A confession: I’ve always been a huge Douglas MacArthur fan. What’s not to like about an American general who leads men into battle wearing riding pants, a turtle neck sweater, and a flowing purple scarf knit by his mother? Okay, okay, quite a lot, as even I will admit.

First of all, there was that insubordination thingy. But is the Stanley McChrystal-Douglas MacArthur comparison really apt? There are some intriguing naysayers out there this morning.

George Will, who believes that McChrystal had to go, nevertheless rejects the MacArthur comparison:

 MacArthur had some of the genius and much of the egomania of a former artillery captain, Napoleon. This made MacArthur insubordinate and got him cashiered by a former artillery captain, Harry Truman. Although McChrystal is a fine soldier who rendered especially distinguished service in Iraq, there is no reason to ascribe to him either egomania or insubordination. He did, however, emphatically disqualify himself from further military service and particularly from service in Afghanistan. There the military’s purely military tasks are secondary to the political and social tasks for which the military is ill-suited, and for which McChrystal is garishly so.


Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, John Woo, former George W. Bush justice department official, also fails to see MacArthur in McChrystal: Stanley McChrystal is no Douglas MacArthur or George McClellan. But President Barack Obama has treated him like one.

Woo, who is a controversy magnet, believes that McChrystal’s sins didn’t merit being relieved of his command:

 By all accounts, Gen. McChrystal, who commanded the American forces in Afghanistan until yesterday, agrees with Mr. Obama on wartime strategy and goals. His sin? He harbors a low opinion of his commander in chief.

I haven’t read the Rolling Stone article, but Woo maintains that the toxic quotes were mostly from anonymous aides and not the general himself:

According to an unnamed aide quoted in a Rolling Stone interview, Gen. McChrystal said that Mr. Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the roomful of military brass in his first Pentagon meeting as president. Their first face-to-face meeting after Mr. Obama had appointed Gen. McChrystal to take charge of the Afghanistan war went worse. “It was a 10-minute photo op,” an aide was quoted. “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his [expletive deleted] war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

For these anonymous, second-hand remarks, the president summoned his commander to Washington yesterday for an explanation and then fired him. According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, “the magnitude and greatness of the mistake here are profound.”