Andrew Exum, one of the smartest counterinsurgency experts around, lays out the case for and against firing the General. As he writes, it’s a close call on the merits–but no so close on the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Here is section 88 of the code:
Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
In this case, most of the contemptuous words were uttered by aides–who clearly reflected McChrystal’s view. But the General is on the record in the Rolling Stone piece obliquely dissing the Vice President. As I said earlier, I suspect he’ll have to go…and the least disruptive way to proceed is to replace him with his operations officer, Lt. General David Rodriguez. I wish this could be otherwise. But we have a major international embarrassment here. And a major political test for the President, who was infuriated with McChrystal’s “Chaosistan” comments in London last fall–and by the military leaking campaign to force him into the major troop escalation that he agreed to last December.
Exum makes another point, about my old alma mater, Rolling Stone: it is rather amazing that RS seems to be siding against COIN and McChrystal’s rules of engagement, an unprecedented effort by the United States to conduct a war in the most humane possible manner. I agree that the writer doesn’t seem to know all that much about COIN–but this is a very well-reported story and reflects the realities on the ground, especially among the troops, that I’ve seen in Afghanistan.
Update: Tom Ricks thinks Petraeus should take over in Afghanistan, but suspects that it will be Marine General Tom Mattis.