Obama and McChrystal Don't Talk? Good, Says Army Historian





President Obama is about to convene his war cabinet, to discuss the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. It’ll be only the second time Obama has spoken directly with Gen. Stanley McChrystal since he became the top commander for coalition forces there - a fact that’s earning Obama a lot of grief in national security circles. But a leading Army War College historian says the critics are off-base.

President Obama is about to convene his war cabinet, to discuss the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. It’ll be only the second time Obama has spoken directly with Gen. Stanley McChrystal since he became the top commander for coalition forces there - a fact that’s earning Obama a lot of grief in national security circles. But a leading Army War College historian says the critics are off-base.

“On the whole, presidents utilize their Secretaries of Defense — they exist for a reason — and for the most part confine their direct consultations to their regional combatant commanders,” notes Professor Mark Grimsley, who currently holds the Harold Keith Johnson Chair of Military History at the Army War College. Obama can and does confer regularly with McChrystal’s boss, [U.S. Central Command chief] General David Petraeus, and that’s as it should be… Obama’s practice is thus the rule, not the exception.”...

... I was shocked and outraged, too, when I finally saw the 60 Minutes piece last night. So I asked Grimsley, who’s also an Ohio State University professor, if this was really such a big deal. His response: Nope.

Bill Clinton consulted with Gen. Wesley Clark, commander of EUCOM (European Command), about once a week, but beyond that left matters up to his Secretary of Defense and senior national security aides. During Desert Shield/Desert Storm George H. W. Bush dealt exclusively with Gen. Colin S. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was his conduit to CENTCOM commander Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf.

A decided departure from the norm was George W. Bush. who dealt regularly with McChrystal’s predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, as well as Gen. Petraeus during Petraeus’s tenure as top commander in Iraq. (He also conferred with Petraeus’ superior, CENTCOM commander Adm. William J. Fallon.)
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