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What to make of McChrystal's removal?

President Obama, joined by Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announces he is replacing Gen. McChrystal.
President Obama, joined by Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announces he is replacing Gen. McChrystal.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Experts assess Obama's relieving Gen. McChrystal of his command
  • One commentator compares it to Truman's firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur
  • Another says this is an opportunity to rethink strategy in Afghanistan
  • Analyst says President Obama showed steely resolve his critics didn't believe he had
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(CNN) -- President Obama removed Gen. Stanley McChrystal from his post as top U.S. commander in Afghanistan on Wednesday because of published comments that were critical of the administration. Obama said McChrystal had violated the military code of conduct and announced that Gen. David Petraeus will replace him.

CNN.com has gathered opinions on the meaning and repercussions of these developments.

Obama risks alienating military even more

Ed Rollins: The president made one of the most difficult decisions of his presidency today. By firing Gen. McCrystal, President Obama showed he was the boss and nobody better disrespect the boss. Civilian rule over the military is the backbone of our Constitution. It was the president's right to do what he did and many will applaud it.

But the president better understand there are consequences to his action. The military already has little respect for him and others in this administration and those feelings will only get amplified by today's action. Generals are not irreplaceable parts. Each one is different and each one has unique skill sets. McChrystal was extraordinary, and for the service he has given his country he needs to be applauded and forever thanked. The men under his command respected him and were willing to follow him into battle. The Afghan war is already unpopular and very difficult. Obama's presidency will be judged in many ways by the success or failure of this war's efforts. It is now going to be led by someone who is going to be watched closely and knows he can make no mistakes.

Many have compared this incident to President Truman's firing Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1951. Historians look back on Truman as a great president, but the public hated Truman and overwhelming rejected his decision. McArthur was welcomed home with a ticker-tape parade and cheered wherever he went, including by the Congress when he gave his farewell speech.

McChrystal deserves no less. Let's remember his service to his country and his bravery and not focus on silly coments made in a locker room atmosphere.

Ed Rollins, senior political contributor for CNN, is senior presidential fellow at the Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University. and was White House political director for President Reagan.

Biggest threat to White House is the war, not McChrystal

Julian Zelizer: In the short-term, President Obama resolved this crisis. He has demonstrated that he is in control of the military and that he will keep a tight leash on everyone under his command. There is no room for comments such as those that appeared in Rolling Stone. Moreover, the president has replaced Gen. McChrystal with the most trusted military official around: Gen. David Petraeus, who many credit with having saved America's position in Iraq.

Video: Obama 'accepts' McChrystal's resignation

But this does not solve the bigger issue at hand: the fundamental problems with the goals and strategies of America's problematic war in Afghanistan. This war is not yet a quagmire, but it has certainly not been moving in the right direction.

This is where the president actually faces his most difficult challenge, this is where he needs to show clarity and resolve. The war continues to drain valuable resources and cost American lives. There have been many questions, from the left, right and center, about what the administration hopes to accomplish and many concerns about the deterioration of the conditions on the ground. If the administration is wise, it will use this controversy as an opportunity to revisit and re-examine the plans in that dangerous region, making certain that the U.S. has a sound policy for reversing the negative developments that have taken place in the past few months.

When Patraeous took over Iraq there was a fundamental shift in strategy. This time he takes over but, thus far, the strategy remains the same.

The war, not Gen. McChrystal, constitutes the greatest threat to this White House.

Julian Zelizer is professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and author of "Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security: From World War II to the War on Terrorism."

President Obama made a principled decision

Patrick Cronin: President Obama has converted a crisis of command into an opportunity for leadership. By his decisive action to relieve Gen. McChrystal for eroding trust in civilian-run military, while simultaneously appointing Gen. Petraeus to head operations in Afghanistan, the president has renewed the unity of effort across our government that will be necessary to meet some of the most salient security goals of the nation.

It is especially important that his principled decision not be seen as Washington political theater, but rather as an arduous judgment call to avoid having bureaucratic politics distract from the very serious mission of our forces in the field.

Patrick M. Cronin is senior adviser and senior director of the Asia Program Center for a New American Security.

Troubles with strategy more profound than frat-boy trash talk

Fotini Christia: Gen. McChrystal's Rolling Stone profile was no doubt uncouth in its remarks about the civilian leaders of the Afghan campaign. But there was no love to be lost between Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and the general. The clash of their titan egos is, after all, a staple topic of conversation in Kabul circles.

This leadership rift, however, mirrors a more profound tension in the counterinsurgency doctrine. The doctrine tasks the military with a mission that is largely civilian in nature: to protect the local population and win hearts and minds through governance and development. The civilians, who feel they know how to do this better but can't project their power and presence in the Afghan periphery -- they are stuck in urban centers and can't make it out to the rural areas in any large numbers -- feel alienated for having to do their work via a military proxy. And this frustration is evident all the way from the top echelons down to the soldiers on the ground.

The Rolling Stone piece, in the days leading to the Kandahar process, has shifted our attention away from the war effort to frat-boy trash talk. With Gen. Petraeus at the helm, it is time to put it behind us and focus on the lives on the ground.

Fotini Christia is assistant professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is writing a book on civil wars in Afghanistan.

Obama showed resolve and no tolerance for insubordination

Paul Begala: With the whole world watching, President Obama has displayed a steely resolve his critics didn't believe he had. In firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal and replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus, Obama has accomplished a lot.

He firmly asserted the supremacy of the presidency and civilian control of the military, demonstrating that, no matter how heroic a soldier's prior service, insubordination will not be tolerated. "War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general or president," President Obama said. "I welcome debate among my team, but I won't tolerate division."

He demonstrated personal toughness, proving he is not someone, in the words of George W. Bush, to be "misunderestimated." He silenced the McChrystal defenders who said the controversial general was indispensable to the mission, persuading an even more impressive general, David Petraeus, to leave Central Command and take over the Afghan command.

He doubled down on the counterinsurgency strategy as developed by Petraeus, advocated by McChrystal and adopted by President Obama. For Obama, the mission is more important than the man. Today our professorial, cool, reflective president showed a spine of steel and an ability to make hard decisions without blinking an eye. America's allies -- and our adversaries -- would do well to keep this day in mind when they think about testing Barack Obama.

Paul Begala is a Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor. He was a political consultant for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 and was counselor to Clinton in the White House. He is an affiliated professor at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute.

Was McChrystal lulled into false sense of security?

Eric Blehm: It is a sad irony that President Karzai came to the defense of Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the past two days, attempting to dissuade the Obama administration from firing him. Stanley McChrystal is the first military leader to develop a close working relationship with the Afghan president since Jason Amerine's team of Green Berets fought alongside Karzai in 2001.

President Karzai is used to being in the Obama administration's cross-hairs over his own ill-advised comments, so the controversy surrounding the general likely hits close to home for him. Gen. McChrystal built a strong relationship with President Karzai since he took command, but has been on very shaky ground with his own commander-in-chief, President Obama.

The Rolling Stone article was the coup-de-grace that ended the general's tenure because it portrayed him as a warrior beholden to none, who scorns the civil authority he serves. Perception is reality in this case. He and his staff likely became too close to the journalist, perhaps lulled into a false sense of casual camaraderie, believing he would be kind to them in the story. Such hubris was born of their belief that they were right and everyone else was wrong: They held the conviction that their actions in Afghanistan were so correct that the journalist could only write about the good and couldn't possibly question their motives.

One can often forgive comments that were taken out of context by journalists. In this case, however, such comments betrayed distance and distrust from President's Obama's most important military commander. It was McChrystal's job to carry out the administration's agenda in Afghanistan, but the article portrays him as a soldier's soldier who actively spits in the eye of his own leadership. Everyone can be replaced, as Gen. McChrystal just proved -- even, perhaps, the man best suited for getting the job done in Afghanistan.

Eric Blehm is the author of "The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged A New Afghanistan" (HarperCollins).

Obama did the right thing: Now time to move on

Donna Brazile: President Obama's decision to accept Gen. McChrystal's resignation was the right thing to do. McChrystal demonstrated not just only poor judgment, but disrespect for the chain of command and the civilian leadership. The comments attributed to the general and members of his inner circle were rude, impolite, childish and inappropriate.

The mission in Afghanistan is far too important for one man to completely distract us from its completion.

After months of painstaking review and internal deliberations, President Obama accepted the general's assessments and ratified his counter-insurgency strategy. Just as important as it is to gain the trust and cooperation of the Afghanistan people and leadership to complete our mission, it is vital that those in charge of its implementation adhere to the proper protocols and respect of the chain of command.

Gen. McChrystal has served his country with honor and distinction. But it's clear he does not respect those ultimately responsible for shaping U.S. war policy. Gen. Petraeus, who also backed the strategy now under way, will now have to boost troop morale to ensure the success of the coalition's efforts.

As for the president's strident and vociferous critics, they are going to go on the attack either way. The important factor now is for the U.S. and it allies to complete the mission and bring our brave troops home soon.

Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee, a nationally syndicated columnist and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She was the campaign manager for the Al Gore-Joe Lieberman ticket in 2000.

The opinions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of the authors.