McChrystal Firing Is a Sign of Afghanistan Problems

You don't fire winning generals.

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There is no good news for Americans, this summer, in the departure of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Forget Harry Truman. American presidents don't fire generals who are winning America's wars.

I just finished reading the Rolling Stone piece that caused this great furor. I urge you to do the same. There is nothing in it, but a few mild and childish wisecracks from the general's aides, to justify the charge of insubordination. If Barack Obama fired McChrystal in the midst of a winning campaign in Afghanistan because the members of McChrystal's staff have a sophomoric sense of humor, we are in trouble indeed, my friends.

[Read 10 Things You Didn't Know About Stanley McChrystal.]

What really cooked McChrystal is the fact that, after a very public lobbying campaign for this year's "surge" in Afghanistan, McChrystal now confesses that his strategy isn't working. It seemed, in the Rolling Stone profile, that he has begun to hesitate, to look for other folks to blame, and to be laying the groundwork for another PR offensive for more troops, next summer. Even then, says Team McChrystal, the United States won't find victory, just stalemate. This is a war, they predict, that is going to end in divisive argument, not victory parades.

[Check out a roundup of editorial cartoons about Afghanistan.]

And then there is the fact, as outlined in Rolling Stone and The New York Times, that McChrystal is losing the confidence of the grunts doing the fighting and dying over there, who are exposing themselves to greater danger for a counterinsurgency strategy that's not producing its promised results.

Soldiers do gripe. Aides do gossip. The greatest military leaders are sometimes independent, and cocky, to a fault. But winning takes care of everything. And, right now, again, we don't even seem to know what victory looks like.

  • Check out our editorial cartoons on Afghanistan.
  • Follow the money in Congress.
  • See 10 Things You Didn't Know About Stanley McChrystal.