Tuesday, October 02, 2007

'American Conservative' Magazine Calls Petraeus A "Sycophant"

By Cernig

Ron at Middle Earth Journal has noticed that there's a pressing need for another pointless Senate resolution aimed at a group criticizing General Petraeus' honor.

American Conservative's Andrew J. Bacevich , though, thinks Petraeus is a sycophant because he didn't use his clout as the perceived savior of Bush's Iraq policy to demand more troops, money and time to exploit his Surge to the utmost.
Critics have questioned the data that Petraeus offered to substantiate his case. They charge him with relying on dubious statistics, with ignoring facts that he finds inconvenient, and with discovering trends where none exist. They question whether to credit the much-touted progress in Anbar province to American shrewdness or to the vagaries of Iraqi sectarian and tribal politics. They cite the pathetic performance of the corrupt and dysfunctional Iraqi government. They note the disparity between the Petraeus assessment and those offered by the intelligence community, by the Government Accountability Office, and by congressionally appointed blue-ribbon commissions. They point out that other highly qualified and well-informed senior military officers—notably, Gen. George Casey, the army chief of staff, and Adm. William Fallon, commander of United States Central Command—have publicly expressed views notably at odds with those of General Petraeus.

The critics make a good case. Yet let us ignore them. Let us assume instead that Petraeus genuinely believes that he has broken the code in Iraq and that things are improving. Let’s assume further that he is correct in that assessment.

What then should he have recommended to the Congress and the president? That is, if the commitment of a modest increment of additional forces —the 30,000 troops comprising the surge, now employed in accordance with sound counterinsurgency doctrine —has begun to turn things around, then what should the senior field commander be asking for next?

A single word suffices to answer that question: more. More time. More money. And above all, more troops.

It is one of the oldest principles of generalship: when you find an opportunity, exploit it. Where you gain success, reinforce it. When you have your opponent at a disadvantage, pile on. In a letter to the soldiers serving under his command, released just prior to the congressional hearings, Petraeus asserted that coalition forces had “achieved tactical momentum and wrestled the initiative from our enemies.” Does that reflect his actual view of the situation? If so, then surely the imperative of the moment is to redouble the current level of effort so as to preserve that initiative and to deny the enemy the slightest chance to adjust, adapt, or reconstitute.
Bacevich has a point - one that's being ignored by those so-called conservatives who are more interested in supporting the war because it is a Republican issue than in supporting Republicans because they support the war. Either you believe Petraeus' tales of success or you don't. I'm not one of the latter group but if you do belong to that group, then the old military maxim has to hold - "LAudace, toujours l'audace!"

Bacevich ends:
A great political general doesn’t tell his masters what they want to hear. He tells them what they need to hear, thereby nudging them to make decisions that must be made if the nation’s interests are to be served. In this instance, Petraeus provided cover for them to evade their responsibilities.

Politically, it qualifies as a brilliant maneuver. The general’s relationships with official Washington remain intact. Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life. He has failed his country. History will not judge him kindly.
Poor General Petraeus - damned no matter what he does because he has got to know that his career depends on toeing the administration's line - but I'm afraid that unless he breaks the perception that he is in thrall to his political masters in the White House then his historical legacy will suffer.

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