Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In Case No One Mentions It: Thanks, General!

Some jobs are just thankless. No matter how much credibility one enters the endeavor with, no matter how overqualified a person may be, no matter what, at the end of the day, there will be no topless girls waiting, no Blue Label tied in a red ribbon, nothing.

Commanding "The Surge", that's one of those jobs.
General David Howell Petraeus gained Nationwide notoriety early this year after being named Commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq, and was given the task of executing a new politico-military strategy that was to be implemented. The Surge. This new strategy, after all, is his idea to some degree. The General came to this post well qualified. He is one of those few people asked to perform the most arduous task, in the most public arena, at the most unpopular time, and comes more than prepared for it. He is commander under a new Secretary of Defense, so he's seen as the changing of the guard. He was confirmed in the Senate by ninety-five votes, and none against, so he's well liked. He has a master's in Public Administration and a PH.D in International Relations from Princeton, so he's a practicing academic; like a hybrid of Peter Gammons and David Wright. His leadership is touted by both the military brass, civilians and press. He comes off as confident, but cerebral, always reminding one that there's more to the mission than slogans, news clips and presidential stump-speeches.
Yet, leading up to his congressional testimony this week, there was a campaign to dismiss, discredit, and straight diss General Patraeus. He was accused of "cooking the books", as though he's some kind of pee-wee accountant from World Com. He was accused of shielding his responsibilities by hiding behind Congress and the White House. His integrity has been questioned, and his evaluations have been considered unsubstantial and inconsequential. Even if he were to surprise everyone and announce a massive removal of troops, he'd be seen as pandering to the left and of being a cut 'n runner. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.
This war is not lost, and we'll never know when we win, even after we win. It's nation-building, not the Battle of the Bulge. We're fighting an adverse political environment and trying to install a representative form of government, not fighting the Confederates in Bull Run. There's a lot of gray area, and people are looking at this in too narrow a lens.
Patraeus is more than qualified to lead this fight, and he's the right guy at the right time. Not because this war and president are great, because they're not. But because General Patraeus understands the implications (mass murder, regional war, loss of U.S. credibility) and moves forward from there. That's all one can ask for. And for that, General, thanks.

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