WASHINGTON -- Set aside for a moment how inconceivable it is that an article in Rolling Stone magazine could be the cause of anyone's being fired -- much less a U.S. commanding general in the midst of a war. But that is what happened this week.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal is a tough, combat-experienced officer who knows how to fight. He knows how to kill the enemy. But he clearly doesn't get it when it comes to the media. His staff let him down -- badly -- by allowing Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone to hang around with a tape recorder.
That the Pentagon, Central Command and Gen. McChrystal's staff granted unfettered, prolonged access to this publication reflects ignorance, arrogance or both. Everyone involved in approving this "embed" ought to be fired for egregious lack of judgment. They apparently believed they could win over Hastings. They were dead wrong.
I don't disagree with much of what Gen. McChrystal and his staff are quoted as saying about the O-Team in the article. I have used many of the same terms to describe the present administration -- albeit with fewer expletives. It also should be noted that despite claims of "several lengthy interviews" with McChrystal, there are very few lines of text in the offending article directly attributable to the general.
On our most recent Fox News trip to Afghanistan, we reported that many of the troops were concerned about new rules of engagement, cuts in night operations, and limits on raids and airstrikes making them more vulnerable to Taliban attacks and improvised explosive devices. Rolling Stone looked for and found troops who were unhappy with the rules of engagement in order to support its contention that the war in Afghanistan is "unwinnable." That refrain is increasingly prevalent because President Barack Obama refuses to use the words "win" and "victory."
McChrystal's firing has been likened to President Abraham Lincoln's replacing George McClellan during the Civil War and President Harry Truman's sacking Douglas MacArthur in the midst of the Korean War. Not accurate.
Both McClellan and MacArthur vocally opposed the stated policies and strategies of their presidents. That's not what happened here. In announcing he had "accepted" his battlefield commander's resignation, Obama acknowledged that he and McChrystal "are in full agreement about our strategy." This week's firing was simply political theater designed to enhance Obama's stature as a "leader" in the eyes of his supporters and critics.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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