January 21, 2008

Petraeus, Shmetraeus; the Real Question Is - Who's Next?

Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times carries the vaguely interesting speculation (whic barely even qualifies as news) that top Pentagon brass are trying to decide what to do with Gen. David Petraeus for his next assignment. The choices seem to be:

  • Commander of NATO, which would give him a strong say in what we do in Afghanistan, where our combat mission is led by American NATO troops;
  • Commander of CENTCOM, which would give him an even stronger say, assuming someone can figure out where to stick Adm. William Fallon. Fallon seems to be doing a bang-up job as CENTCOM commander right now and has said that rumors of his death or imminent retirement are greatly exaggerated.

The idea seems to be for President George W. Bush to give Petraeus an appointment and confirmation before leaving office a year from yesterday. If the administration does not, and if a Democrat wins the presidency, the incoming POTUS will surely do everything he can to sabotage Petraeus' career -- taking petty revenge against him for the crime of rejecting the Pelosi-Reid conclusion that we've already lost the Iraq war... and worse, being proven right!

But if Petraeus can serve a term in a less politically charged job (especially as NATO commander), goes this reasoning, then maybe President Hillary (or President Mike, President Barack, President John, President John, President Mitt, President Fred, or Citoyen Ron) will consider kicking him upstairs to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- a gold watch and a window seat.

I don't know. I don't care. He should stay in Iraq as long as possible, then be moved somewhere he can continue to fight... or perhaps train others to fight. I'm far more interested in the question, who will succeed Petraeus as Commander of Multinational Force - Iraq (MNF-I)?

Here, the Times again channels its beloved anonymous sources:

If General Petraeus is shifted from the post as top Iraq commander, two leading candidates to replace him are Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who is running the classified Special Operations activities in Iraq, and Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, a former second-ranking commander in Iraq and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s senior military assistant....

Of the potential successors for General Petraeus, Generals McChrystal and Chiarelli would bring contrasting styles and backgrounds to the fight. General McChrystal has spent much of his career in the Special Operations forces. He commands those forces in Iraq, which have conducted raids against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the mainly Iraqi group that American intelligence says has foreign leadership, and against Shiite extremists, including cells believed to be backed by Iran....

General McChrystal, a 53-year-old West Point graduate, also commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment and served tours in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and in Afghanistan as chief of staff of the military operation there in 2001 and 2002....

General Chiarelli’s strengths rest heavily on his reputation as one of the most outspoken proponents of a counterinsurgency strategy that gives equal or greater weight to social and economic actions aimed at undermining the enemy as it does to force of arms. General Chiarelli, 57, has served two tours in Iraq, first as head of the First Calvary Division, where he commanded 38,000 troops in securing and rebuilding Baghdad, and later as the second-ranking American officer in Iraq before becoming the senior military aide to Mr. Gates.

In a 2007 essay in Military Review, he wrote: “Unless and until there is a significant reorganization of the U.S. government interagency capabilities, the military is going to be the nation’s instrument of choice in nation-building. We need to accept that reality instead of resisting it, as we have for much of my career.”

There are times in a nation's life when its future lies in the balance, and it is within the power of men to turn the tide of history in one direction -- or the other. In this case, the choice of a successor for Gen. Petraeus appears to leave us with two stark directions:

  • If McChrystal is selected, then we have turned towards a policy of clandestine warfare whose only function is to destroy the enemy's will and ability to fight against our interests; this, to my mind, is to return to the cold war strategy of yesteryear, though against a different foe.
  • But if Chiarelli is chosen instead, we will have turned instead towards a policy of undermining the enemy by denying him the fertile breeding ground of political and legal chaos, resentment, fanaticism, hopelessness, and futility that attends failed states. We will be firmly on the path of nation-building.

I believe the latter would infuriate most conservatives... and I believe it essential that we follow that path nevertheless.

I harken back to the seminal book the Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P.M. Barnett. Barnett's genius was to recognize that virtually all threats to the United States and our interests came from a narrow swath cut through the middle of the map. The Pentagon had long called this jagged cancer in the world body the "arc of instability;" but Barnett realized it was something more profound: It largely comprises those nations that stubbornly refuses to integrate with the rest of the world's politics, economics, and communications net.

Not that the Non-Integrating Gap (as Barnett calls it) is bereft of political organization; factions are constantly maneuvering to bind all the world's disgruntled postal workers into a single, globe-girdling caliphate... that is, groups like al-Qaeda and countries like Iran engage in the ceaseless struggle of nation-building; but the "nation" they're trying to build is one that offers neither friendship nor a place at the table for us.

Turning to our Special Forces, not simply as tools but as the sharp end of our foreign policy, means abandoning the nation-building field to militant Islamism. You can't beat something with nothing: AQ and the mad mullahs offer something: stability under their rule. If we offer nothing but dark-of-night strikes on people, places, or things that piss us off, then we can never win this war.

Rather, it's absolutely essential that we offer a creative, constructive plan to drain the fever swamps that breed bin Ladens and Mezba-Yazdis and build something functioning in its place; otherwise, we may as well resign ourselves to a generational, existential war that we jolly well may lose.

We cannot simply frighten hirabis into quiessence by clandestine ops and air strikes. We're talking about people for whom, as Cal Thomas put it, "death is a promotion." If hirabis eagerly look forward to dying in order to kill us, how do we "deter" them? Besides, they're not even rational actors, and there is no central caliphate command that can surrender to us.

Gen. Petraeus succeeded because instead of just more killing, he gave the Iraqis a "tomorrow." After tearing down the insurgency, he built something better in its place. He protected the civilian population, helped strengthen the rule of law in Iraq, coordinated the "rebuilding" of that shattered state, made military service a respected career choice for Iraqis for the first time since the Baath Party took over, and in general, spread hope that out of the ashes of Saddam's putative empire, Iraqis could grow the green shoots of normalcy.

We need to follow up with another commander who has the same far-reaching worldview as David Petraeus... not just another Special-Ops marauder who can destroy but cannot build.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 21, 2008, at the time of 7:07 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Colin

Interestingly, Gen. Chiarelli was one of the original names being floated for commander of MNF-I. I think the final decision came down to him and Petraeus, and Petraeus won out. Hopefully, that signals a willingness on the part of the decision makers to put him in command.

Also, just because Stan McChrystal may not be the right guy for command of NMF-I, doesn't mean he shouldn't be kicked upstairs. One of the prime reasons for our success has been our aggressive pursuit of AQ while doing the nation-building thing with our conventional forces. Maybe put McChrystal in as Commander of JSOC? He's shown a proclivity for effectively commanding theater-wide special operations activities. It's been kind of an untold success in Iraq. Why not give him the reins of our global special operations forces?

The above hissed in response by: Colin [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2008 8:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: Colin

Oops, I mean "MNF-I"

The above hissed in response by: Colin [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2008 8:48 AM

The following hissed in response by: Eg


If you get a chance take a gander through Dr. Colin Gray’s, Irregular Enemies and the Essence of Strategy: Can the American Way of War Adapt?

You should find it quite interesting.

Ok…truth, maybe a little depressing also. LOL

The above hissed in response by: Eg [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2008 8:49 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Petraeus should retire now, and be the Veep on the GOP ticket. If America's mayor pulls off the shocker in Florida, and gains enough momentum to split the SuperTuesday states three ways (Romney/McCain/Giuliani), perhaps he should even be the top of the ticket!

As far as the real topic of your post goes, who should follow Petraeus in his current job, I'd suggest it ought to be whomever Gen. Petraeus thinks could best do the job.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2008 2:48 PM

The following hissed in response by: scrapiron

There is no reason to worry about which American general is in charge. If the democrats win the office of POTUS millions of Iraqi's have but about 14 months to live since all troops will be withdrawn and no further help will be provided. Victory to a democrat means something different than to the average American and having the blood of millons on their hands doesn't bother them as long as they can scream 'I'm in charge'.

The above hissed in response by: scrapiron [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2008 7:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

You are tragically correct.
The democrats have one vision in their minds:
America must lose, as broadly and as quickly as possible. We now see that beneath the shiny veneer democrats are racist at home, in how the Clintons are attacking Obama. We can now see that like in their betrayal of the Vietnamese people they are still racist abroad, as well - the Iraqis who have fought with us count for less than nothing to the defeatocrats.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2008 8:54 PM

The following hissed in response by: Davod

Wasn't McChrystal the guy who kicked out the Marine special forces team from Afghanistan. Didn't he also order the courts martial of the snipers after lower investigations said no crime?

As far as MNF commander. Never underestimate the duplicity of the military heirarchy. Remember, those in charge in the Army never wanted the surge.

The above hissed in response by: Davod [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2008 7:04 AM

The following hissed in response by: narciso79

Way to soon to move Petraeus, it's like moving Grant right in the middle of the Richmond offensive in the winter of 1864. McCrystal had
already been demoted at the time of the Marine snipers; they'll hang the Tillman foul-up around
his neck; so he's out. The bigger issue is how the Army staff has blocked the advancement of Cols
Mansoor and McMaster; the line men of the surge, forcing Mansoor into retiring to Ohio State, and
curtailing McMaster's options. Not a good idea to ddo that to the author of 'Dereliction of Duty".
Lt. Col. Nagl, another counterinsurgency expert, involved in the training of Iraqi forces, (under
Col. Pittard)is retiring to a think tank. It seems
the Army is pushing back against those who came up with and implemented the surge; with tragic cconsequences for the future.

The above hissed in response by: narciso79 [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2008 9:17 PM

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