Petraeus’ War

Today’s WaPo features a front page Analysis piece by Peter Baker and Thomas Ricks entitled, “Petraeus Returns to War That Is Now His Own.”

The war in Iraq has diminished the reputations of many of its generals. As Petraeus returns to Baghdad to continue carrying out President Bush’s strategy, his image has changed as well. Like it or not, he has become a political player, and more than ever before, the U.S. venture in Iraq has become his own. “Up until this week, it was Rumsfeld’s war,” said retired Army Lt. Col. James Jay Carafano, referring to former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. “Now, for better or worse, it’s Dave’s war.”

Indeed. That’s the natural byproduct of politicians wrapping themselves in the prestige of the officer corps as a mean of selling an unpopular policy. Petraeus has welcomed the opportunity, however. If he can somehow pull it off, the rewards are high.

(As an aside, it’s rather odd that Carafano is described as a “retired Army Lt. Col.” rather than as a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and Georgetown Ph.D.)

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Military Affairs, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. cian says:

    Petraeus has welcomed the opportunity, however. If he can somehow pull it off, the rewards are high.

    ….the deaths will be too, and the numbers wounded, and the families displaced, and for what? We already know troop numbers must be reduced in July, and if 160,000 troops can’t create the magical ‘breathing space’ war supporters are so found of mentioning as the ultimate mission, how can 130,000?

    It seems to me his job now is to keep the surge going until Bush is gone. That’s not an opportunity, its a disgrace.

  2. Bob Sile says:

    I’m not surprised by amount of effort left has gone to in dragging Petraeus’s name thru gutter.

    Nothing in the report surprised me. I worked with Petraeus so I knew he was a class act. I look at the March report as the one which will say whether we stay in or fold the cards. Frankly by then we will know if trends are positive, negative, or just going sideways. If he reports that one straight then we’ll have answer to whether he’s another Westy or Marshall.

    I thought till this past week it was only a loony few amongst the anti-war movement who hated us. But after the ads and the defacing of the Viet Name memorial I am left wondering when I or others now serving will be called a baby killer or spit on. I used to be amazed at the Viet Nam vets I served with and their venom towards some in that anti-war movement. Only now have I begun to understand. Sad because I thought we would have learned but I guess it takes only 5 years to hate the officer corps. means the troops can’t be far behind.

  3. Andy says:

    Hey Bob, how classy was it for Petraeus to continually exaggerate the progress of the Iraqi security forces? How classy was it when he lost track of 190,000 small arms that are now likely being used against Americans?

  4. Bob Sile says:

    Hey Andy, since I worked on advising and equiping those Iraqi security forces I understand what the ground truth was back in 2004-2005. Quite a number of those lost weapons got lost in combat, some got sold, and some got stolen. Sorry we didn’t focus so much on accounting for the widgets but at the time we did have to dodge that incoming. All the reports I saw that he signed back then listed the good and the bad and the trends.

    Now compared to the bloviating by both House and Senate he came away looking good. But as that one Republican Senator did note right after Obama finally stopped his sermon, “this is really about hearing ourselves talk and not hearing what the witnesses say.”

  5. Andy says:

    What exactly did the witnesses say that was new? Everyone knew exactly what was going to be said before anyone said it. It was a photo op for the shiny medals on Petraeus’ chest.

    Yes, the Senators bloviated (shocking!). But there was little or no value to the testimony.

  6. Bob Sile says:

    Well Andy does the fact nothing of value came from this lie at the feet of one who was called to testify or the ones who required the testimony? It was Congress’ “dime” and they displayed no substance. There was no penetrating questions either. The photo op worked both ways as those in opposition to war can provide sound-bites on the negatives and photo stills where they “lectured” the General and Ambassador. Those in favor got to fluff about positives. The surprise is where?

    Did Petreaus have any other choice but to appear before Congress in Class A’s (with shiny medals)? Did you really think he could just stride in wearing ACUs? If it had been me I would have because I’d make the point we’re actually at war and maybe “business as usual” wasn’t acceptable. This sadly was American politic theater and both sides played their parts. The only difference is the General and Ambassador go back to spend months on ground while Washington continues to live in its own fantasy world.

    Neither the opposition nor the administration seem to have any grown-ups. That doesn’t bode well for country, especially as the election cycle has started. Both sides have now soldified and barring something truly significant (Iran is the wildcard) this will now be driven by the General until January 2009. He’ll set troop levels, tactics, etc. The civilian leadership has surrendered… Its his to win or lose.