UPDATE 4:04 PM: More changes at the top: Army chief of staff Peter Schoomaker is out. Iraq commander Gen. General George Casey is in. (Big ups: Dan)So there's a new general slated to take over Iraq: Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the well-regarded, media-savvy chief of the Armys Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth. While he was there, he "helped oversee the drafting of the militarys comprehensive new manual on counterinsurgency," the Times notes.Petraeus was tapped over several more senior generals. He's "arguably the Army general whose star is rising most rapidly on the basis of his performance in Iraq," Tom Barnett noted in a March profile for Esquire. The general "led the 101st Airborne Division in northern and central Iraq during the first difficult postwar year and then assumed leadership of the coalition effort to rebuild Iraq's security forces... [he] worked the sheikhs well enough but let a horrifically efficient insurgency build on his watch."On his blog, Barnett calls Petraeus "a solid choice" for Iraq commander.
Petraeus doesn't shy from the nation-building role and since building Iraq from the army outward is the most feasible pathway of success, putting him in charge makes a lot of sense; he's got the most experience and has done the most thinking and revamping of doctrine on the more general topic of counter-insurgency. Plus, Dave's just a really good guy.Juan Cole, no friend of the Bush Administration, likes the pick, too.
I'm stricken with a case of the "what ifs" and "if onlys"! What if Gates had been at the Pentagon in 2003 and Petraeus had been in charge of the US military in Iraq and Crocker had been there instead of Paul Bremer? These are competent professionals who know what they are doing. Gates is clear-sighted enough to tell Congress that the US is not winning in Iraq, unlike his smooth-talking, arrogant and flighty predecessor. Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and did a fine job of making friends and mending fences when he was in charge of Mosul.The Post's William Arkin, on the other hand, isn't so sure. "Though Petraeus may be an intellectual and promotional wizard, I have a hard time seeing any true success and product from his early work in or on Iraq."And Ralph Peters adds, "He's the greatest peacekeeping general in the world. But I just don't know if he can win a war."
Regaining control of Baghdad - after we threw it away - will require the defiant use of force. Negotiations won't do it. Cultural awareness isn't going to turn this situation around (we need to stop pandering to our enemies and defeat them, thanks)As Newsweek noted a few years back, "nobody seems neutral."
His fans believe he's a new-style officer for a new type of warfare, where battles can be won with superior technology and firepower, but true victories can be secured only by good peacemaking and politics. They say he proved himselfand his methodsin the aftermath of the war last year. (It's widely accepted that no force worked harder to win Iraqi hearts and minds than the 101st Air Assault Division led by Petraeus.) These boosters include many in the White House. "People's body language shifts" when they talk about Petraeus there, says one official. Yet critics regard Petraeus as one of a type they call "perfumed princes," a derisive term for officers who have advanced from one staff job to another, essentially working as efficient courtiers to the four-stars. They say he won a short-term peace in Mosul at the expense of allowing insurgents to organize themselves mostly unmolested. They rankle at Petraeus's penchant for self-promotion and PR.UPDATE 01/06/06 6:08 PM: "Believe the hype," says Spencer Ackerman. Then he warns...
Petraeus is in a horrible dilemma. He has no plausible way of refusing this assignment. Yet Iraq is beyond repair. Bush is using Petraeus -- the only symbol of wisdom and, indeed, success that the military has left -- as a human shield. He has no problem putting Petraeus through the agony of Iraq if it means a more "dramatic" move on Wednesday. If there's any irony here, it's that the arrival of Petraeus in Baghdad will make it harder for anyone to argue that the war was lost on the home front, since now it's in the hands of the wisest general in the U.S. Army.After the jump, there are some more illustrative snippets from that Esquire piece on Petraeus...
With his Princeton Ph.D. in international relations, Petraeus is the closest thing the Army has to its own Lawrence of Arabia, a comparison he does little to discourage, as he seems to identify with the British colonel's experiences in the region during the First World War and the enduring wisdom of his advice to those military officers caught in similarly trying circumstances (Lawrence's legendary book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom), which Petraeus appears to know by heart...One of the first challenges Petraeus faced while occupying much of northern and central Iraqincluding the huge Al Anbar provincewith the 101st Airborne in the spring of 2003 was the small matter of there being no government there whatsoever. Sudden, unanticipated problem, usually not the preserve of generals: How to get the local government to continue paying its workers. The acting governor of Al Anbar pointed Petraeus in the direction of a central bank manager, who, it just so happened, had set aside a substantial sum of Iraqi currency for just such a post-invasion occasion. Problem was, this banker felt he had no authority in a post-Saddam environment, because his entire career he hadn't sneezed without first asking permission from Baghdad. So he said to Petraeus, "You have the authority." Petraeus thought about that and said, "You're right, I do!"...Petraeus also has his own version of Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which in his case number thirteen. It's a simple PowerPoint package of thirteen slides of lessons learned in the war. Number one is, Lawrence had it right. By this he means: It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them. Mao Tse-tung, Che Guevara, and Ho Chi Minh would readily recognize Petraeus's other pillars as eternal truths: Armies of liberation have half-lives. Money is ammunition. Intelligence is the key. Cultural awareness is a force multiplier. Success depends on local leaders.That last one seems to be the most important to Petraeus. So when the Iraqi leaders of Mosul came to him as commander of the 101st Airborne in the first months of the postwar occupation asking for his help in getting the city's university back up and running, Petraeus didn't hesitate. He had helicopter assault troops available, so Petraeus told them, "Hey, you won the lottery. You're going to rebuild Mosul University." The place had been completely looted and was a shambles, but a month or so later, a Big Tensized university was holding classes in Mosul, finishing out the school year a little late, with American helo pilots filling in as college administrators.That follows with the main lesson General Petraeus has learned from Iraq: "Everyone does nation building."