The president of the United States of America is the Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces in the United States.
This has been put in place by law and tradition throughout the ages and any military man who has sought to challenge the authority of the president has been deemed to be acting ultra vires and has been dismissed.
Any other action than dismissal by President Obama would have been seen as a sign of weakness that would have deemed him unfit to occupy the office of President.
The test of the resolve of a president was made when General Douglas MacArthur sought to defy and challenge the authority of President Harry S Truman who was thought to have been weak and not to have had the charisma, guts and power of his predecessor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The Americans in the Korean War thought that they would have easily swept through the Korean Peninsula and when they were pushed back and sought to regain their lost ground, MacArthur wanted to push again into Korea, cross the Yalu River and engage the enemy from whence the opposition to America seemed to have been coming.
The Communist Chinese responded by putting one million soldiers across the northern border/junction of Korea and China. Truman was daunted by the prospects of American forces being bogged down in a land war in Asia against an enemy that had a population that bordered on one billion souls.
With a World War II illustrious record of military conquest, MacArthur, who had told the people of the Philippines “I shall return”, had retreated to Australia and in a celebrated counter-offensive had conquered all the territories in the Pacific Ocean — an area of millions of square miles. He had brought the mighty Japanese Empire to its knees and aboard the USS Missouri had wrought the final humiliation of the Japanese.
He had conquered more territory than any other military commander in history. He was a US military icon of universal proportions and experience, but when he insisted that the US should bomb Manchuria and cross the Yalu River, Truman, who foresaw the beginnings of the Third World War so soon after the dust had scarcely settled on the end of the Second, asserted his role as Commander-in-Chief and fired MacArthur.
Mac Arthur’s return to the United States promulgated perhaps the biggest ticker-tape parade on Broadway in New York. The top 10 radio hits carried the tune “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” The Republicans offered MacArthur the position of Presidential Candidate in the Presidential Elections, but he refused and elected to serve out the rest of his active years lecturing at West Point Military Academy.
He never wrote in any cheap magazine criticising his Commander-in-Chief, his advisers and the conduct of the war. We are flabbergasted for a man who has reached the rank of general ought to have been taught and learnt what sort of behaviour was taboo for people who had arrived at such a high rank in the US Military.
Certainly a man of Obama’s education and love of positive action could not have been perceived as being weak. His work as a lawyer and a professor of Constitutional Law would have made him aware of MacArthur’s challenge to Truman and, like every student of Constitutional law, he would have discussed the role of the Commander-in-Chief, ad nauseam.
We are surprised at the attempts by newspaper writers and commentators to compare MacArthur and McChrystal. There is no room for comparison. MacArthur was a military genius; McChrystal is not.
What we are certain of is the way in which the United States Constitution and the military works have made it impossible for anyone to stand up to an elected president and vice-president, make fun of them or challenge their authority. The military academies and the tradition of service to their country all clearly demonstrate the over-all control exercised by the man who sits in the Oval Office in the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Some commentators in the United States had been suggesting that because General McChrystal had seemingly been the architect of the policy of creating the surge of troops in Afghanistan, that after his outburst about the conduct of the war, he should have been spanked on the wrist and allowed to continue to work.
President Obama remained very cool and declared that he would like to meet the general face to face and discuss any problems that he seemed to have with him. President Obama had a one-on-one meeting alone with him in the White House. We were not present at the encounter, but we know that Obama thoroughly chewed him out, dressed him down, and fired him on the spot.
All that nonsense about a resignation is a public relations ploy to save face for the fired general.