Gen. Stanley McChrystal made a serious error of judgment in washing his dirty laundry in the presence of a Rolling Stone reporter. More seriously, he seems to have cultivated – or, at the very best, tolerated – an atmosphere in which his aides felt comfortable dissing, e.g., the Vice President. That’s a no-no.
On the other hand, this is not a MacArthur situation; McChrystal hasn’t, so far as I can see, been at all insubordinate. And whatever he might have had in mind by giving those interviews, he owned up to his mistake as soon as the article hit the Web.
There’s an argument that he has to go in the interests of good discipline, especially with respect to the key question of the subordination of the military to civil authority. But if, having been summoned to Washington, McChrystal offers both his apologies and his resignation, and if the President chooses to accept the apology and decline the resignation, will anyone else, thinking about a similar indiscretion, reckon that McChrystal got away with it? Doesn’t look that way to me.
So unless Gates and Mullen insist that McC has to go, it seems to me that forgiveness in this instance would be both good strategy and consistent with what we know of Obama’s character. In PR terms, I think it would make him look large, rather than weak.
So consider this a very tentative prediction: McC stays, and becomes a fanatical Obama supporter in case, for example, Petraeus decides to make a run for the White House in 2012.
Update Since I’m as well known for infallibility as for humility, I can only assume that someone hacked into my WordPress account to post the foolish speculation above. Obviously, Obama had to accept McChrystal’s resignation, and replace him with Petraeus. Keep your friends close, but your potential successors closer.