Chain of Command

Obama vs. the Generals

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, goes before the House and Senate Armed Services committees this week, and with him comes the question of whether the generals or President Obama are really in charge of the military. Top Democrats fear that the military chain of command will undermine Obama's goal of beginning to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by July 2011. The military's large wartime budget already allows commanders exceptional discretion over funds, and younger, press-savvy commanders such as Gen. David Petraeus and McChrystal are often quoted by the media. The September leak of McChrystal's confidential troop report recommending a surge as well as the leak of cables critical of the build-up written by the ambassador to Afghanistan, retired Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, further indicate a schism between military top brass and the White House. As Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) put it: "It concerns me when I see my president, the commander in chief, having to debate with generals. [...] I would expect generals to advise the president but not to go public."