Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Cult of Petraeus

"On the strength of a single tour running the 101st Airborne in Mosul, Newsweek put the relatively unknown general on its cover in 2004 under the headline CAN THIS MAN SAVE IRAQ? (It’s the first of three cover stories the magazine wrote about him.) Petraeus’ embrace of counterinsurgency, with its self-congratulatory stylings as an enlightened form of warfare that deemphasized killing, earned him plaudits as an “intellectual,” unlike those “old-fashioned, gung-ho, blood-and-guts sort of commander[s],” as Time’s Joe Klein wrote in 2007. This media narrative took hold despite the bloody, close-encounter street fights that characterized Baghdad during the surge....Politicians and the press treated Petraeus as a conquering hero. Tom Ricks, then the Washington Post’s senior military correspondent, wrote that Petraeus’ “determination” was the “cornerstone of his personality,” and portrayed the success of surge as that determination beating back the insurgents and the nay-sayers. “The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus,” wrote Brookings Institutions analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack after a return from Iraq. “They are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.” John McCain hugged Petraeus so closely during his 2008 campaign that Post columnist Jackson Diehl dubbed the general “McCain’s Running Mate.”"