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Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)
Scholar/Administrator

Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

Todd Henshaw, a professor at Columbia University, is Academic Director of Wharton Executive Education. Previously, he directed the leadership program at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

He had me at Pat Tillman

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?

Removing McChrystal was absolutely the right decision. I'm actually surprised that McChrystal didn't resign earlier, once the cat was out of the bag.

This egregious error in judgment by a leader entrusted with U.S. strategic interests in Afghanistan was also surprising, and it fits in to the category of "What was he thinking?"

McChrystal's judgment has been in question before, when he was investigated for his alleged part in the Pat Tillman cover up. McChrystal signed a Silver Star award for Tillman before we discovered that his death was actually the result of friendly fire. I thought that his career ended with the Tillman investigation, and I was surprised to see his name appear as the new commander in Afghanistan.

Officers commanding multinational missions and soldiers in remote parts of the world require great trust and confidence from the president and National Command Authority. The farther from the "flagpole," the greater trust necessary between commander and civilian authority. In addition, to handle the complexity of civil-military relations, international coalitions and nation building, the officer needs to have his command team in check, disciplined, mature and on the same page.

In this case, the comments by staff and aides clearly breach the trust, and the decision, although impactful, should have been easy for the President. Replacing McChrystal with an officer as trusted as Petraeus was also an easy decision.

I am wondering, however, how this move works for Petraeus, who is probably considering a bid for the 2012 presidential nomination. I would imagine that Petraeus will be a short term "fixer," preparing the ground for his successor.

By Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

 |  June 24, 2010; 11:08 AM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The history I've read on the Tillman case, is that McChrystal was the first to actually notify that Tillman was killed by friendly fire. That the cover up was considerably further down than the rank of General. That in fact McChrystal wasn't part of the cover up but more like the head of the Army's investigative team.

As for Michael Hastings' embedding himself with General McChrystal and staff for a month that was a very low blow. The general might be to staunch to admit it, but one of his aides pointed out they were drinking when this so called interview actually happened. Notice the general's "Mortified" look in all the latest photos...It's very much like going on a serious bender and waking up to find out you have destroyed your life.

I know I sure don't think much of Rolling Stone' or their man Michael Hasting's journalism integrity, more the lack there of! Can't imagine they'd print the likes of this article knowing they could wind up destroying the man giving you the interview.....Maybe Hastings believed in Chrystal's culpability for Tillman's death as you do Lt.Col.Todd Hanshaw.

Oh and then I know Hastings owes this award winning piece to Boothsby, the General's own press agent. Without Boothsby Hastings would never have the shot as destroying Gen. McChrystal.

I wouldn't call taking advantage of someone's impaired state to destroy their lives writing to ensnare someone...or kicking them when they're down, for that matter, responsible journalism. This could have been avoided, but in the course of a month, one can get anything most probably.

Posted by: alaskansheilah | June 25, 2010 2:29 PM
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Regarding the beloved and heroic Pat Tillman -

Isn't this really both Karma and irony for McChrystal - when he is finally able to speak the truth - he gets 'fired' for it.

Posted by: bobsnsane | June 25, 2010 1:36 PM
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Why do McChrystal or any of the active armed forces have and give such broad access to the public? Soldiers are blogging and emailing home, generals are embedding journalists into their entourages at the same time that we can't get reporters to give us independent coverage of either the military or political policy issues that threaten our open society -

What on earth did he think Rolling Stone is all about?

Posted by: practica1 | June 25, 2010 12:57 PM
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I read his cancer was cured after chemo.

Posted by: tbrown17 | June 25, 2010 12:28 PM
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Did the President have a choice? Of course he did although it would have hoisted McChrystal on his own petard and probably destroyed his future efficacy.

People agree that the offending party was not so much the general as the staff. McC's error was not controlling his staff when unfriendly ears were about. THAT represents incredibly poor political, not battlefield, judgement. Ergo, the President could have expressed continuing confidence in his war fighter and simply demanded the staff be replaced, thereby keeping the baby and getting rid of the bath water.

The new guys would walk on egg-shells and concetrate on fitting into the job ASAP, McC would have felt the brush of career-death (which tends to modify witnessed behaviour if one uses the Patton example), Patraeus wouldn't have to dual-hat and been able better control his politically wounded subordinate, and Karzid keeps his prefered American commander.

A senior commander stepping down to take the reigns of a lesser command is just not how it is done. To anyone who says "Yeah, but he knows the plan better" I say "Yeah, well so did every immediate subordinate commander as well." MICROMANAGERS step down to take control, real leaders reach down and pull someone up to take over - that's how it is done. I don't think something like this has happened since Grant took over all the American armies but directly controlled the Army of the Potomac even though George Meade was still its commander and it probably only worked because by then the other army commanders were dependable and the South was deteriorating, barely able to defend itself.

Posted by: observer57 | June 25, 2010 11:32 AM
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McChrystal's massive ego is what got him sacked and the same massive ego is why he refused to resign earlier.

Please don't spout your own drivel about Petraeus "probably considering a bid for the 2012 presidential nomination." If the man wants to go for it, great. Let HIM say he is interested.

Otherwise, your putting forth an unfounded agenda smacks of immature grade school 'look at me, I said it first' antics.

Posted by: WarriorJames1 | June 25, 2010 11:14 AM
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.
No 2012 Presidential run for Petraeus. He cannot afford to be tagged as a Palinesque quitter; he needs to see this through.
Besides, he won't live through election day 2012. Cancer is going to get him first.
.

Posted by: BrianX9 | June 25, 2010 7:34 AM
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