My father and I shared a love for a movie that needs to be viewed by many in the media today as Gen. Stanleyl McChrystal does his carpet dance in front of the president.
This tale would provide some well-needed education for many who don't understand the military chain of command in addition to possible motives behind Gen. McChrystal's behavior. Let me begin by saying that the general knows exactly what he's doing.
But let me digress for a moment.
The Caine Mutiny
is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Herman Wouk that was later made into a movie. Set in the Pacific during World War II, the executive officer of the destroyer-minesweeper USS Caine, Lt. Steve Maryk, who was played by Van Johnson, relieves the commanding officer, Captain Queeg, played brilliantly by Humphrey Bogart, during a fierce typhoon in which many ships sink.
The captain appears mentally unstable and unable to make a decision in the harrowing conditions. The 'XO' steps in, removes the captain from command by citing Navy regulations and sends him below, seemingly saving the day.
Leading up to this event were many instances when the captain's ostensibly poor judgment and cowardice under fire caused the officers under his command to question his ability to lead. The seeds of a mutiny are sown.
The defense counsel assigned to defend the XO against charges of mutiny is a brave naval aviator, who upon meeting the defendant for the first time asks, "So Lt. Maryk, I have one question for you. Are you an idiot or a mutineer? There is no third choice."
If I were to remake this movie today, I would add a third choice: committing suicide by stoning.
Let me be clear upfront: the president should fire McChrystal. He flirted dangerously close to the line previously during the request for additional troops, but in my opinion he didn't cross it. With the
interview he not only crossed it, he ran over it, lit it on fire, and kept on going.
And that's exactly what he meant to do.
Back to the Caine. The defense counsel, played by an intense Jose Ferrer, presses the captain in court to explain some of his actions leading up to the mutiny. The prosecution "strenuously objects," to borrow a phrase from the other naval legal thriller,
A Few Good Men
, saying that the defense is calling into question the integrity and bravery of the captain of a warship. The indignant court agrees. The court warns him to proceed carefully.
Our smart naval aviator zeros in on the issue of that today and today. He tells the court that no man who rises to command a warship can be a coward, so there must be some other issue to explain his actions.
Now comes the case of McChrystal, whom the president personally hired to lead the "new" war effort in Afghanistan after firing Bush's guy.
Being interviewed by
and saying the things he and his staff are reported to have said about the national security team appears blindingly stupid. But the general is not an idiot. No man rises to wear four stars in the U.S. military by being an idiot. He also voted for Obama. Reason enough for me to fire him.
He's not a mutineer. For those not familiar with the military and those idiots in the media demanding to know why he "just doesn't follow orders," I offer this quick education. It didn't work at Nuremberg. Several German officers found this out first hand at the bottom of a rope. "I was only following orders" doesn't cut it as a defense when bad things happen.
U.S. military officers are encouraged to speak up when they believe an order they have received is wrong or unjust. There is a fine line between insubordination and providing constructive feedback and officers are taught this difference, some by experience.
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart used the phrase "I know it when I see it" when trying to describe pornography and I apply the same rule of thumb with insubordination.
Now let's get to my conclusion on this matter. Things aren't going well in Afghanistan. Getting the president to commit additional troops was like pulling teeth and we told the enemy the day, time, and flight number of when we're leaving.
The rules of engagement have confined our troops to patrol areas "that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourself with lethal force." Huh?! Maybe the president can tell his old pal Mayor Daley to tell cops on the south side the same thing. See how that would go over with the cops and the people.
And finally our relationship with President Karzai , who changes with the wind. This is the man who plans on making a "truce" with the Taliban and whose government is rife with corruption. Insert another Chicago political joke here, like "He's over qualified! Bah ha ha ha!"
McChrystal's only honorable out was exactly what he did. He knew he was on thin ice after the troop request flap and putting a torpedo publicly into the vice president and a couple others would certainly get him fired. Our man is crazy alright, like a fox.
Why else would he allow
unfettered access to him and his staff. Why not insist that you have the right to edit the entire article? Why not? We now know why. The man wanted out and wanted a ticket home but he wanted based on principal. He didn't want to quit: 4-star generals rarely quit (see: Patton, George S.), especially when you're losing with a strategy you developed.
Quick side note for all of you in the "this is just like MacArthur and Truman!" clown car. It's not even close for two reasons. General MacArthur had a 180-degree disagreement with President Truman over the Korean War strategy. President Obama handpicked McChrystal because they agreed with each other. They went together like peas and carrots. The larger difference in my mind is that Truman actually wore the uniform and served in combat. He served in combat during World War I and eventually rose to the rank of colonel which allowed him a platform to enter Missouri politics. Obama never served in uniform or under fire, unless you count time spent on the south side of Chicago, a gun-free zone of course.
Firing Line: When asked by the XO of the Caine if the brave naval aviator would take his case and defend him, Lt. Greenwald responds, "I'd much rather prosecute."
I would as well. The president should reject his resignation and fire him.
But I'll also vote for the guy if he runs for president in 2012 against the man that fired him.
Matthew "Whiz" Buckley is the chief strategy officer of
, a provider of options education for options traders of all levels. . He is also the founder of Strike Fighter Financial, a business-consulting firm specializing in leadership development, risk management and strategic planning for Fortune 500 companies and related organizations. Buckley flew the F-18 Hornet for the U.S. Navy. He's a graduate of TOPGUN, has close to 400 carrier landings and flew 44 combat sorties over Iraq. After leaving active duty, he worked as managing director of strategy at a Wall Street firm and CEO of a financial media company. He is an internationally recognized speaker and combined his experiences in the military and corporate America in his book "From Sea Level to C Level."