As Steve argues over at The Weekly Standard, and says in a comment here on Ricochet, "McChrystal Must Go." The Rolling Stone fiasco, Steve asserts, has weakened McChrystal irreparably, rendering him incapable of standing up to the civilians to whom he reports, including the commander-in-chief. Anyone commanding our troops in Afghanistan, Steve argues, must be in a position to tell Barack Obama things he just won't want to hear. If the President keeps him in his job, McChrystal will find himself too beholden to the President to stand up to him.
The argument strikes me as entirely compelling--except for one point: Who the heck would replace McChrystal? McChrystal commands the loyalty, even the devotion, of the troops on the ground; he represents perhaps the Pentagon's leading practitioner of counter-insurgency warfare; and he appears to be very nearly the only American in the military, the state department, the White House or anywhere else who has a good working relationship with Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan. Steve endorses Bill Kristol's suggestion that the President should ask Gen. Petraeus to lay down his present duties at Central Command in Florida to replace McChrystal. Which leads me to ask two questions of Steve. (And I don't intend these as in any way tendentious. Steve covers the war beat. He's a lot more likely to know the answers than is yours truly.)
1. As a practical matter, is there truly any chance either that the President would ask Petraeus to replace McChrystal--or that Petraeus would agree to do so?
2. Absent Petraeus, can anybody name, say, two or three likely candidates whom we have reason to believe could do the job as well as McChrystal?