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Let Me Add My Two Cents To The "McChrystal To Resign" Chorus

Posted By McQ • [September 22, 2009]

Uber Pig and Uncle Jimbo have more than adequately covered this, but like Uncle J said, sometimes you just have to vent.

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 feel ethically obligated to 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.

That's your job. That's what you get paid the "big bucks" to do. That's what is drilled into you from day one - your job is to do what is morally, ethically and professionally right and to stand up and be counted when that isn't the case, even if it costs you your career.

General Stanley McChrystal is in a "you bet your stars" situation as the commander in Afghanistan.

Some are going to try to characterize the "leak" of his intentions by his staff 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 professional 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 troops or resources he thinks he needs to succeed, he'll refuse to be a party to what he would consider a decision to fail.

I'd expect nothing less from him. The politicians 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. In fact, 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 moral, ethical or professional 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.

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 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 endlessly 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.

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. I hope like hell he proves me wrong.

/end rant


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