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

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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