I just ran across David Brooks’ column from last week, in which Brooks comes perilously close blaming journalists for McChrystal’s fall:
Over the course of 50 years, what had once been considered the least important part of government became the most important. These days, the inner soap opera is the most discussed and the most fraught arena of political life.
And into this world walks Gen. Stanley McChrystal…
McChrystal, like everyone else, kvetched. And having apparently missed the last 50 years of cultural history, he did so on the record, in front of a reporter. And this reporter, being a product of the culture of exposure, made the kvetching the center of his magazine profile.
By putting the kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him…
Another scalp is on the wall. Government officials will erect even higher walls between themselves and the outside world. The honest and freewheeling will continue to flee public life, and the cautious and calculating will remain.
Yes, McChrystal “missed the last 50 years of cultural history.” But in Brooksian theology, that is actually sort of a noble thing.
It is misleading to make excuses for McChrystal as a man out of time. Every general knows that personal criticism of the President is beyond the pale. Suggesting that the President may have been intimidated by senior military officers is clearly unacceptable. And this is not a secret to any one at the Pentagon.
It is actually an excellent thing that we have such high standards for our generals — and that we enforce them. That is what protects the military from partisan politics and ensures civilian control.
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