Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Sunday, September 09, 2007

R.D. Kaplan on General Petraeus

"What's heartrending is we had to wait this long to get such a
sophisticated general. He was already well-known early in the Iraq
conflict. If you look at how [Gen. John J.] Pershing was promoted over
many other senior officers in World War I, and how Eisenhower was
promoted in World War II - how Lincoln reached down, past many senior
officers, and hired U.S. Grant - there's a legacy in war of looking for
the best and promoting them. That didn't happen in this war."

That seems a tad unfair. Consider General Casey's (Petraeus' predecessor) take on the "surge" prior to its actual inception:

"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."

Sounds more like a division from the Presidential vision than mediocrity to me. The surge has contained Baghdad to some degree but hasn't even slightly resulted in Iraqi government "reconciliation" nor the shedding of militia presence. Not that General Petraeus isn't an excellent strategist who has brought a semblance of forward progress to the Iraq bog. Just that our man, R. D. Kaplan, seems to dismiss General Casey in something of an unfair fashion.

Nod to Chirol for this post.

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Ymarsakar said...

Just that our man, R. D. Kaplan, seems to dismiss General Casey in something of an unfair fashion.

Casey and Rumsfield's first plan of action for 2003+ Iraq did not work, Soob. It is not a matter of dismissing Casey's attempts, rather it is recognizing the realities of military expediency. If you can't succede, then you must let others who can, take your place.

Casey treated Iraqis too much like Americans and not enough like Arabs. If he had modified some of such treatment, his strategy might have succeded in the same objectives Petraeus is trying to create. In fact, one of the reasons Al Anbar is turning on AQI and allying with us is precisely because the United States military looked at Al Anbar and said "let the locals take care of it". The locals ended up being AQI-Sunni alliance.

While it ended up in a way that is positive to us, but it doesn't erase the suffering that resulted from America's need to let other people do the dirty work of putting down riots, looting, and various other chaotic events. Americans, as I have observed, tend to treat with extreme respect other people's sovereignty and autonomy. They try very hard to be agreeable with the less powerful and significant countries, even to the extent of going to the UN and trying to hear out the case of the "international community" in return for the risk of more American casualties in war and "legitimacy". Whatever that means.

The Arab world is very authoritarian, thus Casey naturally did not have much luck trying to instill a sense of personal initiative in Iraqis simply by trying to get them to stand up without orders from the Americans to do what is necessary. Petraeus is attempting to get the Iraqis to take action by creating grassroots binds and various other SF style Counter insurgency methods.

Jay@Soob said...


I think we agree up to a point. Casey indulged the vapid (IMO) ideology that Iraq could become a uniform and operational democracy. Petraeus very obviously is enacting strategies that indulge the reality of the situation. Iraq isn't anytime soon going to be a political conglomerative that practices and espouses democracy but "success" on the political front must be illustrated: Hence the Anbar tactic which seems to act contrary to the ultimate goal of poilitical/sectarian cohesion in Iraq in the long run but provides a talking point of positive stability in the short term.

At any rate, I think Kaplan misses the mark completely regarding Casey, whose mission was to realize a cohesive Iraq in contrast to Petraeus whose mission is to enact short term stability.

Casey wasn't a poor leader, rather one whose mission entailed a different (and a tad arduous) goal.