The concept that discretion remains the greater part of valor played out in living color Wednesday as the latest leader of the war in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChyrstal, lost his command over comments he and his staff made in the presence of a reporter.

McChrystal, who gave Rolling Stone magazine a month of unfettered access, displayed a lack of discipline that was uncharacteristic of his long career.

While many will disagree, it seems President Barack Obama had few options before him as a contrite McChrystal offered up his resignation at the White House.

The general’s comments about his superiors, and the details of his behavior, showed not only poor judgment but likely violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The code governs the actions of all members of the U.S. Armed Services, both enlisted and commissioned, requiring military members to act in a manner that will not bring dishonor to all who wear a uniform with a U.S. insignia on it.

One reg specifically addresses “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”

Dancing and loudly singing a song mocking Afghan wedding traditions would qualify as an unbecoming action, especially when performed before a reporter and in a foreign country — France.

That action not only hurts our relations with our allies, both French and Afghani, but could also jeopardize the support our troops on the ground ultimately receive from both nations.

The battle for hearts and minds is not won by mocking the culture and traditions of an occupied nation.

Further, the timing of the story could not have been worse for Obama or the nation.  Indeed, losing any support from our allies on the eve of a major new push to regain control of the volatile Kandahar region and, in the midst of a national crisis, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, only distracts and weakens the nation and the government.

In his decision to simply relieve McChrystal of his post, it was Obama, a non-military man, who showed the degree of discretion and restraint the general should have exhibited.

While McChrystal’s perceived offenses could be punishable by a military court martial, Obama did not push for that.

Instead, it appears the president relied on another part of the UCMJ that allows for a commander’s non-judicial punishment, such as relief of command.

To that end, and despite his personal and derogatory comments against his commander, the general was not stripped of any rank nor otherwise punished.

By dismissing McChrystal, and at the same time acknowledging his long and honorable service, Obama took the highest road possible.

The president made the point that the rules, especially those calling for strict adherence to a code of discipline, are applicable to all members of the armed forces, from raw recruits to generals.

“War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general or a president,” Obama said. “As difficult as it is to lose Gen. McChrystal, I believe it is the right decision for our national security.”

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