So to fire or not to fire? Here’s how I see it:
If Obama doesn’t fire McChrystal — and until this week, I thought he never would — then it appears to prove one of the issues raised in our story. That Obama can, in fact, be pushed around by the generals, and that they can more or less get away with whatever they want. Recent history backs this up. While reporting the story, a U.S. official told me, “McChrystal can’t be fired.” The domestic political dynamics meant the president was stuck with McChrystal, regardless of behavior. And I heard yesterday that Obama wasn’t going to summon the general to DC at first — he was going to dress him down at an upcoming meeting about Afghanistan/Pakistan policy.
If Obama does fire him, this would be a moment for the president to try to assert control over a policy that has been totally out of his control this past year. But with all the buildup and the hype over the new strategy in Afghanistan — a strategy devised and promoted by McChrystal, in large part — I would be quite astounded if Obama does fire him. It would likely cause all sorts of headaches on the ground, delay the already delayed operation in Kandahar even further, and bring plenty of unwanted attention (from the White House’s perspective) to the president’s Afghan policy.