U.S. General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal speaks during a session called "Lessons in Leadership" at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council meeting in Washington December 2, 2014.
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

U.S. Commander Stanley McChrystal's very public participation in the Obama administration's internal debate about its Afghanistan strategy has highlighted the continuing challenges to civil-military relations that I wrote about in Foreign Affairs two years ago ("Bush and the Generals," May/June 2007).

McChrystal first waded into the strategy debate with his leaked assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, which concluded that the United States should shift its strategy to population security and dedicate more resources and up to 40,000 additional troops to the war. Days later, he revealed that he had spoken to the president only once since his appointment as commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and, in an address in London, went on to dismiss as "short-sighted" Vice President Joe Biden's preferred strategy of cutting U.S. losses and prosecuting the campaign using Predator and cruise-missile strikes.

Needless to say, senior Obama administration officials were not pleased. Obama's

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  • MICHAEL C. DESCH is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.
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