23 Mar 2011

Petraeus for President? Ask al-Qaeda!

‘My wife will divorce me if I do’ – one of a number of phrases with which General David Petraeus parries the question’ – ‘will you run for President?’ For in the spartan field that is the line-up for the leadership of America, the General is increasingly talked about for the leadership of the Republican ticket for the Presidential ticket in 2016. Petraeus vs Clinton – an intriguing line-up.

I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the General whilst he was in Britain yesterday. He talks an upbeat positive account of Afghanistan and the proposed US/allied exit by 2014. President Karzai offered the hope yesterday that the hand over of Afghan provinces would start as soon as this July.

There are many ifs and buts- not the least being the supposed overcoming of the Taliban and the reintegration of some of them into Afghan civic life. But if al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been squelched out of the Afghan threat equation, they have most certainly squirted their way into Pakistan and Yemen – two of the most unstable countries on earth.

The US has invested heavily in the beleaguered 32 years serving Yemeni President Saleh. He has truncated his reign from his previously promised 2013 departure to ‘the end of the this year’. It’s a sumptuously Mubaracist parallel in Yemen. There are sons and lackeys who had all expected to ‘inherit’. But in Yemen unlike Egypt there is a tangled and deep al-Qaeda presence.

For America the war with the oft unseen foe costs $100 billion a year, not to mention the reputational damage, and the psychological devastation that the effort metes out upon the young men and women who serve in the war zone.

If Petraeus manages to extricate Uncle Sam from all this, he’ll have a justified claim to inherit Eisenhower’s mantle (secured by victory in World War Two). But there is much agony ‘twixt here and there. And one factor I have not mentioned is that the General is supra bright – way beyond the minds of the media who monitor him and the Palinesque creatures he’s likely to have to beat for the Presidential nomination. It’s an attractive – if slightly intimidating – quality, as is his personable approachability. But as one American colleague said to me last night, ‘what’s he like in a  knife fight?’ In short is America ready for a an intellectual who knows how to read a military map?

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12 reader comments

  1. adrian clarke says:

    2016,is a long way off.Whilst it is important to the rest of the world,particularly the West , who becomes President,there is little to judge Petraeus on.If he manages to withdraw the USA from Afghanistan , that does not make him a great leader.He was only put there as what was seen to be a safe pair of hands.
    Has he been bought by the money men yet?
    Does a country want to be ruled by an army man?
    Only time will tell.Obama was seen as a great unifying hope,yet he does not seem able to make a decision.I suspect many Americans regret their decision to elect him.Will he get a second term,and if he does what state will America be in at the end of it?

  2. Tom Wright says:

    He’d be an interesting choice. Very distinguished career. As Jon says, very smart. I’d bet money on him running.

  3. Philip says:

    At least Obama isn’t George Bush or Sarah Palin for that matter. I’ds rather the US had a president who reflected & took time to take a decision – and perhaps decided that the US shouldn’t be the “world’s policeman” – rather than someone who rushed in with preconceived ideas and landed us in Iraq & Afghanistan – which, as you say Jon, if it’s been successful has just moved the problem elsewhere & time may well prove the level of success, especially in Afghanistan, where once the US, etc depart, the Taliban will swarm out of Pakistan &, having taken Aghanistan back, will then try to take over Pakistan. Give me someone who doesn’t take decisions rtahre than someone who takes bad ones.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Philip , procrastination can be as deadly as doing something.
      Most Generals are aware of that.Petraeus didn’t get where he is by procrastinating.He got there with sound commonsense, not flowery oratory.

    2. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      Adrian ” He got there with sound commonsense, not flowery oratory .” Can you give an ongoing temporal substantiation of that assertion?

    3. adrian clarke says:

      In 2003, Petraeus, then a Major General, saw combat for the first time when he commanded the 101st Airborne Division during V Corps’s drive to Baghdad. In a campaign chronicled in detail by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson of The Washington Post in the book In the Company of Soldiers, Petraeus led his division through fierce fighting south of Baghdad, in Karbala, Hilla and Najaf. Following the fall of Baghdad, the division conducted the longest heliborne assault on record in order to reach Ninawa Province, where it would spend much of 2003. The 1st Brigade was responsible for the area south of Mosul.
      Margaret, he is a no nonsense leader , who has led from the front.There is plenty on google about him
      Can you give an ongoing temporal substantiation of that assertion;
      You see Margaret fine flowery prose sounds magnificent ,but when people do not understand it ,it is meaningless.

  4. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    If Petraeus is to be ‘ The Leader’ and is a person who makes his own mind up then how useful will be the senate in the democratic process and decision making environment. No puppet no strings.

  5. Amanda says:

    America is in no fit state to be trying to run anyone else’s country. Sort out your domestic problems before imposing your will on other people. A country with debt and violence at its very heart should be trying to clean itself up, rather than wiping up other people’s messes.Is a general going to enjoy that kind of job in the future?

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Amanda , you put it magnificently.Isn’t it a good job we got rid of that Labour party :)

  6. Jim Flavin says:

    It does not matter who runs or who wins . US foreign policy has not changed – nor will it . They do not wipe up other peoples messes – are you joking ??. They create them . Iraq is a worse state now than under Sadam Hussein – an approximate million killed – many others made homeless – all for the sake of US Oil . Everywhere they go they install or rule for themselves some puppet Thug – and then have the nerve to say they are democratic . Democracy would finish them . Why they not decalre a No-Fly zone over Gaza during the war there run by much the same as Gadaffi – or why did they not stop the Invasion of Bahrain [ where 5th fleet is based ]??. Regime change in Bahrain was never on . They have no intention of leaving Afganistan – not as long as there are minerals there for the picking .
    I dont hate the US- – I just have the same feeling of loathing for their hypocritical and tyrannical govt – as one would have for Himmler , Goering etc .

  7. dan ehrlich says:

    I thught you people would have learned by now, it doesn’t really matter who runs the country…they all do essenially the same things, bit with different window dressing.

    As for Petraeus…I hope he runs and wins. His daughter was an intern at the TV news department I was running in Kentucky, of all places. Talk about culture shock.

  8. pmains says:

    I say we nominate him now. The current GOP field is weak to non-existent right now. We need a real leader in the White House.

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