Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Don't Believe Petraeus - He's a Soldier

I don't have anything against General Petraeus. He was commanding general of my old unit, the 101st Airborne. He reportedly ran the best counter-insurgency operations of anyone in Iraq, so he was a good choice to command the force there. But, with apologies to him, I got to tell you that his "September report" is not going to let the chips fall where they may. Not because he's a bad guy, but because he's a soldier.

There are two things about good soldiers that pertain here: they live to fight, and they don't like to lose. Nothing makes a true soldier happier than a tough battle, and Iraq certainly is that. Petraeus has the job that every general dreams about - leading a war against a determined and capable foe. And he does not want to lose. He may not win, but he does not want to lose under any circumstances. Consequently, no matter how things are going he will ask for more time to fight. We can't take him seriously because he is both incented and programmed to keep the battle going.

If not Petraeus, then who should we believe and what indicators should we be sensitive to? In my view, we should believe nobody. Everyone has a point of view and a bias. The indicators, however, are real. Is the Iraqi parliament beginning to function as a true national assembly? Are the Iraqi troops and police becoming more effective, or are they becoming more associated with militias? Is the electricity staying on longer in Baghdad, and is the oil flowing? How many GI's are we losing every month, and do we have replacement divisions to go there? The facts, boss, just the facts... The facts of progress or setbacks on the ground wil tell the story better than Petraeus ever will.

So, General Petraeus, do your best. We really do want you to "win" after all the years of ugly screw-ups by your non-military, self-styled "Commander in Chief". Just don't expect me to believe what you say. The facts on the ground don't love to fight or hate to lose. They're just facts. Come September, I think we'll know how it's going over there.


Anonymous said...

The way to rise in the corporate world is to kiss the ass of the guy above you, and I don't think the army is terribly different once you get to the level Mr. Petraeus is at.

If he wants to keep his job (and being a general is a pretty cushy job), then is going to report what George Bush wants to hear.

Woozie said...

Good post, never thought about that angle before.