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McChrystal To Resign If Not Given Afghan War Resources

One of the things military officers do more regularly than they like to admit is play “you bet your bars”. The ‘bars’ referred too are usually captain bars, but it applies at all levels of command. Essentially it means you find yourself in a situation where you lay your career on the line with a decision you make. If the situation works out well, then it’s all good. If not, you’ve “bet your bars” and lost and your career is most likely over. They aren’t all life or death situations. Sometimes they’re situations in which you cannot morally or ethically continue to do what you are being ordered to do because you cannot support the mission as structured. You feel ethically obligated to take a stand.

General Stanley McChrystal is in a “you bet your stars” situation as the commander in Afghanistan. Bill Roggio is reporting that word is out that if McChrystal doesn’t get the “resources” he’s requested, he’ll resign his command:

Within 24 hours of the leak of the Afghanistan assessment to The Washington Post, General Stanley McChrystal’s team fired its second shot across the bow of the Obama administration. According to McClatchy, military officers close to General McChrystal said he is prepared to resign if he isn’t given sufficient resources (read “troops”) to implement a change of direction in Afghanistan:

Adding to the frustration, according to officials in Kabul and Washington, are White House and Pentagon directives made over the last six weeks that Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, not submit his request for as many as 45,000 additional troops because the administration isn’t ready for it.

In the last two weeks, top administration leaders have suggested that more American troops will be sent to Afghanistan, and then called that suggestion “premature.” Earlier this month, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “time is not on our side”; on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged the public “to take a deep breath.”

In Kabul, some members of McChrystal’s staff said they don’t understand why Obama called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” but still hasn’t given them the resources they need to turn things around quickly.

Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he’d stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy.

“Yes, he’ll be a good soldier, but he will only go so far,” a senior official in Kabul said. “He’ll hold his ground. He’s not going to bend to political pressure.”

On Thursday, Gates danced around the question of when the administration would be ready to receive McChrystal’s request, which was completed in late August. “We’re working through the process by which we want that submitted,” he said.

The entire process followed by the military in implementing a change of course in Afghanistan is far different, and bizarrely so, from the process it followed in changing strategy in Iraq.

Read the whole Roggio article.

Some may find such a “leak” of his intentions to be an act of petulance. Far from it – if his staff didn’t know this about McChrystal, I’d have been more surprised. After all it was his staff who was integral in putting together the confidential assessment that was leaked to the press.

What this underscores is the depth of feeling and commitment to their plan that McChrystal and his staff have. McChrystal is laying it all on the line and I’m not at all surprised to find out that if his minimums are not met and he’s not given the tools he thinks he needs to succeed, he’ll refuse to be a party to what he would consider a decision to fail and resign.

I’d expect nothing less from him. The politicans may be comfortable with putting more soldiers and Marines at risk, but he’ll refuse to be a party to it. Frankly, his soldiers would expect nothing less from him.

Politically this leak may be viewed as disloyalty. I’m not sure how, but it wouldn’t surprise me. If I were CINC I wouldn’t want a general in a major command who wasn’t willing to “bet his stars” in a situation. I would expect this to be his position. Gen. McChrystal’s professional assessment is his word and bond. He stakes his professional reputation in such a document, saying if given what he requests, he’ll succeed. He takes full ownership of the battle at that point.

But he also bluntly points out that if the request is denied, failure will result. In that case, he has no ethical requirement to simply salute and go down with the ship. In fact, his professional ethics require him to stand up and refuse to participate in something he thinks will not only fail but get his soldiers needlessly killed while doing so. That refusal will come via his resignation from command.

I respect that very much. I’m going to be interested to see how this is handled now, politically. But this adds a new dimension to the politics of the situation and it puts even more pressure on an untried and inexperienced CINC. We’ll all learn much more about the man in that position as this plays out. Despite my ideological differences with him and his agenda, I’m hoping there’s something within him that makes him step up to the plate on Afghanistan and lead. He has got to decide very soon what the strategy the US will follow in Afghanistan will be – commit to McChrystal’s plan or pull out. No other strategy is acceptable. It is one or the other. None of this status quo while politicians debate whether or not to commit to a strategy. The status quo isn’t working and it is getting good men and women killed while they dally.

President Obama must clearly commit to either “success” as defined by McChrystal’s plan or pulling out in an orderly fashion and leaving Afghanistan to its own devices.

Unfortunately, to this point, I’ve seen nothing to indicate he understands that or that’s he capable of making such a monumental decision in the timeframe necessary.



39 Responses to McChrystal To Resign If Not Given Afghan War Resources

  • Sorry boss, you’re going to get a demonstration in why the term Obama Leadership is an oxymoron.

    The clueless ones on the Hill will probably have someone they think can plug the holes in the dike and they’ll let Gen. McChrystal resign because they won’t view what he’s doing as correct, they’ll view it as a challenge to their genius in all things. Worse yet it’s coming at a VERY inopportune moment to boot. More bad news in a storm of bad news declining poll indicators that even the compliant press can’t keep under wraps.

    Sadly I bet Gen. McChrystal will be taking retirement sooner than he once planned.

    • It does seem like the administration would see this as a pissing contest they can’t bear to lose. They don’t mind letting a petty thug like Qaddafi push them around, but letting the US military be seen to force their hand is another thing entirely.

      But they lose either way. If he resigns, that’d be a very public scandal. He’d look principled and they’d look weak. They’d respond by smearing McChrystal — they’d dig up stories about detainee abuse in Iraq — but then the scandal just expands to people asking why they appointed him, if he’s so awful.

      If they just quietly give McChrystal what he wants, the media can easily smooth that over for them. If they’ve got any brains, they’re more concerned about the appearance of losing than the reality. Sure, what he wants costs a lot of money, buy they’re not bright enough to care about that.

      On the third hand, the administration is composed entirely of people who would happily pimp their own mothers to get more power, or hold onto what they’ve got. They may assume that McChrystal is bluffing, because they can’t imagine anybody resigning over something like that.

      This will be interesting to watch.

  • I haven’t had time to address this b/c my husband is leaving today for Afghanistan and to say the least, I’ve been a bit busy.

    But this is what I always said all those general officers who waited until they were cozy and collecting a big fat retirement check augmented by a civilian job should have done if they REALLY thought we needed more boots on the ground in Iraq.

    Finally – a general officer willing to put his money where his mouth is. If only his Commander in Chief had that much integrity.

  • Obama should fire McChrystal even if he decides to fulfill McChrystal’s request for additional troops.

    Soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines should not play politics, even if they wear stars. It’s fine if McChrystal tells his chain of command that he will resign if sufficient troops aren’t deployed. It’s not fine for McChrystal to tell the world as a way of trying to force Obama’s hand.

    • Read the article – McChrystal didn’t tell anyone he would resign.

      • Allowing direct or indirect reports to announce his intentions makes it okay? Plausible deniability, I suppose, but I’ve heard a better term – starts with a “p” and ends with a “y”.

      • Or friends and professional acquaintances.

        • Impressive, I wasn’t aware we were graced with such mind readers in our society. Would that such talents be used for telling us how to better weather the current economic crisis instead of impugning the good name of someone I have doubt is truly even known to the daringly opinionated. As a serving officer myself I find it exceedingly troublesome that my fellow citizens expect blind devotion to ‘duty’ such that any order received would be acknowledged immediately with a smart salute. Such automaton responses are the expectation of conscripts and mercenaries, not our servicemen and women. We are servants, and proudly so, but we are also citizens and it is as citizens we serve the constitution before anything or anyone else. That document delineates our reason for being- our ‘objective in life’, if you will, while in uniform. That document was designed not for the transient life of the 1700’s but to last for ages. It was designed to protect against the nature of man and government and to create, as close as possible, the truest haven for freedom on this planet.

          I fear for my country when ‘citizens’ write of expectations unbecoming and then slander most foul a man that makes news when others presume he will do what he has sworn he would. He will not disobey an order, I sincerely doubt he leaked a thing, but I would be shocked if he didn’t react as I did to reports that he was told to keep his request to himself while the administration mulled over options… for an undefined length of time. Though inappropriate to shout in public the letters ‘WTF’ sum up the thought that ran through my head. The request, as reported, would be exactly the work he was sent there to do: devise, implement, observe the results, and adjust as necessary the operational plan to achieve the political goals set for our presence in Afghanistan. One need only read Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, or even George Washington himself to know that without a clearly defined end-state and vision of victory a military venture is perilously close to failing before it begins.

          Americans should be asking what those are, how we can achieve them, and whether or not Gen. McChrystal’s presumed request fits within the bounds of the reasonable– all of which are questions good citizens can ask without offending, believe me, for it is a right of Americans not shared by all ‘citizens’ of other nations and a right we are proud to bleed and die to preserve. Opinions regarding a supposedly purposeful leak of a threatened resignation are not only repugnant they are way off mark of the real issue, the question(s) surrounding it, and the answer(s) to it: why are we in Afghanistan?

    • Why? you know for a fact that McChrystal leaked, or had leaked, this information?

    • Instead, Obama should resign.

  • I’m wondering how long it will take before the entire administration realizes that Obama has loyalty only to himself. Examples are piling up of him dispatching someone to the front and then when things don’t flow the way he expects, he undercuts them. I’ve thought for some time that Leon Panetta would be the first major resignation–he’s certainly been emasculated at CIA. I’d also put Hillary in with the top seeds for the tournament of resignations–off to a tour of African backwaters while major international events play out without SecState influence.

    McChrystal may be the first one with sufficient principle to do it. And that might start an exodus.

    If there is a firing, then my recommendation would be Gates–he’s a wolf in the sheep flock right now and is undermining the military establishment in fundamental ways that will impact the next 20 years.

  • President Obama seems fine with voting ‘present’ on Afghanistan.

  • 0bama runs the country as he runs that war; the point is to fail. > The Cloward – Piven Strategy

  • I have read that the Prussian / Imperial German army had a saying among its general staff officers:

    “The kaiser put those red stripes on your trousers [symbol of a general staff officer] because you are supposed to know when to say ‘no’.”

    While I don’t support the idea of military officers playing politics and threatening resignation to embarrass the civil government whenever they don’t get their way (this was a MAJOR problem in the French Third Republic), I also don’t support military officers being too gutless to stand up for their principles. If McChrystal genuinely believes that he cannot win unless he gets the troops and other support he says that he needs, then he should step aside rather than (at best) try to implement what he thinks is a losing policy and (at worst) be the fall guy. As Cassandra alludes, I got pretty sick over the past few years of flag officers trashing the president after retirement: if they thought his policies were so bad, they should have resigned rather than carry them out.

    The sorry thing is that this is NOT about winning in A-stan: it is about politics and whether or not that jug-eared idiot in the White House will suffer a little embarrassment. And it WILL be only a little: lefties already hate the military, so they won’t lose too much sleep over some war-mongering baby-killer resigning.

  • I heard some pundits apply pop-psy applied to Obama. The most convincing one was that he is a control freak. This will likely get Obama to do the opposite, unless he’s somehow overwhelmingly convinced McChrystal is correct.

    Even so, McChrystal will being turning in his bars either way and if Obama follows his advice, it won’t be depicted that way.

  • If this story is true, it is nice to see someone with principles in a military command; one more concerned about his men and women under him than mere career advancement. Unfortunately, there is all to little of this strength of character in the US today. I will certainly watch this unfold since twice I lost positions, once because I took a stand for performing retesting to verify a major system’s operational capacity and safety rather than what management wanted to do to avoid a schedule delay. Years later the unrelated Challenger debacle showed me I was right with my decisions even though it “cost” me at the time. I have no regrets, nor I suppose will the General if he decides to resign.

  • Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he’d stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy.

    According to the article, McChrystal hasn’t even said he’d resign, just that people who “KNOW” him think he would resign, rather then endanger his forces.

    So, let’s not put the cart before the horse.

    The big question ought to be why the wait on getting the report, and making a decision???

  • The leaks should not be there; in an issue like this, it’s important not to play politics. In this case, the leakers are trying to play politics, and making the situation murkier and more difficult.

    That said, I think McChrystal is doing the right thing. A middle ground of continuing the mission without the necessary resources would be an abuse of the military and its personnel, and if Obama does that, you can throw that quote back to me, I’ll stand by it. He has to have the courage President Bush (who I believe also abused the military) refused to make: go big or get out.

    • Why is it important NOT to play politics now Scott, but during Iraq it was ok?

      Or with other national security programs, leaks to the NYT have been perfectly acceptable- even laudable. But now?

      What changed?


      So Pres. Ocarter just got a crash course in what it means to be the boss.

      Poor baby.

      At any rate, the entire left’s support of the “good war” was a sham played for politics. Just stop acting already. The mask is off (it was never really on)

    • “He has to have the courage President Bush (who I believe also abused the military) refused to make: go big or get out”

      Would that be ‘go big’ as in ‘surge’? As I recall, Bush did send more troops to Iraq when the generals said they were needed.

      • The surge wasn’t really go big, it was small, and had minimal impact. Iraq is effectively divided in three, full of corruption, drug trade, no real democratic institutions, and a lot of orgnanized criminal activity. It’s closest ally is Iran. It’s obvious now that the surge only succeeded in getting Iraq off the headlines long enough for the election campaign. But the problems there are as intractable as ever. So sorry, the surge did not go big (it stayed under 200,000), had limited aims, and did not touch Iraq’s deep problems.

        • blah, blah…“The surge wasn’t really go big, it was small, and had minimal impact. Iraq is effectively divided in three, full of corruption, drug trade, no real democratic institutions, and a lot of orgnanized criminal activity. It’s closest ally is Iran.”

          The surge was one of the most beautiful piece of counterinsurgency ever. It was something that will be studied for the next century. The “software” side of it alone advanced that kind of warfare beyond anything imagined even as late as the beginning of the war. And the speed with which it happened was the most remarkable part of it.

          Your side, the car bombers, lost in Iraq, Scott. I know you’ll never get over it, but maybe Obama can give a lot of the victory back. He thinks like you, you know.

        • (Old thread, but this is so incorrect I feel the need to respond)

          Erb, you really have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to Iraq. The surge effectively added six combat brigades (deployed five, extended one) to the fifteen already in the country. That is a 40% increase in combat forces. But that is not “go big” according to your vast military expertise? Interesting.

          Were you there before the Surge? Were you there after the Surge? Did you receive daily incident reports before and after the Surge? If not, what is the basis of your fallacious information? I was there in both instances and saw its effectiveness firsthand and through reports. The Surge allowed a significant degree of pacification. It also allowed the successful Iraqi-led offensives against the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias and criminal organizations the following year, and significantly hindered Iranian influence. I participated in those offensives.

          What elections are you even talking about? The Surge took place in mid-2007, well after the US 2006 mid-term elections and well before the US 2008 presidential elections. No Iraqi elections took place around that time, neither parliamentary nor governorate. The previous Iraqi elections were held in 2005, and the soonest after the Surge were held this year, governorate elections in 2009. Iraqi PM al-Maliki also disallowed the Iranian-aligned Sadrist parties to participate in those elections if they did not disband their militias.

          Please don’t even mention Iraq again. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

    • If its good enough for the Democrats and the NYT when Bush was in power, its good enough for Obama. If you don’t like it, then your side should have controlled itself back then.

  • Read this beaut from their side


    “Escalation is a bad idea. The Democrats backed themselves into defending the idea of Afghanistan being The Good War because they felt they needed to prove their macho bonafides they called for withdrawal from Iraq. Nobody asked too many questions sat the time, including me. But none of us should forget that it was a political strategy, not a serious foreign policy.

    There have been many campaign promises “adjusted” since the election. There is no reason that the administration should feel any more bound to what they said about this than all the other committments [sic] it has blithely turned aside in the interest of “pragmatism.””

    So the whole “good war” was a snide political ploy. We will remember this for a long time. I want nothing to hear from the left. They are not people in any sense of the whole, just plain dirtbags.

    That includes you Erb, go f yourself.

  • Not enough resources and standing “don’t fire” orders which cost the lives of troops. McCrystal appears to be unwilling to assist our traitor-in-chief with his political murder of American soldiers. Good for him.

  • The White House wants to review the new strategy?


    This is no time for politics.

    The lives of our soldiers are at stake, and more.
    Obama needs to do something he is ill equiped to do; make a decision, not vote “present”.

  • Why doesn’t McChrystal resign NOW. Same applies to EVERYONE in the military. Every single soldier in the military NEEDS to resign. These soldiers need to say NO to giving citizens the poison [soul condemning] swine flu shots and say NO to the NWO fags.

    If people would just seriously WAKE THE HELL UP NOW, the NWO can be DEFEATED. There is STRENGTH in numbers.

  • Actually, you could sell me on a slow draw down in Afghanistan with the following conditions:

    1. Taliban willing to negotiate with current government for power sharing.
    2. Taliban agrees to not harbor or help AQ.
    0. Taliban are coherent group that can do 1 & 2 and not have splinter factions doing whatever they want.

    Until we see any signs of 1 or 2 happening, let alone 0. then its wishful thinking to imagine we can leave without any consequences and even keep some forces there to take out AQ. LOL. Its already hard to hit the enemy now, so how about when we have no one really on the ground except for special op insertions for 1 week at a time.