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Gen. McChrystal Works for President Obama

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) had an exchange with Gen. Stanley McChrystal that underscores both the Republican Party’s predicament and the general’s unwillingness to be used as a cudgel against President Obama, something Adam Serwer reflected on earlier. First Forbes tried to get McChrystal to say that the president’s 30,000-troop “extended surge” isn’t sufficient. “In my best military advice,” McChrystal said, “this is the right decision.”

Forbes’ next approach was subtler. After getting McChrystal to say he believed the Afghanistan war is a war of necessity — as Obama said in August — he asked how the U.S. could begin to withdraw starting in 2011. McChrystal offered a savvy response. “First,” McChrystal said, “I don’t believe we are going to need more forces in 18 months. But I would provide my best military advice … no matter what.” With that, McChrystal signaled that he interpreted criticism of Obama for the 18-month inflection point as a personal affront on his candor. Forbes clarified that he problem is “not with you.” McChrystal continued: “Sir, I believe the key point here is the long-term strategic partnership with Afghanistan.”

There’s a whole lot of hearing still to come, and three more to follow over the next two days. But if congressional Republicans really expect McChrystal to undermine his commander-in-chief, the general has made very clear that they are clearly misunderstanding his character. Whether the GOP will actually allow McChrystal’s endorsement to change their opinion of Obama is probably the deeper question.

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