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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Andy Martin on “Shattered McChrystal:” The saga of Barack Obama and Stanley McChrystal

Andy Martin says Barack Obama’s management approach failed in Afghanistan. Martin says Obama should meet privately with McChrystal, and find out why a man he relies on is not loyal. But firing McChrystal would do serious damage to Obama. Martin, who is usually a critic of Obama, offers the president a way out of the White House-created morass.

Internet powerhouse Andy Martin tells President Obama how to survive “shattered McChrystal”
“The Internet Powerhouse”
Andy Martin
Executive Editor

“Factually Correct, Not Politically Correct”


Andy Martin says this is a time when Obama really must be a “no drama” leader

Martin says the Obama-McChrystal meeting is a time for a beer, not a baseball bat.

(NEW YORK)(June 23, 2010) I was Obama’s first critic, way back in 2004. And, of course, I literally “wrote the book” on Obama. My book, “Obama: The Man Behind The Mask,” begins with a psychological profile of then-Senator Obama. Looking back at something written in 2007 surprises me at how current and how correctly we analyzed the future president. It’s still a book worth reading. Buy it before they sell out. So, yes, I am a strong critic of Barack Obama.

It is not often I give Obama advice on how to “man up” as a leader, but this is one of those rare times. The prevailing wisdom is that General Stanley McChrystal will be fired Wednesday. One TV bobblehead said Obama has to “look strong” and firing McChrystal give Obama a chance to look presidential. Allusions to President Truman’s firing of General Douglas Macarthur are also being raised. This is all typical cable TV nonsense.

First, some practical advice for the president. You don’t know soldiers. It’s about time you learned something about our men and women in uniform. To Obama, our military has been a set of chess pieces, to be moved around on a “policy" board. Has Obama ever had a beer with McChrystal? Doubtful. Other soldiers? Also doubtful. Obama was more of a fugitive than a commander when he recently visited Afghanistan, in and out in a few hours. That kind of slam “bam” visit to a war zone does nothing to encourage the troops despite the artificial photo ops that are always generated by the media.

So, advice number one to BHO: to use your own phrase, use the McChrystal controversy as a teaching and learning moment, and learn what you don’t know about our men and women in uniform.

Second, who loves his boss? So McChrystal & Co. bitched about the senior management of Obama’s team. In my opinion, too much has already been made of this incident. Obama has been poorly advised.

Yes, Stanley was stupid. But he will be harder on himself than anyone else can be. Soldiers are like that. He let his men down. That’s a heavy burden for a real commander to bear.

Third, there was no “insubordination” by McChrystal. Stupidity and bad manners in not necessarily insubordination. “Crazy Keith” Olbermann was reading from the Uniform Code of Military Justice. What “order” did McChrystal disobey? The UCMJ clearly has overbroad restrictions on free speech by military personnel. It is one thing to disobey an order. It is quite another to bitch, bitch, bitch.

Soldiers have been bitching since the dawn of organized forces. Willie and Joe would have landed Bill Mauldin in jail during World War II if we applied the McChrystal test being applied by cable TV’s “warriors.”

Fourth, Barack Obama has never been a man’s man. Yes, he played poker with the boys down in Springfield, but that was politics and play acting by the then-state senator. When McChrystal said Obama looked intimidated when the two met at the Pentagon, he was probably telling the truth. Barry Obama is not a man who feels at ease around soldiers. He has to admit that to himself. To take a line from the old song, “President Obama, you’re in the Army now.”

Fifth, McChrystal has spent his life in special ops. The “snake eaters” are even more macho and occasionally goofy than ordinary troops. And, yes, the men bitch. Bitching is part of Army life. There is no law that says you have to love your commander-in-chief. The law only requires you to obey and follow orders. I have no doubt that if Obama was in danger on Wednesday (today) McChrystal would risk his liFe to protect the president. He is that loyal. Loyalty is not the issue in this Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

McChrystal has faithfully obeyed Obama’s orders and, moreover, he has interpreted them in a way that has given Obama “cover” for politically incorrect decisions, such as the policy of restraining air strikes and artillery to avoid civilian casualties. The Obama/McChrystal policy is costing American lives while it saves Afghan lives. That’s a tough call. That’s real leadership. Where is Obama going to find a generally so totally devoted to following Obama’s directives?

McChrystal has been a loyal soldier. Firing McChrystal will devastate Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan. Firing McChrystal might make the anti-military pasty-faced weenies in the White House feel good for a few hours. But in doing so Obama would have shot down his best hope of a deal in Afghanistan. Truth be told, Obama needs McChrystal more than McChrystal needs Obama.

So how does a boss deal with unruly employees that pick up a few brewskis and start bitching? Fire them? I don’t think so.

Basic management would tell you that when middle management (the general in the field and his combat team) are unhappy, something is wrong. There was a management failure in allowing the Afghan operation to become alienated from the policy wonks in Washington. The management failure is Obama’s, not McChrystal’s. When did Obama ever sit down with all of his feuding barons and get them to work things out? That's what Obama's "pay grade" is supposed to do. He failed. There is dissension in the ranks.

Much as I disliked George Bush’s Iraq invasion, Bush had the good sense and management skill to sit down with Paul Bremer. Alone. Turns out Bush may have been a better manager than Obama.

If the team doesn’t assemble and meet informally from time to time, the team is going to grouse, bitch, and engage in sniping and cattiness. Jesus’ disciples used to argue about who was the greatest among them. So what’s new? Has Obama ever played football? Baseball? What does he think players do off the field or the mound? Sing love songs to management?

My management prescription: It’s time for a beer. The real solution to Obama’s “shattered McChrystal” is the counterintuitive one. Obama needs to do something he is usually accused of doing too much of already, he needs to apologize. (In private.) Only this time he really has to mean it.

Obama needs to clear out the room, and bring in some beer and chips. Then he needs to be a man, among men, and have a heart-to-heart with Stanley. Obama’s “apology” is not an apologetic act. Rather, it is an affirmation of the fact that he remains estranged from another man on whose shoulders so much of the Obama foreign policy rests. If I had a man who was carrying the burden of making me a success, I would come close to that person and create loyalty, not enmity. That’s basic leadership.

The White House, moreover, is a bad place to fire a general. McChrystal would start to leave the grounds, stiff upper lip, and say he was fired or relieved or whatever. Not good for anyone, and not good for the United States. As much as I want to see Obama out of office, I still love my flag and my men and women in uniform more. I do not want to see the office of president crushed by a lack of familiarity with the military ethos. Or with basic Management 101.

Think of the difference in perception if Obama and McChrystal meet alone, without aides, and they have a genuine, honest and open discussion of why McChrystal’s team feels alienated from so many of the Obama team.

Think of the real victory Obama could win if he and McChrystal come out smiling, and Obama says “General McChrystal and I understand each other. We share the same values and are committed to the same policy. And I told the general, the next time he wants to complain, he should pick up the phone. While I was disappointed in the statements attributed to the general and his leadership team, I also realize that blowing off steam is not a basis to end a military career.” End of story.

Obviously I could write at greater length, but you get the picture. TV loves smiling pictures, not scowling faces and stiff upper lips. Americans want to see a positive message, not retaliation against some officers for getting drunk and blowing off steam with ridiculous remarks to a writer.

The irony is, of course, that I was an early opponent of the Afghan surge, and I do not support Obama’s policy. But the decision was made to surge. As a recent book by Jonathan Alter makes clear, Obama erred. He brokered harmony over his Afghanistan policy by appeasing Joe Biden with a rigid timetable for withdrawal.

General McChrystal and anyone who has ever been in a combat zone (excluding Field Marshal Mark Kirk) knows a pre-announced, rigid withdrawal schedule is impractical and unrealistic.

We have a strange situation when we have Hamid Karzai backing McChrystal, and Senator John Kerry sounding like a serious statesman. As for me, I favor Joe Biden’s policy approach, but Obama rejected that pathway. I love and respect McChrystal as a warrior and patriot, and I believe he should continue in Afghanistan. But on the policy merits I think Joe Biden was right. The bottom line: we have a very complex situation, with honorable people taking different views of how to solve the same problem. That’s precisely the kind of situation in which managers blow off steam by bitching.

For me, Barack Obama will show me that he’s more of a man if he has a beer with McChrystal, instead of beating him with a baseball bat. As for our policy in Afghanistan, that’s a topic for another column. For General Stanley McChrystal and President Barack Obama my recommendation is “bottoms up,” not a baseball bat beating. America will be the better for it.

ABOUT ANDY: Andy Martin is the legendary New York and Chicago-based muckraker, author, Internet columnist, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. He has over forty years of broadcasting background in radio and television and is the dean of Illinois media and communications. He is currently promoting his best-selling book, “Obama: The Man Behind The Mask” and his Internet movie "Obama: The Hawai'i years." Martin has been a leading corruption fighter in Illinois for over forty years. He is currently sponsoring
Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of the “Internet Powerhouse,” He comments on regional, national and world events with more than four decades of investigative experience. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York (LaGuardia CC, Bronx CC).

UPDATES: Andy's columns are also posted at;[NOTE: We try to correct any typographical errors in this story on our blogs; find our latest edition there.]

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Blogger Chicago Bob said...

Dumb ASS!

2:53 PM  

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