David Petraeus was more of a PR genius than a samurai to begin with. His cinematic model would be Captain Willard as played by Martin Sheen in Coppola's Apocalypse Now; the warrior intellectual. Petraeus, who for quite a while actively positioned himself as a possible presidential candidate in 2012, was clever enough to sell to US public opinion -- and gullible mainstream media -- the notion that he was a winner in both Iraq and Afghanistan. These are two monumental fallacies.
The revolving door ethos in Washington -- in this case between the Pentagon and the CIA -- reached new heights of absurdity when Petraeus, who adapted his counterinsurgency tactics from Iraq to Afghanistan, as in take, clear, hold and build, was put in charge, as CIA director, of analyzing ... the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. The Taliban must be laughing all across the Hind Kush about Petraeus's counterinsurgency "success" -- which, by the way, he imposed, along with other Pentagon generals, on Obama in late 2009.
Petraeus is a product of the Pentagon. He could never, by himself, get rid of the inbuilt logic of Endless War, established by Republican strategists of what French political scientist Alain Joxe has characterized as "war neoliberalism."
Iraq and Afghanistan were pure manifestations of "war neoliberalism." Petraeus's "surge" in Iraq was a sham. When he arrived with his suitcases full of cash to convince Sunni guerrillas to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, and not American soldiers, the real surge was already being accomplished; this was the surge led by the Iraqi Interior Ministry and Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, which had practically succeeded in the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad and surrounding areas, reverting the population balance to the benefit of Shi'ites. As for the Sunni guerrillas, at least they could pocket American money while biding their time to continue their fight against a Shi'ite-dominated government in Baghdad.
Obama's foreign policy team certainly thought that Petraeus counterinsurgency mumbo-jumbo would allow Iraq -- and later Afghanistan -- at least some sort of what could be dubbed inter-communitarian democracy, saving American face in terms of a troop exit that would not replicate the last helicopter leaving a Saigon roof in 1975.
But the fact is Petraeus did not win any hearts and minds in either Iraq or Afghanistan; his take, clear, hold and build tactics ultimately led to nowhere in both cases -- and we're not even talking about serious instances of torture, extrajudicial killings, illegal detentions and widespread shadow war. His "mini-surge" could only have had a shot at succeeding in Afghanistan (and that's quite a stretch) if it was not mini; if he had had access to hundreds of thousands of troops -- something politically unacceptable in the US.
Then there's Benghazi. What may have really happened is that the US consulate in Benghazi was a sort of CIA safe house/spy house -- thus under Petraeus responsibility, not the State Dept. This neatly dovetails with "Paula" casually saying, at the University of Denver on October 26, that "prisoners" were being held at the consulate (the CIA vehemently denied it, so there must be a degree of truth to it).
That the consulate was attacked by Salafi-jihadis is out of the question. The State Department may have been the fall guys -- while Petraeus/CIA got away with their incompetence. Well, until the bedroom farce exploded.
It remains to be seen whether anyone in Washington will dare asking the pertinent questions. It remains to be seen whether Petraeus's relentless, hyper-counterproductive (not to mention collateral damage-laden) drone wars will be reevaluated. It remains to be seen whether Obama 2.0 will decide to practice diplomacy -- and not shadow war -- in the intersection between Central and South Asia.
The inestimable Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, suggests Obama should stop listening to "faux experts -- the neocon specialists at Brookings, AEI and elsewhere," and instead go for "genuine experts like former national intelligence officer for the Near East Paul Pillar, former State Department chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson, and military historian and practitioner Andrew Bacevich (Lt Col, USA, ret). These are straight-shooters; they have no interest in 'long wars'; they will tell you the truth; all you need to do is listen."
Forget about straight shooters. The Acting CIA Director is now Michael Morell, a puppet of counter-terrorism czar John Brennan. As for The General, what a sorry exit; he gets no fancy car, no martinis, no Tom Ford killer suit, he doesn't save the world. And in the end he doesn't even get the girl.
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