In the long and proud history of the United States military, talented, dedicated commanders have led their troops to the sounds of the guns time and again to defend those who could not defend themselves. General David Petreaus proved his mettle in Iraq by devising and implanting a strategy that provided security for innocent Iraqis under attack by Islamic fanatics. Now he’s being asked to march into battle once more, but this time the guns are sounding on two different fronts: in Afghanistan where a resurgent, increasingly confident Taliban makes headway in the war that our president has said we have to win; and in Washington, where the conflict is of the political variety in the wake of General McChrystal’s dismissal after that highly decorated soldier expressed his frustration with an administration that seems to specialize in vacillation.
With no relief in sight for the economy, no end in sight for the disaster in the gulf and an ever-increasing number of voters starting to realize that this administration is woefully unprepared, intellectually overmatched and ideologically handicapped when it comes to dealing with the great issues of the day, Obama desperately needs a victory somewhere, somehow. Failing in Afghanistan, especially in the wake McChrystal’s damning criticism, would practically guarantee that a Republican tsunami would sweep scores of Democrats out of office in November. And so the president has turned to the nation’s most accomplished, most respected military leader, a man whose strategy in Iraq he dismissed out of hand and whom, when this dedicated patriot was the subject of shameless slurs by his leftist allies, Obama could not be bothered to defend. Professional that he is, Petreaus will continue to forget the criticisms, slights and slurs and do what American military leaders have always done: follow the orders of the commander in chief, no matter how incompetent and hypocritical that commander may be.
A certain United States senator representing the state of Illinois didn’t seem quite so enamored of General David Petreaus three and a half short years ago. That’s when Petreaus took command in Iraq, replacing General George Casey (the Army’s current chief of staff, and the man who believes that the most tragic aspect of the Fort Hood shootings is the possible loss of “diversity” in the armed forces). Petreaus asked for more troops and proposed changes in strategy. Democrats from Harry Reid through John Muthra criticized the general’s proposals, having decided that the war in Iraq was lost. Then senator Barack Obama assured America that “the surge” could not possibly work, saying:
“We can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops – I don’t know any expert on the region or any military officer that I’ve spoken to privately that believes that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground.”
Apparently neither Obama nor his vice president talked to the right “experts on the region” or to any military officers who understood how to conduct counter-insurgency operations. Petreaus was vindicated in short order as the situation in Iraq turned around after the surge. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration employed selective memory earlier this year, apparently forgetting any criticism of Petreaus’ strategic vision, as vice president Joe Biden rushed to cling to the general’s coat tails. “I am very optimistic about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration,” Biden declared in a moment that redefined hypocrisy.
A few months after Petreaus assumed command, the ultra-leftist, Obama-loving organization MoveOn.org attacked the general, slurring him as “General Betray Us” in an ad they placed in the New York Times in September 2007. Among other slanders, MoveOn accused Petreaus of “cooking the books” in order to make the Bush White House look good. Then-senator Hillary Clinton jumped on the bandwagon during congressional hearings, badgering the general in confrontations that left her looking like a partisan hack.
Three and a half years after Petreaus first started pulling George W. Bush’s chestnuts out of the fire in Iraq, Barack Obama hopes that the general can work the same magic again for him in Afghanistan. But there’s a difference. When General Casey was replaced in January 2007, he was critical of the administration’s new strategy, saying:
“The longer we in the U.S. forces continue to bear the main burden of Iraq’s security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to take the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias. And the other thing is that they can continue to blame us for all of Iraq’s problems, which are at base their problems. It’s always been my view that a heavy and sustained American military presence was not going to solve the problems in Iraq over the long term.”
George W. Bush, who always had a fierce loyalty and admiration towards anyone serving our nation in uniform, didn’t chastise Casey or attempt to derail his career because of those remarks. Casey’s current assignment is a testament to that fact. On the other hand, Barack Obama may be the most thin-skinned president in the history of the Republic. He didn’t hesitate to leave his hand-picked commander, General McChrystal, swinging in the breeze when the going got tough. If General David Petreaus can’t figure out a way to solve the multi-faceted enigma that is Afghanistan, there can be little doubt that he will suffer the same fate.