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Saturday, September 29, 2007

General Petraeus, The Sycophant Savior, and the Sounds of Silence on the Right

I nearly spewed my sample latte that the Borders employee had just handed me in one of those little taster paper cups, containing whatever their new fall flavor was, as I was browsing the magazine section. I just took a sip and saw the above-pictured cover. And I just about lost it.

So, why isn’t every conservative blogger going into high dudgeon over this as they did at the MoveOn “Betray Us” ad in the New York Times? Why isn’t the Senate passing another sense of the Senate resolution, to defend the good name of the general and to condemn this shocking attack on the American troops?

Hasn’t this administration been saying since forever that any criticism of its policies in Iraq is tantamount to disloyalty to the troops?

And yet there is silence when conservative author, Andrew J. Bacevich, writing in the American Conservative, Pat Buchanan’s magazine, says basically the same thing that the anti-war critics were saying about General Petraeus’ report. Bacevich’s main point in this article is that the good general, while stating no overt falsehoods, puts too optimistic a spin on the surge, which most people can see is not working. But further, Bacevich criticizes Patraeus, whom he calls a “political general of the worst kind.” Here’s the entire quote:

George Washington, U.S. Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower were all “political generals” in the very best sense of the term. Their claims to immortality rest not on their battlefield exploits—Washington actually won few battles, and Grant achieved his victories through brute force rather than finesse, while Ike hardly qualifies as a field commander at all—but on the skill they demonstrated in translating military power into political advantage. Each of these three genuinely great soldiers possessed a sophisticated appreciation for war’s political dimension.

David Petraeus is a political general. Yet in presenting his recent assessment of the Iraq War and in describing the “way forward,” Petraeus demonstrated that he is a political general of the worst kind—one who indulges in the politics of accommodation that is Washington’s bread and butter but has thereby deferred a far more urgent political imperative, namely, bringing our military policies into harmony with our political purposes.

Bacevich then goes on to skillfully make the case, from a conservative point of view, that the troops, going into their second and third tours of duty in Iraq, are too thinly stretched; the U.S. has not been willing to commit the necessary resources to occupy the country; has been unwilling to admit that this is going to be a long term occupation; and in the end, they still have no exit strategy. At no point did this administration level with the American people about the truth or reality of the situation. Nor do they have a clear or realistic mission of what they wish to achieve. Their stated goal of a liberal democracy in the Middle East was never realistic given the culture and history there.

Further, this administration has confused the war in Iraq with the fight against terrorism. In fact, they’ve never actually defined what that fight is. As Bacevich points out, you can’t fight terrorism. You can fight those who use terrorism as a tactic, in this case militant, fundamentalist Islamic radicals. But invading Iraq was not the way to do so.

Finally, Bacevich ends with this scathing criticism of both the politicians and Petraeus:

If the civilian leadership is unwilling to provide what’s needed, then all of the talk about waging a global war on terror—talk heard not only from the president but from most of those jockeying to replace him—amounts to so much hot air. Critics who think the concept of the global war on terror is fundamentally flawed will see this as a positive development. Once we recognize the global war on terror for the fraudulent enterprise that it has become, then we can get serious about designing a strategy to address the threat that we actually face, which is not terrorism but violent Islamic radicalism. The antidote to Islamic radicalism, if there is one, won’t involve invading and occupying places like Iraq.

This defines Petraeus’s failure. Instead of obliging the president and the Congress to confront this fundamental contradiction—are we or are we not at war?—he chose instead to let them off the hook.
Basically, he has said most of the same things the anti-war critics, like MoveOn, have said. And he’s called General Petraeus a sycophant. So, um, this is more patriotic, less defeatist, and not as traitorous as MoveOn’s ad just how?

Why is it that all I can hear on the right are the sounds of crickets chirping?


Anonymous said...

Why? It's defeatist, it's wrong, but it's argued, rational, and an intellectual judgment - which does not impugn Petraeus's honor but his judgment and competence. Bacevich doesn't call him names, he says that he is in error. He also analyzes what Petraeus actually says - and disagrees with him.
These qualities are absent from MoveOn and the netroots in general - which is why I, a neocon, support MoveOn and Kos financially. They do great work for us.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Basically, Bacevich is making the same criticism as the left on this one. And Pat Buchanan, in whose magazine this is appears, was opposed to the invasion of Iraq from the beginning. He is very critical of neo-cons.

The "Betray Us" ad was just that, an ad not an essay. Given the space limitations of an ad, MoveOn could not make a reasoned case against the war. It was the equivelent of a sound byte.

But if you cared to read the left, there has been some thoughtful criticism of the war effort which basically mirrors the criticism of Bacevich and Buchanan. That includes some of my own writings on this subject.

And a cover calling the general a sycophant is indeed name calling and impugning his honor and integrity not just his competence.

Nice try though!

James Young said...

You want a Conservative to condemn it? I condemn it. It's silly, and scandalous.

Then again, I don't think Pat Buchanan is much of a "Conservative," anymore. Hasn't been for years.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Interesting, James. I'm not the one to argue who is a real conservative with you. That would be presumptous of me indeed.

But is there, perhaps, a disagreement within the conservative community? And how would you characterize Buchanan? His criticism comes from the right. Certainly, he's not a liberal.

James Young said...

Buchanan has become an extreme protectionist and is a nativist. Neither is a "Conservative" position, except in the ideologically-tinged caricatures embraced by the far Left. While open borders is certainly not a "Conservative" principle --- most "Conservatives" embrace legal immigration --- neither is the kind of extreme nativism that he has embraced in recent years.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...


Thank you for clarifying that. I would agree with you that he is a nativist and an isolationist, which I find disturbing. And I know that's not a typical conservative position.

As I see it, as an outsider, conservatives seem to be divided into a few different camps that have overlapping interests and views but also some differences among them.

I would say the same is true for the left.

Anonymous said...

It's also true that Pat is an anti-Semite and an Israel exceptionalist - in that he thinks that Jews, among all nations, do not deserve to have their own country. And this too puts him in alliance with perhaps the majority of MoveOn orgers. He and you deserve one another.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Being Jewish, myself, it would be rather difficult for me to be anti-semitic. And I am a strong supporter of Israel. Guess you missed that part of the rest of my blog, huh?

I also don't think MoveOn is anti-semtic. There are, however, some on the very far left who are as anti-semitic as those on the very far right. And Nazis and fascists are generally considered part of the extreme right wing. But they have nothing in common with most American conservatives. And the very far left has little in common with most American liberals and progressives.

Having said that, I believe Pat Buchanan is anti-semitic. It's why many conservatives are disavowing him.

Also, stop painting everybody with a broad brush. It makes you look silly.

Anonymous said...

No one could have guessed that a strong supporter of MoveOn could be a strong supporter of Israel -since MoveOn's position is that the US, which has pressed Israel again and again to sign agreements and give up territory, has been too favorable to Israel, and that the administration's concern about Iran's desire to wipe Israel off the map with a nuclear bomb is misguided or malicious. MoveON in particular and the Democratic party in general is the right place for a n anti-Semite to be, these days. The question is what you are doing with them.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Actually, could you please provide some sourcing or citations for these assertions?

Or are they your interpetation of what the Democrats and MoveOn stand for?

Because I have seen nothing that demonstrates that either group believes US policy is too favorable to Israel. Most Democrats support the state of Israel. And many Democrats are worried about the nuclear threat, among other threats, that Iran presents to the world.

They may not support the hardline position of Israeli right wing parties, like Likud, or that of AIPAC in the U.S., but then neither do a lot of Israelis. Or do you think that all those Israelis who disagree with their right wing are anti-Israeli or anti-semitic too?

There may be a variety of differing opinions on how best to achieve peace in the Middle East or even how best to contain the threat of Iran but that does not mean that those who disagree with your particular view are anti-semitic or even anti-Israeli.

Anonymous said...

I think it's safe to say that those who would undo the state of Israel are anti-Semitic, objectively if not in their own mind. The fact is that MoveOn is viciously and mendaciously opposed to the existence of Israel as a secure Jewish national state - as many posts, including this:
prove, and that you are a hopeless naif, dear, and they are making use of your warm heart.