Wednesday, November 14, 2012
When I Realized David Petraeus Was a Wanker
The former wunderkind of the U.S. Army first came to my notice when he unveiled the American military's new counterinsurgency field manual, FM3-24. Petraeus had commanded a team of the best and brightest military and civilian minds to digest the lessons of two thousand years of counterinsurgency warfare and write a manual of "do's and don'ts" for American commanders already facing tough sledding in the Muslim world.
It wasn't surprising that Petraeus would catapult from that assignment to become commander of coalition forces in Iraq. In a clumsy bit of sleight of hand good enough for the rubes at home, Petraeus instituted a "surge" of forces in Iraq that coincided with a sharp drop in sectarian violence. The decline in violence actually marked the conclusion of Shiite ethnic cleansing of mixed neighbourhoods in Baghdad. The Shiites simply ran out of Sunnis they needed to evict. And the Sunnis themselves sought American protection and cash which motivated them to turn on al Qaeda personnel in their midst.
Then when Obama succeeded Bush II, Petraeus was given the chance to command again, this time in Afghanistan. Naturally he went for the surge gimmick again and it worked no better than it had in Iraq.
What was most troubling is that Petraeus tossed his own field manual, FM3-24, out the window in Afghanistan. He didn't implement the lessons he laid down just a few years earlier. In fact, the Afghan war was so botched up that, in July, 2010, the Pentagon's own think tank, the RAND Corporation, issued a report declaring the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan irredeemably lost.
It was inescapable to anyone with a clear-headed eye on Iraq and Afghanistan that Petraeus was a first-rate showboater with very powerful connections and enormous popularity with the folks back home. He was the legitimate heir to Westmoreland, not Patton, but not in the eyes of a fawning nation.
Maybe getting taken down by a bit of skirt was actually a blessing in disguise for David Petraeus. It might just freeze his legacy as that of a great man brought low.