Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"You Can't Handle the Truth!

In the 1990's, Rob Reiner directed a good movie called "A Few Good Men."  The film depicted the investigation of a young private's death at Gitmo in Cuba and the resulting court martial.  Near the end of the film as the story reached its climax, the main villain of the piece played so well by Jack Nicholson, uttered a line that has become a part of the lexicon.  When pressed by the character portrayed by Tom Cruise for the truth, Nicholson's character shouted, "You can't handle the truth!"  This line reminds me of the top news story that has actually managed to bump the BP oil spill from the lead story momentarily.

While it is very true that no one in the military should ever level criticism of the kind that General Stanley McCrystal did toward the Obama administration, maybe we should take a moment in the midst of all the hysteria and listen to what the general has to say.

McCrystal should have never revealed his criticisms to a Rolling Stone reporter.  He should have voiced those criticisms and concerns through the chain of command.  The military is absolutely dependent on strict adherence to discipline.  Without it, combat would be more of a nightmare than it already is.  No general has the right to go public with his criticism of the Commander in Chief regardless of the validity of his concerns.  However, maybe we should give an ear to the general and consider his complaints.

General McCrystal has served on the front line for a very long time and, because of this, knows firsthand what the every day troops must endure.  He also knows in great detail what it is like to deal with the Obama administration.  He sees the flaws in his leaders and is rightly concerned about how those flaws will effect the lives of the troops in the field. 

I have to wonder why the administration, elected on a platform of being more open and honest with he American people, has become so defensive in this matter.  Shouldn't they listen to the general a little more carefully to learn from their mistakes so that they can improve the lines of communication and command?  We teach our children to learn from their mistakes.  Is it really true that the President of the United States is above all that and couldn't possibly learn from his errors. 

We had the absurdity of George W. Bush not being able to think of one mistake that he made when he was pressed by a reporter.  Remember the outcry then?  Now, with Barack Obama at the helm, are we to believe that the president is incapable of making a mistake as well.  Maybe he was not prepared to meet with the general during that first meeting as McCrystal claims?  Where is the crime in this?  Haven't we all been in situations where we have found ourselves unprepared to take on a new and important task?  Granted, the task of the president in these matters is far above what most of us will encounter.  But the point is still there.

I do think that General McCrystal does need to be disciplined for his apparent insubordination.  But I also think we need to listen to him to see where we can do better.  I think it is the Obama administration's duty to see to it that they learn from the incidents outlined by the general and correct the situations the general reports.  Or is it, Mr. President, that, "You can't handle the truth"?