Posted by lex, on September 22, 2009
When I was a junior officer, and one or another policy that we’d perceived as idiotic came down the pipe, we used to dream of some theoretical flag officer that would throw his stars on the table in protest. The Stan Arthur case comes to mind, a damned fine warfighter tossed overboard for political purposes. Feelings were running high in the early 90s, and it was the opinion of many of us that CNO Jeremy Boorda ought to have stood up to the witch hunt, and placed his own career on the line. I think he might have felt that way too before he took his own life. For other reasons, ostensibly.
But those kinds of things are all as dust and air compared to winning a war the nation has committed forces to, or else bleeding the ground forces drop by drop with no prospect of success. With that in mind, this story makes sense. It may even prove true:
Within 24 hours of the leak of the Afghanistan assessment to The Washington Post, General Stanley McChrystal’s team fired its second shot across the bow of the Obama administration. According to McClatchy, military officers close to General McChrystal said he is prepared to resign if he isn’t given sufficient resources (read “troops”) to implement a change of direction in Afghanistan…
If it’s true, as I’ve heard whispering, that the Pentagon has been sitting on McChrystal’s request for forces for weeks now without comment, without even asking further questions, frustrations must be getting high in the forward HQ, where good men are dying every day even as victory slips through our hands.
Some would argue that it’s no role of the forward commander to intervene in the decision making process at the National Command Authority level, that it’s wrong for him to inject himself into what is essentially the policy maker’s purview. But no decision is a decision in favor of the status quo, and if a forward commander cannot entirely commit himself to that decision, nor convince his leadership to support his strategy then he owes it to everyone to step aside.
After all, there will always be another man found willing to fiddle while Afghanistan burns.