Thursday, April 24, 2008

Petraeus Promotion Consolidates Bush War Policy

As the Los Angeles Times reports in "Petraeus Promotion Ensures Future for Bush War Policy," the Bush administration's promotion of General David Petraeus to CentCom commander will solidify Iraq war policy into the next administration:

In promoting Army Gen. David H. Petraeus to commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, President Bush is doing more than rewarding a job well done in Iraq. The president also is taking a step toward perpetuating his policy of high troop levels in Iraq and is putting his most trusted general in charge of renewing the military's focus on Iran.

Petraeus has been the prime advocate of Bush's policy of a large troop presence in Iraq. By naming Petraeus to a job that lasts into the next administration, Bush ensures that the new president will confront the military's strongest voice for maintaining a big force in Iraq.

And Petraeus has emerged as a leading critic of Iran's interference in Iraq, making his appointment a signal of heightened U.S. attention to Tehran. His expertise with Iran's military and political leadership will allow him to take a more hands-on approach to dealing with the government.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday that Bush would nominate Petraeus to take over as chief of U.S. Central Command, which also oversees Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The job was left vacant in March when Navy Adm. William J. Fallon stepped down abruptly after appearing to criticize U.S. policy in the region, especially in Iran.

At the same time, Gates said, Bush will nominate Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno to take over Petraeus' current job as top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Odierno had served directly under Petraeus as day-to-day Iraq commander before stepping down in February.

Like Petraeus, Odierno has urged that Pentagon leaders and policymakers approach U.S. troop reductions cautiously to avoid creating gaps in Iraq's fragile security.

Both men must await Senate confirmation. Although confirmation hearings will be confrontational, with Democrats criticizing Bush's war policy, both men are likely to be approved.

Despite the policy disagreements, Petraeus and Odierno command wide respect because of their success in reducing the level of violence in Iraq.

During his time as Iraq commander, Petraeus has grown steadily more critical of Iran's interference in Iraq's politics and of its role in contributing to violence.

When he took command of U.S. forces in Iraq in 2007, Petraeus was surprised at the extent of Iranian meddling, said some who have worked with him.

During recent appearances in Washington, Petraeus highlighted "nefarious activities" by Iran's Quds Force and charged that the unit has armed Iraqi "special groups" that have killed U.S. troops.

"We should all watch Iranian actions closely in the weeks and months ahead, as they will show the kind of relationship Iran wishes to have with its neighbor," Petraeus told Congress.

But Petraeus also has displayed a keen understanding of the current Iranian government, and many said he would approach Tehran with reserve.

"You will find a very pragmatic general," said Frederick W. Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who has advised the Bush administration on its war strategy. "The Iranians won't be happy because they are not going to be able to feed him nonsense. But he won't be handing anyone in Washington memos saying, 'It's time to go to war.' "

In his new post, Petraeus will have a chance to solve a problem that, before now, he and others could only complain about.

"The question is not if Iran is unhelpful in Iraq," said P.J. Crowley, a retired Air Force colonel and a fellow at the Center for American Progress. "The question is what to do about it."

Once Bush leaves office, his successor is free to change his policies. On Iraq, the president's most important influence will be through the military officers he installs in command.
But see also Robert Kaplan, at the Atlantic, who elaborates more on the changes in top military personnel:

Petraeus's appointment as combatant commander of Central Command was set in motion several weeks ago, with the firing of then-combatant commander Adm. William Fallon. The administration let him go not for opposing a possible strike against Iran, as was widely speculated, but for arguing too often with Petraeus over troop levels in Iraq. Petraeus, who may be the most well-read analytical mind in the military, wanted to maintain troop levels, rather than reduce them for use in Afghanistan and for other contingencies -- to say nothing of relieving strains on the army. But Fallon and Pentagon generals wanted troop levels in Iraq to come down. Petraeus won the debate.

He will be the new CentCom combatant commander, running developments in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a naval officer, Fallon had trouble gaining control of Central Command, since both Iraq and Afghanistan are Army-run wars. Petraeus will now have overall control of both conflicts. Replacing Petraeus as the top ground commander in Iraq will be Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, Petraeuss deputy until a few weeks ago. Odierno carried out the nuts-and-bolts work of Petraeuss surge. Together they made an effective team; the next-best thing to having Petraeus in Iraq is having Odierno there.

That they will again constitute a team overseeing the Iraq war, now at an even higher level of command, means the Bush administration is going for victory in Iraq over all other priorities. Indeed, the personnel changes indicate that the administration is desperate to show enough improvement in Iraq by the end of the year that an incoming Democratic president wouldn't dare reduce troop levels precipitously and risk being blamed for a dramatic security meltdown. To wit, these appointments demonstrate that, irrespective of who will be the next president, the presidential transition has already begun -- on this administration's terms.
And this just pisses off the left to no end.

See, "
Ass-Kissing Little Chickenshit Promoted to Head U.S. Central Command."