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Podcast: Doyle McManus discusses Gen. McChrystal's resignation

June 23, 2010 | 12:47 pm

GeneralDoyle McManus, Washington columnist for The Times' Op-Ed page, shared his analysis Wednesday on the resignation of Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. Click here to listen to the podcast.

The audio clip is divided roughly into four parts, the first of which contains excerpts of President Obama's remarks Wednesday morning. In the second part, McManus weighs the issues Obama faced in making the decision to accept McChrystal's resignation. McManus says, "In the end, keeping Gen. McChrystal posed even bigger problems. The bond of confidence between the civilian officials in the White House and the military officials in the field had already been strained several times."

McManus then discusses Gen. David H. Petraeus, the president's choice as McChrystal's replacement in Afghanistan, calling Petraeus an "out-of-the-box choice." McManus says, "In an ironic sense, President Obama is taking a move from George W. Bush's playbook in this choice."

The podcast closes with McManus' analysis of what McChrystal's exit means for Afghanistan. McManus says, "In Afghanistan, there is likely to be considerable consternation about the idea that a magazine article could bring down a respected and powerful general."

A complete transcript of McManus' analysis will be posted later Wednesday.

Update, 2:05 p.m.: A complete transcript of McManus' remarks is posted after the jump.

Photo credit: Michael Reynolds / EPA

This was a difficult choice for President Obama. Getting rid of Stan McChrystal as his commander in Afghanistan meant finding a replacement and getting that replacement into Kabul at a very sensitive time in the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan.

But in the end, keeping Gen. McChrystal posed even bigger problems. The bond of confidence between the civilian officials in the White House and the military officials in the field had already been strained several times in a number of difference incidents. There had been all along some concern on the part of civilian officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, that the military might be over-selling the chances of success in its war in Afghanistan.

So it was vitally important -- still is vitally important -- that there be a high level of confidence in the working relationship between civilian officials and military officials. And military officials agree with that; in fact they've been working quite hard on it. And the problem was, after these statements it was very difficult to imagine that Gen. McChrystal could rebuild the confidence that he had helped shatter.

Gen. Petraeus is what you'd call an out-of-the-box choice, because he had already moved on to a higher job as commander of the Central Command. And in an ironic sense, President Obama is taking a move from George W. Bush's playbook in this choice. Gen. Petraeus, of course, was Bush's commander in Iraq, the designer of the surge that helped turn that war around and stabilize it.

But it's an imitation of Bush in more ways than just that. Gen. Petraeus was and is very gifted at bridging the gap between military officers and civilian officials; that was one of the qualities he brought to his command in Iraq. When he was in Baghdad, he and the United States ambassador, Ryan Crocker, worked as a team. That is something that Gen. McChrystal has not been able to do with our ambassador in Kabul, Gen. Eikenberry.

And the second talent that Gen. Petraeus has is he is a very gifted explainer and promoter of a policy, or a strategy, to Congress and the public. George W. Bush relied on Petraeus almost single-handed to sell the surge back in 2005, 2006, when that policy was adopted. And so I think what we are seeing here is Barack Obama, in an unexpected way, taking a lesson from his predecessor, George W. Bush.

In Afghanistan, there is likely to be considerable consternation about the idea that a magazine article could bring down a respected and powerful general. On the part of President Karzai in Afghanistan, there is likely to be some concern in that his working relationship with Gen. McChrystal was probably the only functioning working relationship that President Karzai has with any United States official.

But the Afghans are likely to be, in a sense, flattered that Obama has chosen a superior officer, the man who was, until now, Gen. McChrystal's boss, to be the commander of that campaign. And Gen. Petraeus has, of course, spent time with President Karzai in Afghanistan; he's also spent a great deal of time with military officials in neighboring Pakistan. So from that standpoint, the choice of Petraeus is about the best that could be imagined.

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