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