As you have no doubt heard by now, General Stanley McChrystal,, commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, has trashed the entire civilian national security leadership in a tell-all article (PDF) in Rolling Stone. McCrystal himself doesn't shy away from that characterization:
I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and it should have never happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard.
McChrystal has been summoned to the White House to explain his behavior:
"McChrystal has been directed to attend (Wednesday's) monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in person to explain to the Pentagon and the commander in chief his quotes in the piece about his colleagues," a White House official said.
There isn't a person in the country who could make derogatory statements about his or her bosses of the sort that appear in this article and keep their job. If an exception is made for a General, even when talking about the senior civilian national security leadership--including the President-then, to say the least, it would be difficult to characterize the United States as still operating under civilian government.
We have become a country with a bipartisan consensus that the size and length of troop deployments should be determined by Generals ("I will listen to the commanders on the ground") rather than by Presidents. If Congress were to try and assert its Constitutional authority to end a troop deployment by resolution or by ending funding, well then Congress hates the troops, rather than serving as the legitimate, Constitutional authority on the matter. If you criticize military leaders in ads, then Congress will take time off from "governing" to pass a resolution condemning you. And, when spending freezes or cuts are announced, the military is always exempted.
Enough is enough. The United States of America is a civilian government, not a military one. Anyone in the country would be fired for doing what McChrystal just did, and an exception should not be made for him just because he is a General. No matte the political dangers associated with firing generals (see Truman and Lincoln), the threat of military governance has become real and the line must be drawn here. Fire McChrystal.
Also (Adam): Just to add, nowhere was the need to assert civilian control clearer than the performance of the military in the Don't Ask Don't Tell debate. From Sec. Gates repeatedly undercutting the Administration's position on repeal, including the infamous Gates/Mullen letter to Chairman Skelton, to his callous statement after his Commander-in-Chief negotiated a compromise to four out of five service chiefs writing Congress on the eve of the repeal vote urging no vote, it was appalling how much power the military has over the Commander in Chief. I hope that dynamic shifts.