Thursday, June 24, 2010

Petraeus' calming influence?

Analysis by the WaPo's Rajiv Chadrasekaran and Karen DeYoung suggests that replacing McChriystal with Petraeus could provide a "calming influence."   Indeed, Petraeus is beloved by the Capitol Hill crowd, whom he has cultivated assiduously; and he gets along well with US diplomats.

But he's now faced with - by his own admission - a much tougher war in Afghanistan than was that in Iraq.  And his hard-earned demi-god status, which this very ambitious man is surely intent on preserving (and his name has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2012 or after), will surely be riding on his ability to "fix" things in Afghanistan. 

But can he do that?  There's no real reason to believe that Afghanistan is indeed fixable - at least by the US - in the short term.  And according to Mr. Obama's statements when the Afghanistan "Surge" was announced, the US has only a bit more than one year to achieve "success" before at least some troops begin to come home.  All of which begs certain questions - one of them, in fact, set up by Chandrasekaran and DeYoung, who note: "in turning to the nation's most prominent general, Obama has embraced a commander who may become a formidable advocate for slowing, or arresting outright, the pace of troop reductions next summer. So, . . .
  • What happens if, as the clock begins to tick down, Petraeus begins to make it known to his adoring fans in Congress that he wants more time - an extension of the "Surge"?
  • Indeed, did Petraeus demand from Obama some accommodation on this score before he agreed to accept this new command? 

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