In Praise of David Petraeus

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gen. David Petraeus was confirmed by the Senate last week to take over CENTCOM, the U.S. Central Command that puts him in charge of the military in the entire Middle East. Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno will take over the direct command of operations in Iraq. The senate approved the promotion by a vote of 95-2. And rightfully so.

David Petraeus deserves all the praise we can give him. He has taken an Iraq situation that was near chaos and turned it into the groundwork for a functioning state. By almost every measure, Petraeus has had enormous success. He deserves the Medal of Freedom that Bush gave to Tommy Franks. In fact, he deserves the three medals Bush farcically gave out that day. Franks, Tenet, and Bremer should all hand their medals in, especially Tenet and Bremer.

It is possible, as I have, to make the argument that Iraq is ultimately an intractable quagmire that offers America no good options. We’ll be lucky if we get another Saddam Hussein out of the deal. But the reasons for this are almost all political. And the fact that that can be said can be directly attributed to Petraeus’s strategy for the country. McCain likes to talk about the surge, as though sheer numbers solved everything. But throwing troops at the wrong general wouldn’t necessarily yield results. There is no question that our troops have made the surge a success. Their brave fighting and, yes, diplomacy, has worked. But all of their hard work and sacrifice might have been wasted if it weren’t for the facile brilliance and flexibility of their commander. Petraeus’s multi-pronged strategy in dealing with Sunni, Shia, and Kurd was masterful.

Wherever you are on the political spectrum, this fact is indisputable. We are on the cusp of salvaging a near stable state from what was an impossible situation and, as a result, there is now serious talk on the Iraqi side of an American withdrawal by as early as 2010 (no matter when we leave there will be a civil war). I don’t know if Petraeus is our best general, but he is certainly one of the best. Personally, I would like to see him run for president. He is a brilliant man, and my sense is, a decent man. I’m not sure of his politics, but I would be predisposed to vote for him if he threw his hat into the ring.