It’s no secret by now – to the thinking classes, anyway – that Gen. David Petraeus has been vindicated by the successes we’ve seen take place in Iraq over the last year and a half. The General that the far left has for years loved to hate – even going so far as to take a nasty ad out on him in the NYT that strongly implied he was a “traitor” – has more than proved his worth to the US military, to coalition forces in Iraq, and to those of us here stateside who always believed that the war in Iraq was a worthy cause, and one worth winning.
Not only has he been vindicated with the successes taking place in Iraq, but he has as well with the change in plans – and personnel – in Afghanistan ordered by President Obama. David Ignatius writes:
It’s a small irony of history that Gen. David Petraeus, attacked by the left for his role in revitalizing the Bush administration’s effort in Iraq, is now being asked by a Democratic president to do much the same thing in Afghanistan.
The Centcom commander intends to apply the same counterinsurgency tactics he developed in Iraq, but Afghanistan will be in many ways a tougher fight.
Petraeus isn’t a man who likes to lose, and he’s assembling an all-star team. Gone is Gen. David McKiernan, a solid but uninspired commander; he will be replaced by Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a rising superstar who, like Petraeus, has helped reinvent the U.S. Army.
Petraeus has an asset in this new campaign that was sorely lacking in Iraq, which is strong diplomatic support from special envoy Richard Holbrooke, and this enables a regional approach to the war. Holbrooke and Petraeus are two headstrong bulls in a small paddock, but so far they are making this crucial partnership work.
To understand Petraeus’ basic approach, try to picture in your mind a horizontal line that charts the level of militancy of insurgent groups. On the left are the hard-core “irreconcilables” who could never be co-opted by the U.S. But as you move right along the line, the groups become more pliable and join the “reconcilable” camp.
What Petraeus did in Iraq was to move groups from one category to the other—transforming hard-core insurgents into members of tribal militias on the U.S. payroll. The remaining fanatics became targets for Special Forces “capture or kill” operations, which were overseen in Iraq by McChrystal.
It was a hard-and-soft strategy — using kinetic firepower to clear an area, and then gentler counterinsurgency tools to hold it and build through economic development.
Petraeus’ plan in Afghanistan is to hit the enemy very hard this year with the additional 21,000 troops President Obama has approved — and then see if the Taliban coalition begins to crack. Much greater violence is ahead initially, as the U.S. attacks Taliban sanctuaries in the south. But if the strategy succeeds, the “chameleon insurgents,” as Petraeus calls them, will begin to peel away.
As Petraeus envisages reconciliation with the Taliban, it will happen village by village, across Afghanistan’s nearly 400 districts, rather than in a big sit-down with the group’s leader, Mullah Omar.
Ignatius correctly points out that there are tough challenges ahead in Afghanistan, and notes that having Petraeus and Holbrooke tackling those challenges head on will aid in bringing about the kind of change we ALL want to believe will happen in Afghanistan -a change for the (much) better.
Hmm. With the vindication of Petraeus in mind, I wonder where the apologies are from the Hillary Clintons of this country who disparaged the General’s own words on the progress that was taking root in Iraq as early as the summer of 2007, a few months after the surge plan was put in place? Remember this Sept. 2007 quote?
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, opened her questioning of Petraeus and Crocker with the standard “I honor you for your service.” And then she let the two of them have it.
“You have been made the de facto spokesmen for what many of us believe to be a failed policy” in Iraq, Clinton said. “Despite what I view is your rather extraordinary efforts in your testimony both yesterday and today, I think that the reports that you provide to us really require a willing suspension of disbelief.”
Clinton added that “any fair reading of the advantages and disadvantages accruing post-surge, in my view, end up on the downside.”
Perhaps she’ll get around to saying “I’m sorry, Gen. Petraeus” right about the time she finishes apologizing for the US military allegedly “killing civilians” during recent US-led airstrikes in Afghanistan … killings that were actually committed by the Taliban. It’s always accuse first, ask questions later with the left – especially as it relates to our military. John Murtha sure must be proud.
And so should our Apologist in Chief.