In a press statement Wednesday, President Obama accepted General Stanley A. McChrystal’s resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, stating he did so “with considerable regret.” This came on the heels of the controversial remarks McChrystal made in a Rolling Stone interview about the President and his administration. Obama said, “I welcome debate among my team, but I won’t tolerate division.”
Important distinctions: Debate versus division, disinclined versus disloyal, disagreement versus disrespect.
As a former school principal, I had my share of debates with school staff, but those who remained under my employee understood that, as the assigned leader to our campus, I controlled the debate. When it was time to move on, we did so in a united fashion. Some dragged their feet to comply with the decision, but they did so rather than show outward disloyalty, which would have been deemed insubordination. There were always those who disagreed with the outcome of any debate, but they displayed respect on the outside, even if they lacked respect on the inside.
When all was said and done, those who continued to work under my leadership did exactly that – they worked under my leadership, not in opposition to it. They communicated and cooperated. They put on their big girl panties and bit their tongues when necessary. They moved in concert with the group toward the same goal. Those who were zealous for the concert were my co-leaders. Those who were more reticent, yet still compliant, were valuable followers. But those who could not move in concert with us chose to work elsewhere. They were freed from their responsibilities – in one way or another.
The way in which Obama freed McChrystal from his responsibilities – by allowing him to resign – respected the General, even though the General clearly disrespected the President. Obama even thanked him for his “enormous contributions”.
President Obama explained in a press statement Wednesday that this decision was made because“the conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general,” conduct that undermines civilian control of the military and erodes trust vital to the nation’s team. McChrystal stepped over the line between disagreement and disrespect, thus threatening the related lines of loyalty and unity.
We do not know the details of this morning’s conversation between President Obama and General McChrystal. We only know the result. Either the President, McChrystal, or both determined that the relationship must be severed.
Romans 13:7 says, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Subordinates owe respect to their supervisors. If one cannot pay what is owed, then he should no longer be in a position of such obligation.