Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fallows: Petraeus cannot change water into wine

 Fallows has written an excellent review of the "Petraeus will save us" strategy of Bush and the entire GOP ...

James Fallows: David Petraeus and the "New Jesus" problem

... The recent astounding column by Wiliam Kristol had a similar "Petraeus will save us" tone: "What it comes down to is this: If Petraeus succeeds in Iraq, and a Republican wins in 2008, Bush will be viewed as a successful president."

It's tempting to spend more time on that one sentence of Kristol's ("What it comes down to is this: If I can beat Roger Federer, I'll be successful at Wimbledon.") The real point involves Petraeus.

He is a smart man. He is a brave man, not just in the obvious sense but also for reminding his troops soon after taking command in Iraq that there are still proper rules of conduct, even though we are "a nation at war."

But -- and in the current context, this may come as a shock -- he is not Jesus, nor is he supernatural in any way. His manual of counter insurgency strategy is a big step forward from the stupid brutalize- and-alienate approach of the early stage of the Iraqi occupation. (The manual is here -- a 12 meg PDF download.) But that manual and its underlying strategy -- which I heard discussed and thrashed out by Petraeus and his colleagues at Ft. Leavenworth last spring; I think Tom Ricks was there for that conference, and I know that Kristol and Graham weren't -- is neither magical nor holy. It is not going to undo what has gone wrong in the last four-plus years. It is not going to make the Maliki government seem legitimate, and it is not even going to shape up the Iraqi security forces...

The sources I respect think very well of General Petraeus and his idiosyncratic team of advisors, but even if he were not hobbled by Cheney/Bush he'd have an impossible mission. Throw in those towering incompetents and ...

Incidentally, Cheney has been remarkably silent about General Petraeus. Maybe he didn't like the Petraeus anti-torture stand.

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