From Nashville columnist Molly Secours' commentary in the Huffington Post, posted yesterday shortly before Gen. Stanley McChrystal's ouster as commander in Afghanistan:
What is more interesting than McChrystal's ego tirade is the question: what would allow him to believe that he could publicly disrespect and denigrate the President (his Commander in Chief) — which flies in the face of military protocol — without consequence?
Why did he feel it was acceptable to speak in such a demeaning way about his boss and not compromise his credibility or jeopardize his position?
And one can't help but wonder if Barack Obama were white, would McChrystal have made the assumption that he could defy military protocol by undermining the Commander in Chief and remain above the fray? Surely he understands better than most the significance of at least "presenting" a united front to the world.
Even if you don't swallow Secours' suggestion that McChrystal's lapse in judgment was racially motivated, she does raise the question I've wondered ever since the story broke: Why would a general with McChrystal's career-bred awareness of military protocol speak that openly to a reporter?
The truth is, if you read the Rolling Stone article — which is terrific and enormously troubling, especially on the question of the counterinsurgency's effectiveness — it's not at all clear that he did. The author, Michael Hastings, praises the general's unusual candor, but direct quotes on policy from McChrystal are few: the most damning information (e.g., that President Obama was ill-prepared and intimidated by the military brass) is relayed by sources present at meetings or familiar with his thoughts.
Even so, those details survived the fact-checking process. Which leaves the question: Was this a costly blunder on McChrystal's part, or a strategic exit?