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McChrystal's Toast, Based On History

The great debate in Washington Tuesday was over whether Gen. Stanley McChrystal would or wouldn't keep his job as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan because the by-now infamous Rolling Stone story.

NPR.org's Alan Greenblatt examines the historical record and concludes that the general might want to start packing up his office. An excerpt:

If history is any guide, McChrystal will not be able to survive the controversy surrounding disparaging comments about President Obama, Vice President Biden and other administration officials that he and members of his staff made to a Rolling Stone reporter. McChrystal has apologized for the comments and been called to a meeting at the White House with the president.

It has not been common for generals to publicly challenge policies set by the president, but it has happened. In such cases, they've been fired. The bedrock American concept of civilian control over the military essentially demands it.

"I can't imagine, at this point in time, how he could maintain the trust of the president," Richard H. Kohn, a military historian at the University of North Carolina, says about McChrystal. "A culture developed on his staff of contempt for the political leadership."