Grilling Pe­traeus, pro­tect­ing Tehran

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

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 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 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.

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