Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Petraeus for President

I want Obama to win this election. I've donated hundreds of dollars to his campaign. Not because I'm particularly impressed with his resume, but because I'm deeply shocked by the Bush II Era and want to do whatever is in my meager power to help make an authoritative political break with his "legacy." I have no idea what kind of leader Obama is going to make, but he'll be a statement to ourselves and to the world that America is turning the page on a sorry eight years.

But the fact is...I have deep doubts about whether a one-term senator with zero military/foreign-policy experience is up for the challenges ahead. Obama is a brilliant guy who gives inspiring speeches and advocates sensible policies. That's a start, I suppose. But I fear that what we really need in our next commander-in-chief is...well...a commander-in-chief.


Guerrilla wars. August was the most lethal month for NATO soldiers in Afghanistan since we first got underway in 2001. It's now almost seven years on, and while a friendly government is nominally in control of an increasingly violence-wracked Kabul, the tribal regions are dominated by the Taliban and these dudes aren't playing around. We crave soft drinks and videogames; they crave martyrdom. We're in a death struggle with these hombres, and recent history does not offer much consolation for what it takes to beat them at this game.

A nuclear Iran. It's not that I worry about Iran ever using the nuke. They won't. However, the mere fact that they have nukes means that we won't be able to fuck with them when they do things like, oh, say, conduct terror operations all over the world, or flex their muscles in dominating the Persian Gulf oil lanes. With the Bomb in hand, they will be able to turn the Gulf into their own private sphere of influence and we will be helpless to challenge them -- held entirely in check by their membership in the club of nations that can blow one of your cities to kingdom-come. Remember the Cold War? I sure do, believe me. Here we go again, only we won't be matched up against atheist bureaucrats this time -- we'll be matched up against apocalypse-obsessed Islamists. Sound like fun?

Pakistan. Little-known fact -- there's already a nuclear power shooting at U.S. troops. Right now! Pakistan's civilian government is barely in charge of its own military and (ultra-powerful, as well as ultra-fundamentalist) intelligence service. The whole government narrowly missed being blown to smithereens the other night. And this country has the bomb already. Its senior nuclear scientists sat in a cave with Osama bin Laden advising him on how to develop nuclear weapons. Swell.

A resurgent, militarist Russia. Why move on to new Cold Wars when our old nemesis Russia is still fully up to the task? Putin is still large and in charge of the Kremlin, and his recent ball-stomping of Georgia was proof that Russia still thinks of itself as a military power with muscles that need the occasional workout. With massive oil reserves on the line in the Caspian Sea region and fragile democracies on the line at Russia's borders, we're entering a whole new era of percolating conflict with the big bear.

I could go on -- Chinese cyber-warfare teams; instability and power struggles within the Saudi royal regime; the ever-looming threat of al-Qaeda "spectaculars"; and of course, this small matter of the Iraq war.

All of which brings me to David Petraeus, U.S. Army general.

Long story short: Petraeus is the best of a new breed of military intellectual -- the soldier-scholar. He holds a Ph.D. in international relations from Princeton. A lifelong student of counterinsurgency. In a training exercise in 1979 he was accidentally shot in the chest by a new recruit; he was discharged from the hospital days later after doing 50 push-ups in front of his surgeon.

Most importantly, Petraeus has been one of the rare officers to leave success in his wake everywhere he's operated in the war zone of Iraq. As commander of the 101st Airborne Division he oversaw a pacified city of Mosul while the rest of the country burned in revolt against our occupation. Employing a civil-affairs approach to counterinsurgency, he won the loyalty of local tribal chiefs and forged broad local alliances against terrorist cells. Along the way, even the fiercest critics of the Iraq occupation gave Petraeus credit as the leader who "did it right."

So I'm just going to throw this out there: let's draft Petraeus for president. The framers of our Constitution envisioned the president primarily as a civilian commander-in-chief for the armed forces, who would have a secondary role to play in checking-and-balancing congressional legislation. Given the global political situation, I'm willing to set aside lesser concerns and invest the presidency in someone who can smartly handle the high volume of killing that the U.S. is going to have to conduct in the years to come. PETRAEUS IN 2008.

Wait...what's that you say? He's a conservative Republican? Shit. Never mind.


Josh Augustine said...

Oh how I've missed your political comments on the pcg podcast :(

I hadn't even heard of most of the things you listed in the post, especially the instability of Pakistan. Thanks for spreading the word.

Kind of similar to you, I'm not necessarily a huge Obama fan, but I do think it would be a big help to our foreign relations with friendly countries and a good, solid break from the last 8 years.

Daniel Morris said...

Thanks for the kind words, Josh. I sure do miss doing that podcast. Maybe I should launch a new one. I know Jeremy would be down.

rakiel said...

i'm with you son. i'm actually looking up the local demo party office because while i was not an obama fan - the alternative is now more unacceptable than ever. Hell now with palin in tow they're scarying the crap out me.

So i'm going to do something i haven't done since bobby kennedy ran for president - i'm gonna get bumper stickers, t=shirts, sent my money in and i'm gonna go hussle the mexican vote - if we each get five folks who wouldn't have voted to go vote demo - we can get them rep bastards gone :)

Moe.on.the.Moor said...

Wow - you do paint a pretty picture. We ought to have a leader that's everything, Patraeus as you depict him might come close. Why can't America pull a philosopher-king out of its ranks? A scholar-soldier comes close, but there are absolutely domestic issues that need attention along with the disturbing budding-friendship between Hugo Chavez and China and Russia and all the other threats you wrote about. Obama will do his job if he can just inspire the country, and perhaps the world, to believe in Washington again. The rest will follow.

Pete Mains said...

First, I would like to clear one thing up. To call Petraeus a conservative Republican is to put words into his mouth. His strength as an officer has been to move past conventional wisdom and tired debates in order to provide visionary leadership. He wasn't willing to accept the status quo in Iraq. He's shaking things up in Afghanistan. Everywhere he goes, he earns the respect of the people he works with and brings together disparate interests. This is exactly what our country needs.

If you feel the US needs visionary leadership in 2012, I encourage you to go to Americans for Petraeus 2012, and let this great leader know that his country wants him as Commander in Chief.