Obama orders McChrystal to US to explain himself

The big question, of course, will be what kind of beer the White House will serve at this summit.  General Stanley McChrystal has been ordered to appear at the White House to explain how he acted stupidly by airing a whole lot of dirty laundry to a Rolling Stone reporter:

The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has been summoned to the White House to explain biting and unflattering remarks he made to a freelance writer about President Barack Obama and others in the Obama administration.

The face-to-face comes as pundits are already calling for McChrystal to resign for insubordination.

McChrystal has been instructed to fly from Kabul to Washington today to attend Obama’s regular monthly security team meeting tomorrow at the White House.

An administration official says McChrystal was asked to attend in person rather than by secure video teleconference, “where he will have to explain to the Pentagon and the commander in chief his quotes about his colleagues in the piece.”

Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have spoken with McChrystal. Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen, said “the chairman spoke to General McChrystal last night and expressed his deep disappointment with the article and with the comments expressed therein.”

The comments in question?  McChrystal’s team called National Security Adviser Jim Jones a “clown” stuck in 1985, according to Politico’s report from the Rolling Stone article.  They called VP Joe Biden “Bite Me” over his opposition to the surge.  As Allahpundit noted last night, however, the big bombshell came from McChrystal himself, who accused Obama of being unprepared for their meeting and describing it as “disappointing.”

Does that amount to insubordination?  Perhaps; it’s certainly a violation of the normal respect given to the chain of command in public.  Gordon Lubold explains that the poor judgment doesn’t just pertain to making the comments themselves, but also to whom they were spoken.  A normal beat reporter might keep those comments off the record in order to maintain access to the highest levels of command.  A freelancer like Michael Hastings, who wrote the article for Rolling Stone, has no incentive to exercise restraint.  If insubordination isn’t an issue, then judgment certainly is.

Many pundits have already begun calling for McChrystal’s head over this incident, and this recall may be a prelude to his removal.  That would present two very big problems for Obama, however.  First, regardless of what Obama thinks of McChrystal, he’s got difficult-to-obtain skills in counterterrorism that are needed in Afghanistan.  He may not be indispensable, but replacing him will be difficult, and this is a very difficult time in the war to make that kind of change.  Secondly, to paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, Obama may prefer to keep McChrystal in the tent even if he’s pissing out, rather than outside the tent pissing into it.  Once relieved of his command, McChrystal may have a lot more to say about the Obama administration than what will appear in Rolling Stone this month.