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June 2010
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Don't Blame McChrystal, Blame Obama

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal should not lose his job because of the article about him in Rolling Stone magazine. If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration’s internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama.

For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December. The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan, led to frequent disputes over tactics and contributed to a sharp deterioration in the administration’s relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The virtue of the Rolling Stone article is that Obama may finally have to confront the trouble. But the dismissal of McChrystal would be the wrong outcome. It could spell disaster for the military campaign he is now overseeing in southern Afghanistan, and it would reward those in the administration who have been trying to undermine him
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including through media leaks of their own.

Rolling Stone portrays McChrystal as being sharply at odds with Vice President Biden, State Department Afghanistan envoy Richard Holbrooke and U.S. ambassador Karl Eikenberry. Most of its incendiary quotes come not from the general, but his aides -- one of whom resigned Tuesday. McChrystal himself apologized for the article; he was reported to be returning to Washington for a White House meeting on Afghanistan Wednesday.

McChrystal’s enemies were quick to portray him as out of line and likely to be scolded, if not fired, by Obama. My colleague Jonathan Capehart said McChrystal should be ready to resign. But the tensions McChrystal disclosed were not news to anyone who has been following the Afghanistan mission in recent months; I first wrote about them more than a month ago.