August 18th, 2010 00:53 EST
Gen. Petraeus follows Gen. McChrystal's tactic of playing politics
Something rotten at the core of the punditry and so-called news analyses of Gen. David Petraeus`s call for patience in Afghanistan is being overlooked in the usual scurry to sound knowledgeable. Something rotten and dangerous.
Here`s an example. Robert H. Reid of the Associated Press says this:
The appeal for patience by Gen. David Petraeus, made in a series of media interviews Sunday, also suggests he may propose that only a few troops begin leaving next July, as President Barack Obama has promised.
That could force the White House to choose between the professional advice of a respected commander widely credited with turning around the Iraq war and pressure from some Democrats for significant withdrawals and an end to the unpopular Afghan conflict. "
What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong is that the agile and articulate general is not our commander-in chief and should not be putting pressure on his commander-in-chief. That is exactly what his predecessor, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, did.
What is just as wrong is that the commander-in-chief, like his predecessor, George W. Bush, is not saying to these generals, I am your commander-in-chief. You will not make end runs on me in the press. If you have something to say you will say it to me, not to the press.
Maybe we do need patience. When I read about the Taliban and even family members stoning to death a young couple who eloped I seethe with rage and want to destroy the Taliban. What brutal, evil people! But that is not the point. The point is that the military is not supposed to be calling the shots.
We civilians are not supposed to put our military in harm`s way without adequate forces and supplies. It is immoral to do so, and yet it is what the Bush-Cheney Administration did in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We are supposed to give the military our absolute support and loyalty. That is our social and political contract with the military. But the military, in its turn, is not supposed to play politics, and that is exactly what Generals McChrystal and Petraeus have done. If they want to play politics, they should retire and take off their uniforms.
Considering all the cable news blather and the hundreds of inches of newspaper type given General Petraeus`s latest counsel, why is nothing said of his so obviously overstepping himself? This is a sinister precedent. Our military protects us. And we revere it. But it does not play politics and it does not put pressure on the commander-in-chief any more than one of his colonels would attempt an end run in the press on General Petraeus.
He knows better than this. Maybe Stanley McChrystal didn`t. However good a soldier he was, he didn`t seem to have David Petraeus`s intellectualism. And it is because General Petraeus knows better that what he is doing is so worrisome to anyone who believes that the American military must stay out of politics.
In repeated and craven acts of political cowardice George W. Bush would say he was just doing what his commanders on the ground suggested, meaning it was their war, not his. He was just their supply sergeant. No one can imagine the Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower or the Democrat Harry S. Truman taking such a position. Each knew he was the commander-in-chief, and they both knew how dangerous it is to let generals manage political discourse.
Barack Obama needs to call up David Petraeus and say, I respect you, I appointed you. You owe me some respect. I want you to stay out of the political debate. I will listen intently to you in private, but not in the media.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com