Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (July 2) is incorrect in comparing the firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal to any civilian gaffe, criticism, or unethical or immoral behavior. The military goes by different rules, and every soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine knows it. Furthermore, advancing to the rank of general, great or otherwise, is a very political activity.
Being distracted by “more important things” and not being an expert in public relations is no argument. A general very well knows the requirements of good p.r. and how bad p.r. can undermine his professional goals. There are no excuses for a general, and, as unfair or unkind as that may sound, Gen. McChrystal well knew the punishment for the error.
Patton was a great general, but he was disciplined for all sorts of “non-P.C.” behavior. The nation owed him a debt. His superior officers, including the commander-in-chief, did not.
When it comes to civilians, the commander-in-chief can be called all sorts of names, his motives and intelligence called into question. Each and every time a civilian does that, he or she gets a free pass. It’s even possible the commander-in-chief would give the person a hug and express gratitude for the First Amendment. Not so for a general. Appearances matter in the military. For a general to get away with any amount of insubordination undermines the whole concept of good order and discipline. It’s part of the way of life.
That’s one reason why many of us who served did not choose to make it a career. When I served in the Navy as an officer (1971-73) I willingly left certain rights at the door. When I returned to civilian life, I proudly took those rights and responsibilities of citizenship back.