‘I WELCOME DEBATE AMONG MY TEAM, BUT I WON’T TOLERATE DIVISION’…. President Obama spoke in the Rose Garden this afternoon, flanked by Biden, Gates, Mullen, and Petraeus, to announce that he “accepted the resignation” of Gen. Stanley McChrystal — who was not at the event — but did so with “considerable regret,” but with “certainty” that the decision was the right move.
After heralding McChrystal’s “remarkable career in uniform,” the president added, “But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president. As difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe it is the right decision for national security.”
And then Obama explained exactly why.
“The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.”
In case there were any ambiguities, the president added that “our democracy depends upon institutions that are stronger than individuals — that includes strict adherence to the military chain of command, and respect for civilian control over that chain of command.”
Highlighting the practical effect of McChrystal’s and his team’s remarks to Rolling Stone, Obama went on to explain:
“I believe that this mission demands unity of effort across our alliance and across my national security team. And I don’t think that we can sustain that unity of effort and achieve our objectives in Afghanistan without making this change. That too has guided my decision.
“I’ve just told my national security team that now is the time for all of us to come together. Doing so is not an option but an obligation. I welcome debate among my team but I won’t tolerate division.
“All of us have personal interests. All of us have opinions. Our politics often fuels conflict. But we have to renew our sense of common purpose and meet our responsibilities, to one another and to our troops who are in harm’s way and to our country.
“We need to remember what this is all about. Our nation is at war. We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan. But Americans don’t flinch in the face of difficult truths or difficult tasks. We persist and we persevere.”
As for Petraeus, it appears he’s giving up his role at CENTCOM to replace McChrystal in Afghanistan. It will require Senate confirmation, which I suspect won’t be much of a problem. Indeed, whatever temptations Republicans might have had about trashing the president for relieving McChrystal of his command quickly disappeared with the Petraeus announcement.
As for whether the president made the right call today, his remarks seemed to resolve any questions nicely — McChrystal did more than just engage in locker-room-style bravado, he signaled the kind of division the president simply couldn’t tolerate.