Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2008
What the Petraeus Promotion Means
TIME MAGAZINE By Mark Thompson/Washington
Defense Secretary Robert Gates's announcement Wednesday promoting General David Petraeus from his current post running the war in Iraq to head up U.S. Central Command triggered both political and military unease. That response may be inevitable, coming on the downside of an unpopular war and in the waning months of the tenure of the unpopular President who launched it.
While Republicans hailed the news that Petraeus — who implemented the "surge" of 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq, which is seen has having tamped down violence — was moving up the chain of command, Democrats were cooler. Opponents of the war fear that if the Democrat-led Senate approves Petraeus's promotion, it could be taken as a signal to "stay the course" in a war that has dragged on for more than five years and has killed more than 4,000 U.S. troops. . . . John McCain hailed Petraeus' nomination, calling him "one of the great generals in American history." . . . Petraeus will assume command late this summer or early fall, replacing Admiral William Fallon, who requested early retirement last month after he was portrayed in a magazine interview as the lone officer preventing a U.S. war with Iran.
_________________________________________________________________ The other thing the promotion means of course, is that moderation is out and Iran policy is in (as the Bush-Cheney threat mandates) at the Pentagon. There are, apparently, only so many battles Bob Gates is willing to fight as Secretary of Defense. For his part, he has brought a degree of trustworthiness, if not the independence some would wish, to a shattered Rumsfeld military. The other other thing that stings the conscience of men who still have one, is the moving of an 'ass-kissing little chickenshit' into the seat of the very man who tagged him with that distinction, Admiral William Fallon. With the unforgiving intensity that defines small-minded men, George Bush must be wriggling with glee at having so thoroughly soaked a flag officer in the flammable energy of his honor as an officer and a gentleman--then lit the match. What this means for the near-future of Iran is no more than conjecture. But the persistence with which Cheney's drive to strike Iran before leaving office hovers over the Pentagon does not bode well. Bush may have found his man. Democrats are frozen in the headlights of a supposed landslide election that, day by day, slips further from their grip. This is a distracted nation under a good deal of stress, but its rage is transferable, from the party that lost its favor to the party that squandered its opportunity. An electorate that sees itself lied to and mired in an unpopular and murderous war without end, whose newly elected majority dither and nit-pick their way to doing absolutely nothing constructive, is not a reliable ally. Amazingly, the men of conscience who put their country ahead of ambition are not the politicians or captains of industry, who give such heroic lip-service to homeland security. They are, overwhelmingly, the flag officers of our military. Given the choice of serving against their moral and military principles or standing down, they have chosen to stand down. Fallon is the latest to join his peers--and a band of patriots they are--not an ass-kissing little chickenshit in the bunch. Their names will stand among the honored, long after David Petraeus, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and their like have faded to memory. Not quite the accomplished fact the press might have us believe, Petraeus has been nominated by Bush to the position and must be confirmed by the Senate. There are 100 opportunities for a Senator of conscience to put a 'hold' on this nomination and ride out the remaining months of the administration. Such a hold cannot be defeated and, if the holding Senator desires, is anonymous. That is not likely to happen and we may have an Iranian attack before November to thank for it. One would hope not. Still, the replacement of Fallon is not a matter of urgency. The acting commander is Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey (currently nominated for a 4th star), who served as Fallon's Deputy. So the position is hardly being held by a novice. It probably is being held by a man who shares Fallon's dim view of Iranian adventure, else why replace him with Petraeus?