Obama gets a win-win by ousting McChrystal and installing Petraeus

By replacing McChrystal with Petraeus, the president keeps someone in charge of the Afghanistan war who already knows its ins and outs -- and he reinforces his own image as a strong commander-in-chief.

AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN/Newscom
President Barack Obama and US Gen. David Patraeus make their way to the Rose Garden where Mr. Obama announced the resignation of Afghan war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal and named General Petraeus as his replacement.

McChrystal is out, Petraeus is in, and Barack Obama has deftly extracted himself from that uncomfortable spot between a rock and a hard place.

Before this morning’s meeting between President Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the punditry and media had pretty much come to the same conclusion: There was no good outcome here.

If the commander-in-chief fired General McChrystal for his disparaging remarks about the administration, the war could falter. The general, after all, had come up with the strategy. And what would happen to next summer’s troop pull down if Obama changed generals in midstream?

If the president kept McChrystal, though, he’d be bowing to a disrespectful general and showing himself to be as weak as the McChrystal team said in that Rolling Stone article.

Instead, Obama comes out looking strong and wise by accepting McChrystal's resignation and swiftly replacing him with the general’s own boss – a man who certainly knows the ins and outs of the Afghanistan war. David Petraeus is widely respected for turning around the Iraq war with his surge strategy.

While Obama’s brilliance shines here, the softer but perhaps more illuminating light is that of Petraeus. Essentially, he’s taking a step down to take over his subordinate’s job. That speaks to a humble character that puts country and mission above all else.

It’s a win-win for the White House today. Let’s hope that translates to a win where it counts, in Afghanistan.

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