Grilling Petraeus, protecting Tehran
The president’s decision to nominate Gen. David Petraeus, whose counterinsurgency plan has dramatically improved the situation in Iraq, to head U.S. Central Command, is a superb choice. As head of Central Command, Gen. Petraeus will oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He will be replaced as commander in Iraq by Gen. Raymond Odierno, who in February completed a 15-month tour of duty as Gen. Petraeus’s top deputy. In addition to overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the chief of Central Command has responsibility for military operations in the Horn of Africa.
In all likelihood, both generals will likely be overwhelmingly confirmed with the support the great majority of Senate Democrats. But the Petraeus nomination, in particular, has put the Democratic Party leadership in a difficult situation, as they try to find a way to sound respectful about the general’s work while signalling to MoveOn.org and the rest of the kook fringe their disdain for the war effort. When asked April 27 on “Fox News Sunday” about the Petraeus selection, Sen. Barack Obama, of Illinois, current frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he would vote to confirm him. But Mr. Obama went on to in effect belittle the substantial military accomplishments that have taken place under Gen. Petraeus’s command, including the decimation of al Qaeda’s terror networks and sharp reductions in the number of people killed. According to Mr. Obama, Gen. Petraeus has done a good “tactical” job in Iraq — as if bringing a measure of safety to onetime terrorist safe havens like Ramadi, Fallujah, Diyala and Baghdad was some marginal technical matter that shouldn’t concern the American people very much.
Mr. Obama said he would listen to Gen. Petraeus’ advice, adding that it “would be stupid of me” to ignore what he has to say. But the senator hastened to add that, while he might feel obliged to listen to Gen. Petraeus, no one should get the impression that his advice would carry much weight with a future President Obama — particularly when it came to his determination to start pulling troops out of Iraq shortly after taking the oath of office, whatever the military situation on the ground.
During his television appearance yesterday, Mr. Obama sounded a little bit like Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, when talking about the need to stand firm against the bad actors in the region. The difference is that when Mr. Mc- Cain talks this way, he’s usually referring in Tehran, Damascus or terrorist groups. Mr. Obama, by contrast, tends to reserve his toughest talk for allies of the United States — in this case, the democratically elected Iraqi government. Mr. Obama, like many of his fellow Democrats, routinely criticizes the Iraqis government for its political infighting, while treating Iran’s role in supplying the weapons that killing and maiming American soldiers as if it were an afterthought or a rhetorical throwaway line. Don’t be surprised if Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats follow the MoveOn.org template and attempt to use the upcoming Petraeus/Odierno confirmation hearings to win security guarantees — for Iran. They want to tell the mullahs that no matter how destructively they behave in Iraq, they don’t need to worry about retaliation from the United States.