Has General Petraeus taken a back seat in the Obama war room?

Posted by: ST on October 5, 2009 at 11:18 am

The NYT has published a disturbing report about how the WH is wary of General David Petraeus’ recommendations on war strategy in both Afghanistan and Iraq because they believe he may have presidential ambitions (via ST reader Leslie):

WASHINGTON — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the face of the Iraq troop surge and a favorite of former President George W. Bush, spoke up or was called upon by President Obama “several times” during the big Afghanistan strategy session in the Situation Room last week, one participant says, and will be back for two more meetings this week.

But the general’s closest associates say that underneath the surface of good relations, the celebrity commander faces a new reality in Mr. Obama’s White House: He is still at the table, but in a very different seat.

No longer does the man who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have one of the biggest voices at National Security Council meetings, as he did when Mr. Bush gave him 20 minutes during hourlong weekly sessions to present his views in live video feeds from Baghdad. No longer is the general, with the Capitol Hill contacts and web of e-mail relationships throughout Washington’s journalism establishment, testifying in media explosions before Congress, as he did in September 2007, when he gave 34 interviews in three days.

The change has fueled speculation in Washington about whether General Petraeus might seek the presidency in 2012. His advisers say that it is absurd — but in immediate policy terms, it means there is one less visible advocate for the military in the administration’s debate over whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

General Petraeus’s aides now privately call him “Dave the Dull,” and say he has largely muzzled himself from the fierce public debate about the war to avoid antagonizing the White House, which does not want pressure from military superstars and is wary of the general’s ambitions in particular.

The general’s aides requested anonymity to talk more candidly about his relationship with the White House.

“General Petraeus has not hinted to anyone that he is interested in political life, and in fact has said on many occasions that he’s not,” said Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel and professor of military history at Ohio State University who was the executive officer to General Petraeus when he was the top American commander in Iraq.

“It is other people who are looking at his popularity and saying that he would be a good presidential candidate, and I think rightly that makes the administration a little suspicious of him.”

General Petraeus’s advisers say he has stepped back in part because Mr. Obama has handpicked his own public face for the war in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who last week gave an interview to CBS’s “60 Minutes,” met with Mr. Obama on Air Force One and used a speech in London to reject calls for scaling back the war effort.

That this WH harbors the belief that General Petraeus would put any alleged political ambitions ahead of what he feels is the best strategy for winning in Afghanistan – that this WH feels that the General would advocate more troops in Afghanistan specifically to please the Republican base, especially considering how he helped turned things around in Iraq, is an indicator of a WH completely out of touch with reality in terms of the value Petraeus’ vast knowledge and experience brings to the table, an out of touch with reality in terms of the level of respect our men and women in uniform have for the General and his opinions.

Jennifer Rubin blasts the Commander in Chief for his treatment of his war generals:

The Democrats and their cheerleaders in the punditocracy used to scream for President George W. Bush to listen to his generals. Then Bush got better generals, listened to them, and avoided defeat in Iraq. Obama, it seems, is bent on ignoring his generals. If he takes the advice of Joe Biden instead of those expert on counterinsurgency (and with a track record of getting war strategy right), the results may be disastrous not only on the battlefield but also in the court of public opinion. The public already trusts the generals more than Obama to make decisions about Afghanistan. And if Obama — based on nothing more than “I changed my mind” — rejects the advice of his military commanders, the public may wonder what exactly motivates the commander in chief and whether the best and the brightest military minds were hired just for show.

I’m wondering already.

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19 Responses to “Has General Petraeus taken a back seat in the Obama war room?”


  1. Carlos says:

    And this is a surprise how? The very arrogance and narcissism that drives him to be the fool he is also drives him to suspect as traitorous anyone who displays any level of competence above foolish.

    Of course, that statement also says a lot about the others he’s surrounded himself with, too.

  2. Lorica says:

    This news is really not that unexpected. Petraeus suceeded in Iraq when everyone said it was lost. How else is he going to be treated but with disdain?? I do feel so bad for this man tho. If there had been a Rep President elected the General would have been treated like a hero, not a zero. I just pray for that Palin/Petraeus 2012 ticket. Talk about unstoppable, especially when our current C in C is going to let Afghanistan slide into a hell hole….really not that far of a journey even in the best of circumstances. – Lorica

  3. Wes S. says:

    So between Obama’s suspicions of General Petraeus and his anger over General McChrystal’s forcing Obama’s hand on an Afghanistan decision…

    …are we about to have a purge of the Pentagon?

  4. Leslie says:

    In order for the general to run for president, he would have to resign his commission and start campaigning now.

    I’d rather he stay where he is, but if his advice about Afghanistan is not taken, I wouldn’t be surprised if he resigned.

    Then the talk about his running for the presidency would really take fire.

  5. TWoPolitics says:

    Our military has never lost a war.

    It has been inept political incompetency that pulled victory out from under our troops.

    Afghanistan appears to be another Obama foible.

  6. kareling says:

    What Carlos said. It almost looks as if Obama feels threatened by anyone who just might be smarter, more competent, or even have more “star power” than he does. (Witness the marginalization of Hillary.)

  7. Joseph Brown says:

    I seem to remember another dear leader who wouldn’t listen to his Generals. He was called Der Fuhrer.
    At least Hitler made corporal. Anybody know what Zerobama’s rank was?

  8. Severian says:

    Of course the White House thinks Petraeus is just campaigning and is tilting his opinions to make himself look good, they are just projecting their own attitudes on him, which liberals seem to do instinctively. The concept of an honest man who is more concerned with doing his job well and winning a war for his country are completely alien to them.

  9. in_awe says:

    waiting for the assignment of Van Jones as new Afghanistan War Misunderstanding Czar

  10. Zedekiah says:

    What do we expect from a president who is always campaigning? That is all Obama knows; organizing and campaigning. God help our troops because this president refuses to help them!

  11. Zedekiah says:

    Obama spent over $2 million on flying to Copenhagen. The AP said he spent 25 minutes with General McChrystal. How much time did he spend on the Olympic bid? I think we know what his priorities are.

  12. Carlos says:

    “The concept of an honest man who is more concerned with doing his job well and winning a war for his country are completely alien to them.”

    Well said. And true.

  13. Brontefan says:

    Ah, Joseph… aren’t you forgetting? Only the Liberals can make comparisons to Nazis. We are now in the ers of “they can/you can’t” and welcome to Administration Corrupt!

  14. Carlos says:

    Bronte, does that translate into A.C.,D.C.?

  15. Lorica says:

    In order for the general to run for president, he would have to resign his commission and start campaigning now.

    I disagree with that Leslie. It’s not like Petraeus doesn’t have a great deal of name recognition already. Yes he would have to resign sometime after the 2010 elections, but victory in both Iraq and Afghanistan would be campaign enough to get him elected. – Lorica

  16. Carlos says:

    Lorica, Lorica, Lorica. Only if you think that most of us knuckle-dragging, hateful, racist, Nazi terrorists would actually vote for a man just because he blueprinted winning strategies in two separate wars just so Bush could enrich his friends with oil and keep the opium flowing freely in the ghettos.

    My, oh my, you’ve got to look at this from the perspective of the enlightened.

    Ya know, I sure hope that Duh-1 will stop running for president last year sometime.

  17. Jo says:

    I am king, by God and I am the Supreme Leader! How dare you underlings attempt to usurp my supreme, all-econompassing royal power and might! And how dare that pesky Olympic committee not realize that!! And how dare that pesky Petraeus take any recognition or glory or cast a shadow of doubt on my Supreme aura! You serfs expect me to deal with something as stupid and deemed unnecessary and a relic of that buffoon Bush by my Democratic base, war when I am extremely busy taking over everything in America!

  18. Bill says:

    I expect Obama will go out of his way to hand the far-left brain-dead zombies a big bone (so they will keep supporting him) with a defeat in Afghanistan since they love seeing America defeated militarily. But he’ll try to make it look like it was out of his control. Already, his massive propaganda infrastructure, i.e. the media, has started to paint the hopelessness of the situation there, to give him cover. It all reminds me of the massive propaganda push the media embarked upon for him a year ago beating down the economy in the news day-to-day to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of economic failure, which resulted in his election. It worked for him then and they figure it will work for him now.

    As for Petraeus, I’m sure they fear him politically since he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in Iraq, after the Democrats said all was lost. And in comparison to Obama he outshines him by many magnitudes, which is troubling for them on many levels. Because the Democrats use wars and soldier’s lives as political pawns, they assume everyone else would too. Hence the cold shoulder for Petraeus. But of course, they are wrong.