What President Obama Should Do With Gen. McChrystal

The lack of respect for civilian authority demonstrated by General McChrystal and his staff - on the record and over an extended period of time - is, in my opinion, all the justification President Obama needs to fire General McChrystal.

However, I believe this behavior is symptomatic of a larger underlying "disease": a breakdown in the relationship between the civilian side of American society and the military-industrial complex that has been catalyzed by the fact that America is basically on a permanent war-time footing.

America has been "at war" for so long.. and our military (and their friends in the corporate sector) have been "keeping America safe" for so many years... that I think those in the upper ranks of the military-industrial complex now think they "know it all". I think the reason General McChrystal doesn't respect President Obama, Vice President Biden, and others is that a larger mindset I will call "The Pentagon Knows Best" has taken over (or, I should say, is trying to take over) America.

For this reason, I do not think President Obama should fire General McChrystal. I don't think firing him will solve the underlying cause of the "mindset problem" that significantly influences how General McChrystal feels about his civilian commanders. (And, yes, I have heard that General McChrystal has been an outspoken, "push the limits of what's acceptable behavior" kind of guy since he first joined the military. But remember, we know that his staff shares his feelings.)

Rather than fire him, I believe President Obama should reassign General McChrystal to an entirely new position created especially for him. I believe President Obama should put General McChrystal in charge of returning the military-industrial complex to civilian control.

General McChrystal should be in charge of a very public (as in public hearings covered by C-Span) task force that (a) identifies all the ways in which the military-industrial complex has corrupted our system of democracy (and our system of capitalism) and (b) proposes the necessary remedies for returning both the military and those corporations that design and build all the things that "keep America safe" to the control of "we, the people".

I don't know how many of you remember how our troops in Iraq were forced to fight with inadequately armored HumVees and other equipment, but that was just one sign that the military-industrial complex is out of control. I'm sure there are many, many others.

Just as "only Nixon could go to China", I believe only someone like General McChrystal can take the military-industrial complex apart and put it back together in a way that eliminates the ego-driven mental "virus" that has "infected" its upper ranks.

In the motion picture "Gandhi", there is a wonderful scene in which a soldier from one religious tradition is forced to raise the orphaned child of a family from the opposite religion in that opposite religion... the religion that soldier has just been fighting against. It's a brilliant form of "punishment", because it forces the soldier to learn the traditions of the religion he hates... ostensibly for the benefit of an orphan. You can imagine how that would leave the soldier a changed man.

Well, for that same reason (that General McChrystal will be left a changed man), I see this as the perfect punishment for him.

(By the way, if you haven't seen the movie "Gandhi", I highly reccommend it. Here's a link to the trailer.)

We in America have many serious challenges ahead. And I believe that one of them is dealing with the unintended consequences of having been at war for so long. And, in my opinion, one of those unintended consequences is that our top protectors (like General McChrystal) and their corporate partners have begun to forget just who - and what - they are protecting.

I hope President Obama sees the systemic nature of General McChrystal's (and his staff's) behavior as I do. Because if he does, President Obama can use this opportunity to begin to restore the balance between the military and civilian sectors of American society... to rid the military-industrial complex of this "virus" that is a very real threat to the health and well-being of our democracy and our economy.