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?