes ‘Rift’ Between McChrystal and Obama”, Ackerman expounds at length on the way this rift has been ginned up out of whole cloth, and [...]


The General Has Spoken - The Opinionator Blog - NYTimes.com
Pingback posted October 6, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

[...] post, Ackerman called the epsiode a “psuedo-controversy,” and in another he said a close reading of the general’s comments belied his critics’ charges. In a London address on Thursday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the [...]


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Pingback posted October 6, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

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» Blog Archive » The National Debate on Afghanistan, Military Operations, & Perception
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Clumsy Insubordination Unleashes Odd Furies « Just Above Sunset
Pingback posted October 7, 2009 @ 10:20 am

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[...] Carl Levin (D-Mich.) clearly prefers to read entire speeches in context before calling a general insubordinate. After attending yesterday’s congressional meeting [...]


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Obama has meet with him once before obamas failed bid for the olympics where obama bad mouth America once more, and now that The Gen brings all of that to light the dems are condemning him. The Gen chain of command is Obama and if he can't solve it there then its country The Gen swore to America not to obama. Check out this video because he is silencing our Generals.

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I do agree he is being borderline insubordinate….its just that he is a military man and wants to win the war and it looks like the current admin. is looking for a way to just cut and run….thats where the rift is.


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I actually think I overstated to even say borderline insubordinate. People were right to react to the timing of his comments following on the leaked report with a warning that he remember his place, regardless of whether Spencer thinks he can prove he was on-script the whole time. That's really the extent of what I am saying about this. I don't understand why he is giving speeches in London to begin with. There's plenty of time for that when he rotates out in my view.


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Based on historical precedence, the prospects for McChrystal look fairly beak: Two years ago, Centcom Commander William J. Fallon was forced to resign after an Esquire magazine profile characterized him as the sole voice opposing an attack on Iran in the Bush administration.


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Based on historical precedence, the prospects for McChrystal look fairly beak: Two years ago, Centcom Commander William J. Fallon was forced to resign after an Esquire magazine profile characterized him as the sole voice opposing an attack on Iran in the Bush administration. Indeed, throughout American history, several other high-profile military men have wound up in very public feuds with their commander in chief, most of which have ended in the sitting president's favor.


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Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition… Obama decisions are always right


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Comment posted September 20, 2010 @ 8:35 am

Throughout American history, several other high-profile military men have wound up in very public feuds with their commander in chief, most of which have ended in the sitting president's favor.


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Comment posted September 23, 2010 @ 7:51 am

Obaman is a good president.He has the confidence..its been great to read such a article thanks..


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Comment posted September 25, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

one sided. this article was interesting and i get to learn much about it. thanks for sharing.


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Comment posted September 27, 2010 @ 11:31 am

It is indeed a very interesting and thoughtful article..also, it has cleared many of my misconceptions too!!!Thanks for sharing it…


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Comment posted September 29, 2010 @ 6:53 am

Interesting post.By this i think Obama is a nice president,and he had a great confidence to face the problems.


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Comment posted October 3, 2010 @ 8:50 am

Thanks for sharing the post…


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Comment posted October 7, 2010 @ 10:58 am

I am really against the media If Jesus were here today, he wouldn't be riding around on a donkey. He'd be taking a plane, he'd be using the media. I really appreciate Obama


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Comment posted October 11, 2010 @ 5:41 am

I have read a lot on this topic, but you definitely give it a good vibe. This is a great post, i think Obama is a nice president,and he had a great confidence to face the problems…Good Luck.


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Comment posted October 12, 2010 @ 10:29 am

Obama is a good president.He have the confidence and ability.I am damn sure that it will increase the determination of the civilian leadership not to be rushed or pressured but to use in right direction…


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Comment posted October 19, 2010 @ 9:44 am

But I am not understanding why he is giving speeches in London to begin with. There's plenty of time for that when he rotates out in my view.


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Comment posted October 22, 2010 @ 6:05 pm

This article was interesting and i get to learn much from it. Thanks for sharing it..


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Comment posted October 26, 2010 @ 10:21 am

Interesting post.By this i think Obama is a nice president,and he had a great confidence to face the problems.


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Comment posted November 11, 2010 @ 10:38 am

I am damn sure that it will increase the determination of the civilian leadership not to be rushed or pressured.


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Comment posted November 23, 2010 @ 10:42 am

General McChrystal has always struck me as an odd choice for the job given his background.hank you very much for posting such a nice,


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Comment posted November 26, 2010 @ 4:43 am

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you


Madeleine Diquattro
Comment posted November 26, 2010 @ 6:42 am

Nice posting, well The Gen chain of command is Obama and if he can’t solve it there then its country The Gen swore to America not to obama. Thanks for sharing with us…


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Comment posted December 2, 2010 @ 6:54 am

You are very professional in this area ! I agree with your point of view!


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Comment posted December 10, 2010 @ 8:46 am

Hey that’s was really nice,General McChrystal concurs with the secretary and shares his perspective that the president’s military and civilian policy advisers need to provide candid but private advice.Thanks for sharing with us..


Margaret Eardley
Comment posted December 15, 2010 @ 9:15 am

William Fallon, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia,for criticizing the Bush administration’s Iran policies..Thanks for sharing with us..


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Comment posted December 29, 2010 @ 2:53 am

we won’t achieve our objectives in Afghanistan if our president mindset is to leave as soon as possible


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Comment posted January 2, 2011 @ 8:31 am

Indeed, throughout American history, several other high-profile military men have wound up in very public feuds with their commander in chief, most of which have ended in the sitting president’s favor.


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Comment posted January 3, 2011 @ 10:35 am

Well This will increase the determination of the civilian leadership not to be rushed or pressured.Thanks for sharing with us…


Rebecca Stuart
Comment posted January 6, 2011 @ 11:30 am

Well The Gen chain of command is Obama and if he can’t solve it there then its country The Gen swore to America not to obama..thanks for this usefull informations


Rebecca Stuart
Comment posted January 6, 2011 @ 11:30 am

Well The Gen chain of command is Obama and if he can’t solve it there then its country The Gen swore to America not to obama..thanks for this usefull informations


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Comment posted January 10, 2011 @ 9:18 am

People are re-looking what their goals and objectives are and redefining and clarifying those, and I think that’s helpful.


Anonymous
Comment posted January 13, 2011 @ 3:38 am

It’s no big deal, soldiers are very professional any rift between general McChrystal and President Obama will not affect there work,


Anonymous
Comment posted January 13, 2011 @ 3:38 am

It’s no big deal, soldiers are very professional any rift between general McChrystal and President Obama will not affect there work,


Anonymous
Comment posted January 13, 2011 @ 3:38 am

It’s no big deal, soldiers are very professional any rift between general McChrystal and President Obama will not affect there work,


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Comment posted January 16, 2011 @ 10:39 pm

I don’t think that the politics should affect the day t day army operations, even with the commander-in-chief being slightly behind.


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Comment posted January 27, 2011 @ 11:10 am

i agree, politics should not dictate how top brass handle military operation and i think any rift Between McChrystal and Obama would affect military operations in Afghanistan


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Comment posted February 4, 2011 @ 4:40 am

i doubt this would happen, obama personally handpicked McChrystal for his post


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Once the commander-in-chief makes his decisions, the military will salute and execute those decisions faithfully and to the best of their ability.


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Comment posted February 15, 2011 @ 5:56 am

for the sake of our country


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Comment posted February 15, 2011 @ 5:58 am

for the sake of our country they should fix any rift among them! a lot of people lives is at stake and this kind of rift will not help


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Comment posted March 4, 2011 @ 1:21 am

i don’t theres anything to worry about this, there both professional enough to set aside any rift between them and priorities the need of this country


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i don’t think this is an issue we all know military are very professional on their work and any rift would not undermine their working relationship


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Comment posted March 19, 2011 @ 7:19 am

i don’t think this is an issue we all know military are very professional on their work and any rift would not undermine their working relationship


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Comment posted March 31, 2011 @ 1:31 am

i find your blog very interesting lots of good post and readable articles. Keep it up i will surely bookmark your site and visit it for future readings!


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Comment posted April 2, 2011 @ 8:08 am

very informative and helpful post. You have good command on the topic and have explained in very nice way. Thanks for sharing, I have spent a lot of hours searching for information about this and reading your articles in your blog has helped me a lot in understanding what the topic is all about.


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Comment posted April 12, 2011 @ 4:45 am

Well said, remind me of a lot of things this past few years! anyways you have a very nice blog here and good articles including this which i love reading and gives me a lot of insight on the topic.


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Comment posted May 7, 2011 @ 7:36 am

trategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.


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media always flames conflicts!


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