I did not have much time for blogging the other day when the good news of General Petraeus’ nomination to CENTCOM broke. However, blogfriend Pundita, who specializes in the political and economic nuances of the inside-the-beltway shaping of American foreign policy, was kind enough to inquire of my opinion yesterday via email. Even kinder on Pundita’s part to use it in a post:
“Mark, What do you think of the nomination? Good move, or is it kicking Petraeus upstairs?
This is excellent news and yet more confirmation of the competence and vision of SecDef Robert Gates – as well as his political clout. General Petraeus was due for consideration for a significant posting after his tour of duty in Iraq and CENTCOM chief is among the best options.
Had Petraeus been sent to NATO or the Pentagon, that might have indicated an institutional retreat from the current, evolving COIN [counterinsurgency] strategy on the part of the Army’s old guard, just as they did in the wind-down of Vietnam.Moreover, the appointment of a traditional, conventional warfare advocate at CENTCOM instead of Petraeus could easily have been taken as a signal that the Bush administration was gearing up in it’s waning days to “broaden the war” by initiating a major conflict with Iran.
I expect that Petraeus is also the most ‘confirmable’ candidate, given the rhetoric of Democratic candidates on Afghanistan. And given that NATO is struggling in executing COIN consistently against the Taliban, Petraeus’ skill and experience will be needed to get things back on track without antagonizing our European allies.
On a related matter I’m very, very happy with Robert Gates. I think he just gave a ‘shape up or ship out’ warning to the senior brass. What he said the other day to the cadets regarding John Boyd was akin to a Soviet General-Secretary giving a speech to the Supreme Soviet on the virtues of Milton Friedman. Or Pope Benedict praising Martin Luther.
Thank you for your observations. I was not happy when I first heard Gates was on track for SecDef. Your analyses suggest I should stop sticking pins in his effigy — er, wait a minute, maybe it’s been working. Also, I note that you’re recommending John McCain signal that if he wins the White House he’s going to keep Gates as SecDef.Interesting points. And Gates in that position might dissuade President McCain from his views on Russia, which deeply trouble me”
Me too. I hope that Senator McCain broadens and deepens his foreign policy and defense teams in the coming months. Russia and China are not our allies by any means but it makes little sense to try and provoke each of them into an active, anti-American, partnership. Let’s deal with these powers pragmatically when and where they are willing to get down to business and quietly but firmly pushback where they are negatively impacting our interests.
If some segments of the American Left can’t stop being apologists for the long expired Soviets then there are some on the Right who need to accept that America won the Cold War and that it’s time to move on.