David Freddoso: McChrystal should have asked: 'What would Washington do?' 

When the victorious Gen. George Washington relinquished his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army in 1783, he began a tradition of absolute civilian control over the U.S. military. He set the tone for the next 227 years: Our military stays out of our politics.

This tradition, a source of pride for both our military and our civilian population, has allowed America to become the great nation it is. Washington's selfless and patriotic act is rightly commemorated in a mural within the Capitol that every tour guide points out to those visiting.

When Americans look to Latin America's last 50 years of troubles, and to the many African nations that achieved independence last century, only to suffer afterward from greater tyranny, instability and violent military coups, we should not shake our heads, as though those peoples are somehow inferior to ourselves. The appropriate refrain on every American tongue is "There but for the grace of God we might have gone." The grace of God, and the miracle of George Washington.

President Reagan commented on our nation's extraordinary political stability at his first inaugural: "To a few of us today, this is a solemn and most momentous occasion; and yet, in the history of our nation, it is a commonplace occurrence," he said. "The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle."

This week, the miracle has been endangered. Every American, regardless of political leanings, should look askance at the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- not just any general, but the general in command of our troops in the Afghan war -- trashes Vice President Joe Biden. One of his aides anonymously bad-mouths President Obama to the writer: "Here's the guy who's going to run his f-ing war, but he didn't seem very engaged."

Don't get me wrong: In my opinion, Biden is a walking gaffe machine. Obama is at sea in his current job. And I feel confident in voicing such opinions, as one of the millions of Americans whose freedom of speech McChrystal is supposed to be defending. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "[O]ur liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."

But our liberty depends no less on the obedience of the military. That a top-ranking general should attack the administration in this kind of published story is an attack not just on the Obama administration, but on the institutions that preserve our freedom. Our uniformed military does not have its own political position, as it does in some other countries. A civilian -- the president of the United States -- is its commander in chief, under our Constitution, and every general obeys him, no matter how many stars he wears.

Members of our military serve proudly and bravely at the will of and with the consent of the American people, but they do not interfere with the electorate's choices, no matter how bad.

Obama owes it to America to fire McChrystal. If he does not, he will be doing a grievous injury not only to his own presidency, but to civilian control of the military. If an officer is genuinely unable to exercise Obama's Afghanistan policy in good conscience, there is a remedy. He should resign.

David Freddoso is The Examiner's online opinion editor. He can be reached at dfreddoso@dcexaminer.com.

About The Author

David Freddoso

David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
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