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David Petraeus, the pressures of politics, and the road out of Iraq.

03/09/2008

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The New Yorker has a lengthy piece on General David Petraeus and the road out of Iraq. A piece repaying a close read.

It begins:-

Early in 2007, when David Petraeus became Commanding General of United States and international forces in Iraq, he had in mind a strategy to manage the political pressures he would face because of the unpopularity of the war, then four years old, and of its author, George W. Bush. He pledged to be responsive to “both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue”—to his Commander-in-Chief in the White House, of course, but also to antiwar Democrats on Capitol Hill. Petraeus earned a doctoral degree at Princeton University in 1987; the title of his dissertation was “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam.” In thinking about how to cope with political divisions in the United States over Iraq, he was influenced, he told me recently, by Samuel Huntington’s 1957 book “The Soldier and the State,” which argues that civilian control over the military can best be achieved when uniformed officers regard themselves as impartial professionals. Petraeus is registered to vote as a Republican in New Hampshire—he once described himself to a friend as a northeastern Republican, in the tradition of Nelson Rockefeller—but he said that around 2002, after he became a two-star general, he stopped voting. As he departed for Baghdad, to oversee a “surge” deployment of additional American troops to Iraq, he sought, as he recalled it, “to try to avoid being pulled in one direction or another, to be in a sense used by one side or the other.” He added, “That’s very hard to do, because you become at some point sort of the face of the war, the face of the surge. So be it. You just have to deal with that.”

It concludes with thoughts on the withdrawal and a final sentence:-

Like the invasion of Iraq, and like the surge, the withdrawal will have to proceed, ultimately, from a President’s best instincts, with the advice of his generals. “The truth is, at the end of the day, some of that has to be subjective,” Petraeus said. “I mean, there’s no magic formula.”

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