Petraeus: El Caballero del Ano

National Review has named Gen. David Petraeus it’s Man of the Year.  The article is here.

I have no problem with the pick or the man.  He’s done the best that could be done I suppose.  Though it’s arguable whether the surge–or really the much smarter policy of buying off tribal Sunni leaders and the Sadr freeze on operations is the real source of the decreased violence.

But the editor’s note on the front page of the magazine reads thusly:

For making victory in Iraq look possible again, and for pulling a nation back from the brink of civil war, Petraeus deserves the praise and thanks of all Americans.

Silly conservatives, tricks are for kids.

“For pulling a nation back from THE BRINK of civil war.”  Huh?  WTF?  The Brink?  As if the Civil War didn’t actually happen, is happening?  The city of Baghdad has been cleansed of Sunnis.  Buses were stopped, IDs were checked, and everyone with a Sunni or a Shia name (depending on the killers at the time) were murdered and left in ditches on the side of the road.  Precisely over a power struggle fueled by religious divide.  And these guys have the balls to say the brink.

The BRINK of civil war.  Wow.  I wonder what the air is like up there.

“For making victory in Iraq look possible again”…

Again, basic question:  What is victory in this schema?  More bad guys killed?  More military battle achievements?

There is no real for a political deal to be struck between the groups.  The Kurds have theirs wrapped up already.  The Shia have to fight it out amongst themselves.  And the Sunnis are going forward the out of power, lower class, who will fight each other over the scraps (or look to be bought as security detail say by the US).

Again–at what point would rational evidence matter?  There is no rationale, no deal for the parties to work together.  There is no reason for them to want to deal.  Nor is the central government, even if it wanted to, in any position to enforce such a peace.  Nor will it be even if the Americans occupy for another decade.

The strategy failed.  The military did not fail.  The Strategy failed–if strategy there was:  namely becoming an occupier, establishing a central non-sectarian government through elections that would be an ally in the war on terror (of the US).

Humpty Dumpty can not be put back together again.  That is not David Petraeus’ job.  That is the job of the Commander in Chief of the US.

Victory looks possible.  Wow.  What can you say to somebody who writes something like that?

Published in: on December 14, 2007 at 3:28 pm  Comments (13)  

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  1. You say “bravo”.

  2. MD,

    Bravo. (I did say I had no beef with the pick).

    Doesn’t change the mistaken editorial gloss. In the end I don’t think misunderstanding what the Gen. has and hasn’t accomplished and fitting him into their political view is a very gracious way of naming Petr. Man of the Year. It says more about them then the Gen. I think.

    Since you never engaged the actual main point of the post, then I can’t tell if you grasped that distinction or not.

    I hope Petraeus can cobble together whatever can be salvaged during the rest of this lame duck presidency. God bless and protect the guy. But he is not a wholly owned subsidiary of outfits like the National Review or The Weekly Standard and their perceptions of Iraq.

    Petraeus is far sharper and much more realistic than those ideologues.

    But hey why deal with any of that nuance when you can just tell me how I should think as per your usual. Particularly when what I should think/say requires no real subtlety.

    As always I would welcome (honestly I would) an actual dialogue on why what I wrote is incorrect–if you think it is–i.e. the actual thesis. Rather than what seems to me this childishness.

    That being said, thanks for the comment. Peace.


  3. There’s nothing to “dialogue” about. I mean, find a war in history where all the strategies worked. And then do some simple research to find out how Bush has defined victory in Iraq. Has the U.S. military, under Petraeus, made victory as defined “look possible again”? Yes.

  4. Your make some breathtaking logical leaps in that last comment. Hard to know where to start.

    Bush has shifted the goalposts on what victory means so many times I have no idea anymore what the actual definition is. Hence the problem with “simple research” on the subject.

    The stated GOAL is a unified Iraq, democratic model for the Middle East. That is DOA. Bush seems to vaguely recognize this, but it still technically is the policy.

    At other times he has said victory is no al-Qaeda in Iraq. I mean if you reduce it to the lowest common denominator, you can make anything look like victory. Rhetorically that is. If that’s the definition then sure victory looks more possible. But then you gotta ask yourself–is that a valid definition of victory. But then the question, if that is the definition, why still be there in such large numbers?

    Is victory in Iraq whatever Bush says it is?

    The strategy used so far has been democratic elections to form a central Baghdad government. That too is a failure. So your comment about past wars with successful strategies has little to no relevance in this context. Other than perhaps as a contrast.

    Moreover, your comment shows no distinction between goal, strategy, and tactic (which is what the surge is). Nor any understanding of Iraq–just the US president and military. As if the players there were just passive respondents to the US army.

    Since the goal is (I guess that is what victory means) an impossibility, then how could the military make an impossible feat look anymore or less possible?

    What the surge has made look more possible is a de-centralized breakup into feudalish pockets. A Holy Roman Empire looking thing. Which I think was/is inevitable, surge or no surge.

    If you think the breakup of Iraq is victory–then that’s an argument that the surge is indeed making victory look more possible. But I doubt very highly that is what the Editors at National Review (or you) mean by the “v” word.

    The surge is working at cross-purposes to the stated goal and central strategy of the war. Either the tactic (surge) or the goal has to go therefore. I say chuck the goal and the strategy. But any recognition of that disparity would be a good starting point.

    Otherwise you’re right…there’s nothing to dialogue about if you are just going to repeat political talking points. And comically superficial ones at that.

  5. Ha, I was hoping you’d blather on, monday morning quarterback as is the style of our pseudo Barnetting — I know I can count on that is today’s unpredictable world. That you do so is why I’ve restricted my comments to you to the most minimal possible.

    Bush declaring war in 2003:

    “We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.”

    That is “victory” defined, from the very beginning. And, yes, it is possible that that will happen, thanks to Bush and Petraeus, and many others. No shifting goalposts, for that was victory then, and victory now.

    All else is episode.

  6. Link to that:

    And the word was meant to be “your”, not “our”, pseudo-Barnetting. You are the specialist at that.

  7. You call it quarterbacking, I call it asking questions and trying to find the truth. Probably some of both. Let the readers decide.

    The quotation you provided is very intriguing.

    Question Zero–do you believe the guy? Has the policy stayed the same throughout?

    One reason to question that frame is that later on in the same speech the President says that the US have “entered this conflict reluctantly.” Reluctantly? Fortunately I wasn’t eating at the time otherwise I’d be cleaning my Cornflakes off the computer screen now.

    For the sake of argument though, I’ll just stick to the quotation you provided and assume its accurate as to intention and practice.

    Then (#1): Threat to whom? To the Kurds? To the Shia, the Saudis, the Iranians, the Israelis? To The US?

    But forget that, the threat was removed.

    (#2) Can you restore control of a country to its own people by occupying them militarily, with a bungled Governing Authority? Rather than those being just “episodes”.

    Bush’s quotation strangely I think points to what is in my mind the most accurate analysis: War won, Peace lost.

    Threat removed. Control not returned. In fact control never had to be returned to.

    That’s what the meat of the argument really is. Does the recent shift in tactic make the control to the people issue more likely.

    My answer is yes but only at local and regional levels and that the stated policy (which I think is a wrong policy nothing against the Gen.) is that this should somehow affect a national level discourse.

    The control on the street from day one of the fall of Saddam’s regime has been with local street-level militias, gangs, imams, tribes, and mosques.

    The control was never in the hands of the US military to give. Since all you ever study is right-wing American press and military coverage (“more baddies killed”) and presidential talking points, and not the view from the ground, esp. from Iraqi views, then you will never I think grasp this most essential fact.

    What Petraeus has done is finally admit that reality and play ball with those guys. But all that does is accelerate the de-centralization and breakdown of the sense of a nation/national government. Which I think has to happen anyway.

    But what Bush meant then and now by restoring control envisions a national control restoration. In that sense what Petraeus has done has made that form of victory look infinitely less likely.

    The Editors should named Man of the Year for making victory as defined by the President far less likely. And for that he would be correctly commended.

  8. That last line should have read:

    The Editors should have named Petraeus…

  9. Yes, it is quarterbacking. Because you are simply not qualified by any stretch of the imagination to talk the way you do. I simply don’t trust you, your perspective, your conclusions. It would be easier to perhaps if you didn’t write such endless comments. But you don’t, because you adopt all the postmodern academia strategies of basically attempting to win an argument by tiring out the other person.

    You win, not on the merits, but because I’m tired. And you say stupid shit like all I study is right wing outlets and talking points.

    All of this is so much simpler than you can let your postmodern mind allow: Remove Hussein, bring order to the country so the locals can take control. Period. All else is episode to that overriding narrative, entirely attainable.

    Oh, and all else is endless chattering from poseur thought like yours. Truth, you say… riiiiiiight.

  10. Dude,

    The locals are in control. That’s the point.

    The US administration, however, has tried to create this vision for Iraq that doesn’t align with the interests of the locals who actually control the levers of power.

    These groups have been in power since day one of the previous regime’s fall. Read In the Belly of the Green Bird by Nir Rosen if you won’t believe me.

    You think there is some outside force that the American army fights and destroys and then hands control of the country over to the Iraqis.

    Who are they fighting–Martians?

  11. And who represents the Iraqis?

  12. I meant to say not that all you ever study is pro-war right-wing talking points but all you ever quote (approvingly) in my view on this subject is those.

    My apologies.

    But ur “I’m postmodernist” shtick is tired. And please, no need for the “I’m not qualified” line and then without any recognition of the possible inconsistency, write about global warming/climate change.

    Either a citizen (who is not a specialist) can sift through the factual accounts and try to form his/her judgment or they can’t. But don’t act like I do some power-grab and you don’t. I think we’re both wrestling as citizens with political issues on the technical matters which we are not Ph.D holders.

    No need to smear.

    I’m not writing long comments in order to overwhelm you but rather to make a sustained argument on a complex subject–namely a war.

    That’s a far simpler explanation than your whole postmodernist triple bank shot.

    All that aside, the pics of your girls are great. Happy Advent, Merry XMas.

  13. Bullshit. I NEVER act like an expert about climate change; I’ve said from the beginning I’m opening to changing my mind, but that my gut tells me it isn’t manmade. I don’t act like a climatologist. Whereas, you act like Barnett, with all his advanced degrees, even write and abbreviate shorthand like him.

    The things I write about mostly on my blog have to do with art and aesthetics, which play off of my undergraduate work, my formal studies with poets and composers, and my independent study in which I have read deeply in aesthetics.

    Everything else, politics and the rest, are mere passing commentary, usually pretty tersely written because I’m clearly just offering simple opinions.

    TOTALLY different than your regular crap on your blog (which every blue moon has something interesting, which I read for but so rarely find).

    Dude, whether you admit it or not, writing a trillion word response is postmodernist 101 “discussion” tactics. Another term for it is “perspective dump”, letting it all out. It is crap, perfected by your skills in saying you are doing that which amounts to nothing more than plausible deniability. Which anyone who has seen it in operation enough times can see a mile away.

    I’ve advised countlessly to reign it in, write less, and you don’t; all I can take from that is that you think people give a shit about your trillion word treatises and I’m hear to say that, dude, half as much is probably three times as powerful.

    Or you don’t know how to be concise; which if so should be your primary, PRIMARY learning spot.

    Saying something is “tired” doesn’t make it so; you just don’t like hearing it.

    And yes, Mr. Brilliant because you like to try to act like it, they are fighting Martians.

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