What Would You Do with General McChrystal?

Obama McChrystal Over the last couple of days, we've heard of the trespasses of General McChrystal, our lead military presence in Afghanistan. While none of the trespasses have to do specifically with his work in Afghanistan, the charge of insubordination by foolish interview is a serious one. It's also a charge that tends to lead to unemployment in the military. Many on both sides of the aisle are calling for McChrystal's dismissal…and I would be one of them under normal circumstances. However, if I were advising the president on this one, I might move McChrystal aside and make him a special advisor to the new General. McChrystal is too knowledgeable about what's going on in the field and has a strong working relationship with Hamid Karzai…which the White House does not. When the soldiers are brought home, retire General McChrystal gracefully. You preserve the chain of command, but don't disgrace a highly decorated General. You also don't jeopardize the mission. It's graceful but just. I think the public would applaud such a temperate approach, though there might be a better one out there. There is a need to preserve chain of command. However, there is a need to keep the mission in Afghanistan on-track.

Complicating things for the President is the mounting public perception that he abuses power. Many look at his conduct during the health-care debate, interference in Democratic primaries through job offers for people to drop out, his spat with FOX News via Anita Dunn, the BP oil spill (shutting down deep-water drilling), and some other cases in which he seems to whack anyone who "crosses" him. Leaders must be tough, but they can't be brutal or abusive of the power given them.

If our President was generally regarded as a "softie" toward his opponents he might want to handle this differently. I believe that if he hammers McChrystal here, it will further public perception of his leadership as harsh, and yet extremely fragile when it comes to receiving criticism. It would further people's perception of him as a Low-High leader (to use Steinke's language)—one who can't tolerate much pain himself, but has a high threshold for it in others. Whether such criticism is fair or not, I will leave to those smarter than me. However, this McChrystal situation is an important one for the President. I hope he handles it the right way. I know he'll try.

This raises some interesting questions: What would you do with McChrystal if you were the President? When it comes to your own leadership, would you rather be perceived as too "soft" or as one who abuses power? Obviously, most would want to live between the two. If you had to pick one perception, which would you pick?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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One thought on “What Would You Do with General McChrystal?

  1. It seems that in the role of leadership, you often have to error towards hard rather than soft, at least in the public eye. I would argue that the “mounting public pressure that he abuses power” is partisan at best. As one who has been fortunate enough to have studied presidential prerogative and powers under the Constitution with a sitting US Supreme Court Justice, I would have to say that our former administration did more to abuse the powers of the executive than any living President. I think here you have to take a hard stand for the public, for our partners, and for our enemies… I think what you do behind the scenes is a different matter. Christ was often harshest on those that should have known better… General McChrystal is a vital piece of our efforts in Afghanistan… but he should have known better…