Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, knows a thing or two about leadership. But he recently changed his mind about one of his long-time heroes: The leading Confederate general, Robert E. Lee.
“In the minds of the military, Robert E. Lee was sort of a perfect soldier,” McChrystal told the audience at Fortune‘s Brainstorm Reinvent conference in Chicago on Monday evening. His thinking on the man—and what he stands for—has now evolved.
In 1976, McChrystal’s wife gave him a picture of Lee, which he kept on his wall for decades. A little over a year ago, though, McChrystal says he went through “a journey” and gave Lee’s legacy a closer look. The result? “In the summer of 2017, I went and took it [the photo of Lee] off the wall and put it in the garbage,” said McChrystal, explaining that the symbols Lee is associated with (white supremacy and slavery, for example) are not things he is comfortable with. “This otherwise extraordinary soldier, we had simplified him.”
I have no respect for people who allow current events to smudge their view of historical figures.
Were we to use McChrystal’s standard/criteria in throwing that picture in the trash, we would value no one from the past and, well, we might just as well close down all of the museums and historical homes of all of the dead.
I never had much respect for McChrystal anyway but I’m fairly tough on current Generals who have won no wars and took the easy road that has led to the era of no victory.