23 June 2010

Stepping up by stepping down

In the hours leading up to Gen. McChrystal's sacking, various sources had mentioned a number of fine officers as potential replacements for Gen. McChrystal, such as Gen. James Mattis of US Joint Forces Command; and Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the deputy commander for US Forces-Afghanistan.

Few, however, suspected the obvious choice:  General David H. Petraeus, quite possibly one of the most brilliant generals ever to don the uniform.  However, as commander of US Central Command, he's responsible for the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  Thus, if he commits to managing the war in Afghanistan full-time, he will technically be accepting a demotion.

Initially, I thought the move was unprecedented, but I've seen the same thing happen earlier this month, when Canadian Brigadier General Jonathan Vance replaced Brig. Gen. Daniel Menard, who was relieved of command for an inappropriate relationship with an enlisted woman (not to mention his questionable rifle-handling skills).  Brig. Gen. Vance had previously served as the commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, and was uniquely qualified to step back into his old post.  Brig. Gen. Vance's experience was all the more critical with the impending offensive in Kandahar.

I think this speaks volumes about the character of these officers.  Both of these men have answered the call in Afghanistan by relinquishing more prestigious jobs in order to guide NATO forces through this turbulent period.

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