Why McChrystal had to go


Respect for civilian control over the military chain of command. That's what Obama talked about in his comments on "accepting the resignation of" (that is, firing) Gen. Stanley McChrystal. And it was the right point to make. The president noted that McChrystal's conduct "doesn't meet the standard of a commanding general," and I think what he was really saying was this:

I may be a Democrat, and I may be (something of) a liberal, and I may never have served in the armed forces, and the military officer corps tends to be overwhelmingly Republican and conservative, but guess what: I'm still the boss. Don't forget it.

I still think the real issue here isn't McChrystal -- it's the fact that the war in Afghanistan was and is a mistake, and we can't possibly win, and the president can shuffle the generals around all he wants, but it won't change the doomed nature of this pointless mission.

But it seems pretty clear from the tone of Obama's remarks that he saw a need to remind the military about respect for the commander in chief. And that's a good thing: When the military starts getting uppity, and the senior officers start acting as if they know more about running things than the elected leaders, you plant the seeds for some very nasty trouble.

And by the way: What a coup for Rolling Stone, for Michael Hastings and for the world of in-depth reporting. It took Hastings more than a month to get this story; without the support of a magazine that could pay for that kind of work, we never would have learned how the military leadership in Afghanistan feels about the president. A reminder that despite the light-speed pace of modern journalism, paying writers to take the time they need to get big stories is still central to democracy.