Generals Gone Wild

General Petraeus - gone wild  :   http://mariopiperni.com/

I’ve been reluctant to write on this Petraeus stuff and wasn’t sure why that was so. I am now. I just don’t care. I really don’t.

Maybe there’s something I’m just not seeing in this story of cheating 4-star generals and their equally unfaithful email-loving women…but whatever it is, I still don’t care. That said, and without any attempt to excuse the behavior of any of the players in this sordid tale, here’s something to think about.

That’s the thing about Petraeus. He isn’t some sort of paragon of virtue as people on the right want to claim, nor is he just business as usual in his abuse of power and position as some on the left seem to believe. There is something unique about him and what he’s done, and I just wish people would look at the situation essentially sui generis rather than as confirmation of one worldview or another.

There is a perception, I think, that general officers are  swinging dick, alpha-males, screwing, boozing, and brawling their way through life. And sure, there are some like that, but in my experience, general officers are about as far from that stereotype as possible. They are usually driven, hard-working, introspective, and bookish. Whether they went to the service academies or ROTC, they rarely had time to party even as undergrads. They often marry young, have kids young, and spend much of their time either deployed or struggling to pay attention to their families when they are home.  They are, in short, often nerds (in a good way), and they are not always well-equipped emotionally to deal with the kind of attention they begin to attract as they rise in rank, and particularly as they pin on stars. General Allen, for instance, has a reputation as a serious, bookish guy. Now maybe he’s a serial cheater, and Jill Kelley was just another actual or potential conquest, but more likely, in my estimation, is that he just didn’t quite know how to handle her attention. I dunno, but I think it worth keeping in mind that possibility.

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General and Saint – David Petraeus

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I agree with all of this.  Andrew Sullivan.

The canonization of Petraeus has got to stop. He follows in the footsteps of Colin Powell who mastered the art of Beltway schmoozing and press management. But at least Powell won a war where Petraeus has so far lost two (can anyone now believe, as Iraq descends into political chaos and increasing violence, that the surge was simply a face-saver to get most, but not all, of the US troops out, after failing to achieve the original war goals?).

And the Palin meme – that somehow members of the military have some kind of special status in a civilian republic and their political views demand more respect than those of others – is just as repugnant.

We owe servicemembers immense respect and gratitude for their courage and service – but we also owe them – to honor the civilian democracy they serve – no more influence or status in the political arena than anyone else. The idea that the military is given an effective veto over a Congressional and presidential decision is a dangerous precedent.

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This is a country run by civilians, whose elected offices are as valid regardless of their military experience, and the military’s job is to take orders, to offer private and confidential military – not political – advice to their commander-in-chief. Their role after that in public is quite simple: to shut the fuck up.

The way in which Petraeus is leveraging his Iraq experience – an experience which, as every day reveals, ended in total failure except as a temporary face-saver for partial withdrawal – and his media clout to force an elected president into an open-ended commitment in Afghanistan is deeply disturbing. It’s long since time we put these commanders and their enablers in their place.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Petraeus’ Wins “Worst Week” Award

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Chris Cilizza named Gen. David Petraeus as the recipient of the ‘Worst Week in Washington’ award.  Here are the reasons he cites.

* Petraeus is already a bona fide war hero who now has to put his sterling reputation on the line in a war that many military strategists — including members of McChrystal’s inner circle — view as unwinnable.

* Petraeus moves from Tampa, Florida — home of U.S. Central Command — to Kabul, Afghanistan. ‘Nuff said.

* In some circles, Petraeus was regarded as Republicans’ strongest potential 2012 candidate against Obama. His new post effectively ends that speculation.

I could see the first two being downers but I can’t quite see why his new post would negate his running in 2012 if he so chooses.  If it’s a timing issue, then he could surely spend the next six to 10 months implementing his Afghan strategy, then turn it over to some other military whiz kid and take a run in 2012.  No?

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Afghanistan – The Unfixable War

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Eugene Robinson:

The good news? Nobody has to pretend anymore that Gen. Stanley McChrystal knew how to fix Afghanistan within a year. The bad news? Now we’re supposed to pretend that Gen. David Petraeus does.

It’s no longer about winning this war.  It’s about finding a way to exit without making it appear that it was lost.  Just like Iraq.

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Petraeus’ Challenge

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Joe Klein on why progressives and the anti-war crowd are going to be seriously disappointed come next year.

It seems obvious that Obama is going to have to be less coy with the public about what is really going to happen in July 2011, even if that risks alienating his party’s vestigial antiwar base. He is going to have to make it clear that “significant” troop withdrawals — a word bandied about in recent weeks — are not in the cards unless the situation on the ground changes dramatically, for good or ill. And Petraeus is going to have to reconsider whether the crown jewel in his tiara — the counterinsurgency doctrine — is really feasible in Afghanistan and what strategic modifications will have to be made in order to leave the place in the most stable, humane fashion.

These adjustments should not be difficult; they simply require the good faith and respect from both sides that have been lost, as McChrystal’s crushing indelicacy so clearly demonstrated.

The thinking is that Afghanistan is not Iraq and what worked there (to some degree), the counterinsurgency strategy of funding specific factions, is not applicable to the Afghan war where battling foreign terrorists is not a major part of the problem.  This godforsaken war is going to require a different tactic and it is now Petraeus’ task to divine such a strategy.

It appears more likely with each passing defeat that the eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan is going to take on a Vietnam feel to it.  Declare victory no matter what the situation on the ground looks like and get the hell out of there.

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