Generally Speaking

From The NewYork Times:

WASHINGTON — Iraq may be President Bush’s war, but Gen. David H. Petraeus has become its front man: a clear-speaking, politically savvy, post-Vietnam combat veteran with a Ph.D. from Princeton. Given the failures that have plagued the mission from the start, he may yet be Mr. Bush’s best hope for sustaining public support for an unpopular war once his presidency ends.

Original DVD cover.

Now this astutely political general faces a season of political trials in the politically charged atmosphere of a presidential campaign — not to mention military ones, as illustrated by recent fighting in the southern city of Basra, which calls into question his efforts to prepare the Iraqi Army to stand on its own.


Such is General Petraeus’s position that President Bush has repeatedly said that he would do nothing not recommended by his chosen commander in Iraq. And so successfully have the two men — civilian and soldier — managed to sustain the war in defiance of public opinion that some in the punditry and blogosphere have given voice to visions of him as a military man with a political future.


General Petraeus, following the officers’ tradition of avoiding publicly partisan activity while in uniform, has repeatedly denied any civilian political ambition. Never mind that no one even knows which party he belongs to, if any. An aide said that he has not voted since he became a major general in 2001.


However reticent he is on that score, his ambition as a general was matched with an exceedingly challenging assignment on the ground in Iraq. After successfully arguing for the chance to test a new Army counterinsurgency strategy that he himself wrote, General Petraeus flooded Iraq’s cities with American forces, creating the military presence necessary to re-establish at least a semblance of authority in areas that had been taken over by extremist militias or terrorist groups. That allowed tribal leaders, especially in Sunni areas like Anbar Province, essentially to switch sides.

His success was thus in part political (as far as it went, critics would say). But the improvements in security he has presided over could evaporate if Iraq’s new leaders fall back into ethnic rivalries and violence. And the Iraqi Army’s inconclusive assault against Shiite militias in Basra last month, in which more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts, can’t be an encouraging sign.

At home, the war’s critics have accused General Petraeus of aligning himself far too closely with President Bush’s policies — above and beyond what would be required from any officer who answers to the commander in chief.


Lawrence J. Korb, a defense official under President Reagan who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, called General Petraeus “the most political general since Douglas MacArthur.” He cited an op-ed article the general wrote in The Washington Post defending the war and the progress being made in Iraq. The subject wasn’t as controversial as the timing; it appeared six weeks before the 2004 election between President Bush and Senator John Kerry, a race in which the war loomed large.

“That doesn’t help with the credibility of the profession,” Mr. Korb said. “He could have written that six months after the election.”

From the Navy Times:

In a sign of the potential fireworks to come next week when Bush administration officials unveil their plans for the next steps in Iraq, two Senate committee chairman said they believe the so-called surge of U.S. combat forces has failed.

And they acknowledge that there isn’t much they can do about it.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, said he expects U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Army Gen. David Petraeus, senior U.S. military commander in Iraq, to recommend maintaining current troop levels in Iraq instead of pushing ahead with a planned reduction this summer.


Levin and Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said they disagree that current troops levels should be maintained. But their hands are tied because they cannot muster the 60 votes needed in the Senate to block the certain filibuster that Republicans would launch to prevent any efforts to reduce U.S. troop levels further.


Biden said the surge of troops ordered last year as a move toward providing stability in Iraq has been a failure because the Iraqi government did not use the opportunity to resolve issues that were causing sectarian divisions.

“It is a little like ‘Groundhog Day,’ ” Biden said, referring to the 1993 movie in which the same day repeats itself again and again. “We are right back where we started.”


The U.S. military “did its job, but the Iraqis have not come together,” he said, describing the violence in Iraq as returning to 2005 levels.


Filed under 2008 election, Carl Levin, Chimpy, General Petraeus, George W. Bush, humor, Iraq War, John Kerry, John McCain, movies, parody, politics, Republicans, Ronald Reagan, Ryan Crocker, Senate Armed Services Committee, snark, Vietnam, Wordpress Political Blogs

16 responses to “Generally Speaking

  1. Progress is being made and this attack on the general will surely backfire…

  2. jeb

    Progress is being made? Really? Wow, what is the measuring stick for progress? Is it temporarily pacifying areas with concentrated force? If that is progress, do we recognize at some point that those areas will slide right back as soon as our troop numbers diminish?

    The General put himself in the spotlight. He has injected himself into the political discussion (as noted with his editorial right before the 2004 election. Certainly he can survive this.

    What needs to happen though is that the legislative branch needs to finally step up and get the executive (that is careening out of control) back under control.

  3. in2thefray

    Gen. Petraeus is the guy that amongst all his studies actually honed his knowledge to insurgency warfare. I served under a colonel who based on his studies moved on to literally writing the new book on armoured combat. Officers in all branches do this. They specialize in an area. They often go overlooked. Sometimes everything clicks and they step up. I would also say this holds true throughout our history. MacArthur was very effective in dispersing the Bonus Army post WWI. There was a reason for that. Look at the trail of Generals during the Civil War on the Union side.
    You can hate policy but trying to lay the smack down on the General specifically isn’t fully honest imo.

  4. nonnie9999

    welcome to the raisin, ben keeler. 😀
    might i ask–what progress? it seems to be a matter of one step forward, two steps back. and to what end? what is victory? what is success?

  5. nonnie9999

    hi jeb! 😀
    i totally agree. some in congress need to grow some spines and stop talking and actually start doing.

    hi i2tf! 😀
    i am not laying the smackdown on petraeus for his strategery. i am not schooled in military operations. what i do fault him for is being so political and unwavering in his support of chimpy. i trust admiral fallon’s assessment of petraeus as a brown-noser. there have been many reports of his political ambition. i don’t know about you, but i expect a general’s full focus to be on his troops, not on what is best for his own future.

  6. TRM

    Nonnie I’m afraid those weenies in Congress only talk because they know we have to keep doing what we’re doing

    They only keep up the talk to keep their base support sending money and voting them into office…

    I can’t wait for his report, I find it amusing when these career politicians, who have no clue whatsoever about anything military, start trying to drill a man as accomplished as Petreaus… Hillary? A glorified housewife? drilling this man? puhlease

  7. nonnie9999

    you will be surprised to find that i agree with you somewhat. there is very little congress can do right now, simply because there are a lot of cowards who will only do what will get them reelected instead of what is good for the country. a lot of them, on both sides of the aisle, spew a lot of nonsense just to keep their base happy, but they don’t do a damned thing to change anything.
    now i have a question for you, trm, my friend, if politicians with no military experience are not fit to question petraeus, then why are those who have no military experience–cheney, feith, wolfowitz, and the rest of them–allowed to plan a war?

  8. jeb

    Dispersing the Bonus Army is not an example as I would cite as effectiveness in2thefray. Sure he was effective but that’s pretty easy to do when you use brutality. Those protesters (who only sought what was promised to them) stood no more of a chance against armed soldiers than the protesters in Tianamin Square did.

    No one wants to single Petraeus out TRM but he has allowed Bush to lay this at his feet. Bush clearly had the surge strategy ready to go with blame for the General if it failed and another aircraft carrier moment if it succeeded. I actually believe that Petraeus had been ahead of the curve on counter-insurgency; he had experience and did a lot of strategic planning on this. However, he has not really implemented what he had planned because of the dictates of a White House that has overtly-politicized every decision to the detriment of the country. That means that Petraeus has allowed himself to be the poster-man of the surge and all that comes with it.

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  10. L B

    General Petraeus is another one I cannot wait to see brought down by association to the Decider Man. The whole lot of the GOP is infected with brain rot due to lack of use.

    Glad I stumbled upon your blog this morning.

  11. TRM

    Very good question nonnie, you almost got me with that one 🙂

    Fieth is a wonk… smart, but I can’t really speak of anything I think he has accomplished..

    But Wolfowitz and Cheney have defense cred’s galore! You already know I would follow Cheney into the bowels of hell for an egg sandwich!!!

    Our agreement that the stooges in DC are simple pandering chimps (both sides) brings us back to the same place we always end up…
    I am still convinced that overall the lib dem party is a failed ideology…. liberalism is based on lies, misery and forecast of doom….. I don’t get it…

  12. nonnie9999

    hi LB! 😀
    i’m glad you stumbled upon the raisin, too! hope you will stop by regularly. i like your blog, too. i was just there, and i am still laughing. well, laughing with tears in my eyes, you know how it is.

  13. nonnie9999

    honey, what are you drinking? seriously, put it down. now! liberalism is based on doom? i suggest you listen to the rethuglican candidate for preznit, capt. underpants, and then you can tell me what rosy scenario he is running on.
    and exactly what are you so crazy about cheney for? for downsizing the military and its budget when he was sec’y of defense? isn’t that what all you righties bitch about with bill clinton? isn’t he the big bad guy for downsizing the military?

  14. jeb

    If you followed Cheney into the bowels of hell for an egg sandwich, you’d have to buy it from Halliburton/KBR for millions of dollars, the egg would be missing and Cheney would be laughing all of the way to the bank.

  15. nonnie9999

    😆 and the mayonnaise will give you food poisoning!

  16. historical note: Mac violated two direct Presidential orders by crossing the river and burning out the Bonus Army. Earned himself a long vacation to Manila.