« Book Report: The Thief | Main | Book Report: Memory »

Unpardonable or unacceptable?

Your Humble Blogger doesn’t really care which general is in charge of our adventure in Afghanistan. I mean, given that we don’t have the option of fictional super-generals from the future. I scarcely imagine myself knowledgeable enough to know which of the real generals will have what affect on what strategies, etc, etc, but I could probably write a decent post on the strengths of Admiral Akbar versus General Mandella versus Lieutenant Rico.

Point of Fact! Your Humble Blogger could not actually write a decent post on that topic.

I do see that having a fellow in charge of our number-one military adventure who gets drunk with his buddies on a bus and forgets that there is a fucking reporter sitting next to them is problematic. My personal hope is that we hear next week that General McChrystal is in rehab for alcoholism; that would help me make a personally satisfying story out of the whole craziness.

On the other hand, I am inclined to disagree with Joshua Micah Marshall when he writes in some More Thoughts On McChrystal that “ A commanding general’s open disagreement with the president is unacceptable. But mockery of the president […] is unpardonable.

Isn’t this exactly backwards? Surely drunken mockery of the boss is very near to the heart of our country’s values, as is civilian control over the military. While I agree that open mockery can’t be accepted, this was not intentionally open. It was a mistake, and the sort of mistake that a leader of an international group of this importance cannot make with impunity, but it was not the considered and sober action of a man at his best. And while I do understand that things in the military have to be, well, martial, I do not want to have our boys and girls in uniform thinking that it is un-American to make fun of Our Only President’s big ears, or to wittily replace Our Only Vice-President’s family name with “bite me” (I bet Oscar Wilde wishes he had thought of that), or in general to privately have fun at the expense of superior officers or civilian oversight. And getting in trouble for it, sure, but that seems to YHB to be absolutely pardonable trouble.

What would be unpardonable, it seems to me, is the usurpation of civilian power by either refusing to comply with lawful directives or using the rhetorical power of the uniform and the position to lean on the civilian government to change policy. Mockery is one thing. Mockery doesn’t change the power structure, it only makes it easier to be where you happen to be in it. Changing the power structure, though, is something very deep, and when we have allowed that to happen, it has been a very Bad Thing for this country.

The idiotic thing here is that after the story became public, Our Only President had only the options of (a) firing the sonofabitch, or (2) not firing him. Not firing him was by far the worse of the options, for a variety of reasons, both for the military and for Our Only President’s political and policy goals. Firing him was a lousy option, but probably the best one he had. And from Our Only President’s point of view, putting him in that position may be unpardonable in itself.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Not sure that Obama should have removed Stanley McChrystal. How will this affect the midterm election?

Post a comment

Please join in. Comments on older posts will be held for moderation. Don't be a jerk. Eat fruit.