Sometimes I get obsessed with the news. A headline will catch my eye and something about the story will completely captivate me so that I’m following the whole saga on numerous national and international news sites. The past two days I have been closely following the fallout from comments made by Lt. General McChrystal, commander of the U.S. Afghan forces, to a Rolling Stone reporter. Apparently, the General and his staff made several off-color remarks about prominent civilian leaders (including the Vice President). When news of the article became public the General was immediately summoned to Washington D.C. and asked to account for his behavior.
McChrystal offered a public statement of apology for the remarks, which, from other news stories I have read, really do not mirror his actions throughout his career. Yet immediately there were cries from politicians and political junkies to remove the General from his position. President Obama met with General McChrystal this morning to discuss the situation. Call me an old-fashioned idealist, but here is how I had hoped this conversation would go…
The President: General, you’ve messed up. What do you have to say for yourself?
The General: Mr. President, I have made a fool of myself and of this country. I lost my focus and said things that should not have been spoken, especially not to a reporter. I am truly sorry for letting you down and the country down. I understand the precarious position this puts you in and am ready to offer my resignation if that is what you think best. I am also committed to continuing on in our mission in Afghanistan and am committed to the cause of rooting out terrorism and helping to secure peace in the Middle East.
The President: General, I thank you for your apology. There is a lot of work ahead of us. I can’t deny that my trust in your abilities and loyalty to this cause has not been shaken. You are a General in the United States Army. I expect better of you. This country expects better of you. Your troops deserve better of you. I have given this a lot of thought and prayer and have come to a decision. While your comments were stupid and unprofessional, you were appointed to this post for a reason. It is not in the best interest of this campaign to lose you, especially due to the ramblings of some young, punk upstart reporter. I am willing to take the political heat from this decision. Goodness knows we’ve all said things we regret later. But I expect you to make amends here. You will recount every word that was spoken in that article. You go directly from this office to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and offer a sincere and humble apology. You will then fly back to Afghanistan where you will meet with the troops to apologize for putting them in more harm’s way and to reassure them of your commitment to this mission.
Unfortunately, there is little room for forgiveness in today’s political world. A misjudged sound byte can ruin even the most prestigious of careers. The President asked for and received General McChrystal’s resignation. I can’t help but feel a measure of disappointment. I know little about the General or his accomplishments, but I know a lot about grace. And I think that we, as a nation, are missing it. I think the President missed an opportunity here to show grace in a very real and public way. In that sense, I think he made the wrong decision. But he is just a man, after all. Thank goodness God isn’t!!
Blessings and Peace,