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McChrystal Farewell Ceremony Reminds that the U.S. Army is at War

Posted on July 24 2010 5:00 pm
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President Obama has forced America’s top commanding general into retirement, but the Islamists and Jihadists who would destroy the United States are still at work.

It was a farewell to a hero, but not a farewell to arms.

General Stanley McChystal formally left the Army yesterday in a ceremony at Ft. McNair that reminded everyone of what makes the U.S. military, and its warriors like McChrystal, so special and so great: their good-natured cheer, their high spirits and optimism, their wit and humor, and their deep-seated faith and commitment to each other and to the nation that they so proudly serve.

Indeed, McChrystal began his remarks with some self-deprecating humor about the circumstances surrounding his departure.

Don’t dispute my romanticized memories of military service, he told the audience, which included Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. “I have stories on all of you, photos of many, and I know a Rolling Stone reporter.”

This caused the audience members to laugh uproariously. McChrystal, of course, had been unceremoniously forced to resign after a leftist Rolling Stone reporter wrote a hit piece about him and his staff. The General and his aides had expressed mild disappointment in President Obama and other administration officials for their studied disinterest in Afghanistan and their lack of understanding of the nature of the fight there.

Liberal politicians and elected officials cried that this undermined civilian control of the military — even though they could not cite even one incidence of insubordination by McChrystal or any other U.S. military official.

President Obama, in fact, explicitly rejected the charge of insubordination when he announced the General’s resignation last month. “Stan McChrystal has always shown great courtesy and carried out my orders faithfully [emphasis added],” the president said.

But despite McChrystal’s stellar record of service, Obama nonetheless forced him to resign. The president had been egged on by the media and the leftist net-roots, which framed the issue as one of presidential leadership and civilian control of the military.

Obama quickly succumbed to the media horde, which demanded McChrystal’s professional scalp. But during his departure ceremony yesterday, McChrystal retained his professional honor and dignity: by maintaining a sense of perspective and a healthy sense of humor.

For example, according to the Washington Post,

McChrystal made fun of his legendary work ethic, noting that he had exercised his prerogative as a general to issue guidance to his family after his return from Afghanistan. “It is reasonable guidance: one meal a day and early morning PT [physical training],” he said. “The basics of a good family life.” He joked that his wife was fomenting her own, one-woman insurgency.

McChrystal ended, though, on a more serious and somber note:

“Caution and cynicism are safe, but soldiers don’t want to follow cautious cynics,” he said, his voice catching briefly. “They follow leaders who believe enough to risk failure and disappointment for a worthy cause.”

As our fighting men and women prepare for what promises to be a long hard slog in Afghanistan, this is something our political class would do well to keep in mind. General McChrystal may be gone, but the fight against radical Islam is far from over.

You can follow John Guardiano on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano

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