Bacevich on Petraeus
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg
Andrew Bacevich has a scathing analysis of General Petraeus's testimony in the American Conservative. Bacevich is a conservative foreign policy realist who has been opposed to the war. He served in the military for twenty years, retiring as a Colonel. This past May his son was killed in Iraq. So it means something a little more than usual when he writes:
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.
Of course, if he had done otherwise—if he had asked, say, to expand the surge by adding yet another 50,000 troops—he would have distressed just about everyone back in Washington. He might have paid a considerable price career-wise. Certainly, he would have angered the JCS, antiwar Democrats, and waffling Republicans who want the war to go away. Even the president, Petraeus’s number-one fan, would have been surprised and embarrassed by such a request.
Yet the anger and embarrassment would have been salutary. A great political general doesn’t tell his masters what they want to hear. He tells them what they need to hear, thereby nudging them to make decisions that must be made if the nation’s interests are to be served. In this instance, Petraeus provided cover for them to evade their responsibilities.
Politically, it qualifies as a brilliant maneuver. The general’s relationships with official Washington remain intact. Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life. He has failed his country. History will not judge him kindly.