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Amy Fraher
Scholar/Military leader

Amy Fraher

Amy L. Fraher is a retired Navy Commander and Aviator,Director of the International Team Training Center at San Diego Miramar College. Her book Thinking Through Crises comes out Spring 2011

A general destablized by Afghanistan

Q: In confronting the issue of Gen. McChrystal's apparent insubordination, did President Obama have any choice but to remove him? Going forward, what can Gen. Petraeus do to overcome this dramatic shakeup and keep his troops reassured and on mission?

Although President Obama was correct in his decision to fire "Runaway General" Stanley McChrystal for insubordination yesterday, America's leadership problems are still far from over. If it had been a different time and political environment--not one fraught with controversy about Wall Street financial shenanigans, the handling of the BP oil spill and weak government regulation of industry--President Obama might have given the general a pass like he did back in March. After all, this was not McChrystal's first political misstep. Why was this the last straw? To understand why President Obama needed to make this leadership decision, and act now, let us consider what General McChrystal has come to represent.

General McChrystal, a career military man and Army Ranger who is known to sleep just four hours, eat just one meal and run seven miles per day, excelled in the Iraq war. Yet something about the ambiguous nature of the Afghan struggle destabilized him. He surrounded himself with like-minded officers called Team America whose trash talk he condoned, reflecting an insularity and lack of respect for civilian authority.

At the same time this leadership team lost focus on the frontline soldier, banning alcohol and eliminating Burger Kings, some of the few off-duty comforts for deployed soldiers. And while the COIN (counter-insurgency) mission may or may not be the right strategy, its goals were unclear to average soldiers who felt unable to use all the resources available to them to fight, leaving them more vulnerable then ever.

Something about this disconnect between leaders and constituents reminds me of the Wall Street executives who gladly accepted tax payer bailouts then paid record bonuses to their star players while millions of average Americans lost their jobs and homes as a result of the market instability they created. And it also smacks of the BP executives who whined about "getting their life back" and the pressure they were under to clean up their oil spill, when eleven oil rig workers were dead under questionable safety circumstances and the Gulf Coast environment has been decimated.

Although the culture of General McCrystal's Team America lacks the premeditated self-serving greed of these other examples, a similarly insular arrogance is present which smirks at outside authority and government regulatory efforts, ignoring the ethical obligations and repercussions of their decisions on others. By firing General McChrystal today President Obama sent a clear signal that this behavior is unacceptable. Yet as we have seen with Wall Street and BP, although General McChrystal may no longer be in charge, it will take a lot more than removing the leader to change the perverse culture he left behind.

By Amy Fraher

 |  June 24, 2010; 10:44 AM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Don't dismiss McChrystal's doubts | Next: Dissension in the ranks


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@otters--hardly a case of too much liquor, too little discretion. The reporter was with them for a MONTH. Read the article. The Pentagon arranged the trip. They are perhaps the world's biggest stage managers; moreover they are well schooled in dealng with the press. McChrystal's staff were making disparaging comments within hours of the reporter's arrival. He was experienced reporter, not someone looking to make a name for himself, and by his own admission, he left out comments that were worse. He cleared EVERY comment with them, and they knew EXACTLY what he was writing. McChrystal sold Obama on his strategy, and the fact that it wasn't doing well led to him looking for an exit, and taking shots as he KNEW he'd be going out the door. Let's not pretend he's our 'best"--he was the commander during the sickness at Abu Ghraib, and he lied and covered up the truth about Pat Tillman's death. He leaked a report to the press and gave an interview prior to his surge that sought to have the politics break in his favor. The wonder is not that he's gone; it's that he lasted so long.

Posted by: bklyndan22 | June 24, 2010 4:41 PM
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Both author and first commentator need to learn the correct usage of "then" and "than."

Posted by: RossPhx | June 24, 2010 3:50 PM
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The Iceland Volcano Eruption caused more fallout then expected. Perhaps, it was the “Perfect Storm” a lax Communications person, a group of Warriors on an unexpected rest, a little too much liquor and a person trying to make a name for him self. It all lead to a loss to America of 34 years of experience and distrust of the Media to the American Military for years to come. Any of the current staff member involved or any young officers they will touch will always be reminded of this incident. Is that a good thing?

President Obama is correct in stating that "war is bigger than any one man or woman, private, general, or president,” but he must also know that the firing of a 4 star General is not only firing him but his entire staff. Chances are, it will take some time to adjust and with a deadline of next year, either the time line will need to be extended or we will need to look for someone else to blame.

Posted by: Otter5 | June 24, 2010 2:11 PM
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General McChrystal was in self-destruct mode. He is called a warrior, and I am sure he is that. It is admirable that he runs 7 miles a day and keeps physically fit. However, he only slept 4 hours a day and ate only once a day? I'll tell you why he was not thinking right, his blood sugar was low, he could not think right. His regime was not healthy nor wise apparently.

Posted by: Listening2 | June 24, 2010 12:00 PM
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