By David Sirota
“I am in control here in the White House.” —Secretary of State Alexander Haig, 1981
Ah, the good old days when even a big shot like Gen. Al Haig could get in trouble for such mavericky declarations that defy basic constitutional precedents.
In the 21st century, that’s ancient history. We’ve so idealized cowboy-style rebellion in matters of war and law enforcement that “going Haig” is today honored as “going rogue.” Defiance, irreverence, contempt—these are the moment’s most venerated postures, no matter how destructive or lawless.
The Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping and torture sessions were the most obvious examples of the rogue sensibility on steroids. But then came McCain-Palin, a presidential ticket predicated almost singularly on the rogue brand. And now, even in the Obama era, that brand pervades.
It began re-emerging in September with Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Afghan escalation plan. McChrystal didn’t just ask President Barack Obama for more troops—protocol-wise, that would have been completely appropriate. No, McChrystal went rogue, pre-emptively leaking his request to the media, then delivering a public address telling Obama to immediately follow his orders.
Incredibly, few politicians or pundits raised objections to McChrystal’s behavior. Worse, rather than firing McChrystal, Obama meekly agreed to his demands, letting Americans know that when it comes to foreign policy, the rogue general—not the popularly elected president—is in control in the White House.