Keep Eyes On Petraeus: Could Be the Republican’s Wesley Clark of 2012

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Petraeus.jpg
There is informal discussion among some in the military set — and increasingly among some pols — that General David Petraeus could be an interesting presidential prospect on the Republican side of the line a few years from now.
This is all speculation — very little grounded in anything serious — but the prospects of a “draft Petraeus” plan, though embryonic, triggered a Chatham House rules discussion today that I participated in in Chicago after I brought up Bill Gertz’s “Draft Tommy Franks for VP in 2008″ article that appeared today.
To get a sense of how “not” viable the Gertz proposal is, re-read Spencer Ackerman’s article on General Franks from August 2004 titled “Vision Impaired.”
But the same is not true of US Commander in Iraq David Petraeus — no matter what the outcome of his testimony before Congress in September on the results of the surge or the long-term outcome of the Iraq War.
In fact, Petraeus may actually be helped in any hidden presidential aspirations he may hold if things continue to deteriorate in Iraq and the Dems take the White House in November 2008.
The scenario runs something like this.
Petraeus — who both Dems and Republicans liked when he was perceived to be a highly competent, underappreciated expert on counter-insurgency and who was punished by Rumsfeld and exiled far from the front line action to do his work in Leavenworth, Kansas — won’t be blamed for the deteriorating mess in Iraq.
Things continue to go badly. Petraeus holds his finger in the dyke preventing total breakdown in Iraq and convulsing violence, but the Dems win the White House in 2008. Let’s just say Hillary Clinton wins, but I think the scenario holds for either Edwards or Obama.
Hillary Clinton and two chambers of Congress are now fully responsible for unwinding the Iraq War and managing America’s position in the Middle East. No matter how one looks at the problem, there is no silver bullet solution to preserve America’s interests where they were. There will be costs. Some Sunni governments in the region could fall. A regional conflagration could begin to heat up. A high-level assassination of a moderate Sunni Arab leader in Jordan, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia could start a raging new regional, if not global, war.
But not even considering the more nasty, sensational scenarios — Clinton or Obama or Edwards and their Democratic partners in Congress are going to have a terrible mess that will likely deteriorate further before some equilibrium is found.
There will be “plenty” by that time to blame on Hillary and the Dems in the Middle East — and thus, a new balanced, more pragmatic and judicious voice is needed — someone who understands how to deploy power and understands the evolving contours of non-state, radicalized, Islamic extremist violence.
He may be earning his political chits with Bush and company now.
Petraeus would be the Republican’s version of a Wesley Clark — a new Eisenhower. . .perhaps (though one senior retired military friend of mine nearly tossed it up when the comparison to Eisenhower whom he admires came up).
There are lots of problems with this scenario, but some folks are beginning to chew on it. Watch for David Petraeus in 2012. And watch for him to tell reporters who ask him about this, “I have no intentions to run for president at this time. . . ”
— Steve Clemons

Comments

27 comments on “Keep Eyes On Petraeus: Could Be the Republican’s Wesley Clark of 2012

  1. shop toys online says:

    Well, mass-media were given by general Clark of a sort of Yzzeg of passes on the fast growth of the military men which culmination of doubtfully legal campaign in Kosovo so why not to concern general Petreus as Douglas Makartur Redux, without speaking already as investigation of affairs about corruption to go Re: the weapon of diversions and shady agreements the contract when itself was responsible for preparation and logistics directed towards the Iraq armed forces.
    Its straight lines the report, lieutenant colonel Levonda of Self have already been brought accusations, but not to doubt themselves somehow corrupting by all by it, campaign “waves” escapes, irrespective of…

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  2. erotic toys says:

    Well, mass-media were given by general Clark of a sort of Yzzeg of passes on the fast growth of the military men which culmination of doubtfully legal campaign in Kosovo so why not to concern general Petreus as Douglas Makartur Redux, without speaking already as investigation of affairs about corruption to go Re: the weapon of diversions and shady agreements the contract when itself was responsible for preparation and logistics directed towards the Iraq armed forces. Its straight lines the report, lieutenant colonel Levonda of Self have already been brought accusations, but not to doubt themselves somehow corrupting by all by it, campaign “waves” escapes, irrespective of… Calculate for it.

    Reply

  3. John Shreffler says:

    Steve,
    He hasn’t won his war yet, so can’t be Ike. If we lose Iraq and he runs, it will be on Stab-in-the-Back ticket. Bad news, since Iraq ain’t gonna come out well; it’s always-already lost. Under those circumstances he comes out as 1923 Ludendorf.

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  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Why Was Petraeus Able To Shift The Debate On Iraq? The Media Enabled It
    http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/horsesmouth/2007/09/media_helped_pe.php
    So who’s to blame for the fact that General Petraeus’ aggressive PR surge is showing signs of success in advance of the September showdown between the White House and Congress over Iraq?
    Kevin Drum has a provocative post up in which he concludes that the liberal blogosphere and liberal establishment were badly “outplayed” by Petraeus’ PR “blitzkrieg.” Kevin reaches this sobering conclusion: “Even though there’s been no discernible political progress, minimal reconstruction progress, and apparently no genuine decrease in violence, he’s managed to convince an awful lot of people that the first doesn’t matter, the second is far more widespread than it really is, and the third is the opposite of reality.”
    Meanwhile, Atrios adds that part of the blame lies with our elected leaders, who “have chosen to play along.”
    Without discounting any of these conclusions, I think it’s necessary to add another explanation for the apparent success of Petraeus’ PR push: The media, in some cases out of incompetence and in others by design, helped him get away with it, and indeed actively enabled it.
    If you step back and survey the totality of media’s performance this summer on the Iraq debate, it becomes a good deal clearer just how awful it’s all been — and just how complicit these failings were in helping to shift the debate:
    (1) Big news orgs repeatedly twisted the words of Democrats who had returned from Iraq to make their assessments sound more positive than they were.
    This has happened again and again in recent weeks. When Democratic Senator Carl Levin came back from Iraq and said that the escalation was showing measurable results but has “totally and utterly failed” to reach its goal of political reconciliation in Iraq, big news orgs repeatedly spun Levin’s words to make it sound as if he were saying that the surge was succeeding, when he wasn’t.
    And when Hillary Clinton claimed in a recent speech that various tactical changes in Al Anbar province were showing results, news outlets reported again and again and again and again that she’d said the “surge” was “working,” when that isn’t what she’d said at all.
    (2) Big news orgs shifted the definition of the success of the surge from a political goal to a military one.
    This is a subset of the above category, but still noteworthy. In reporting on the testimony of Dems returning from Iraq, multiple news organizations dramatically downplayed the most important fact about the Dems’ conclusions: Specifically, that they were noting that the surge had failed to achieve its ultimate goal of political reconciliation, and that this failure reinforced the argument in favor of withdrawal. Thus, the meaning of the phrase “surge is working” was shifted to indicate scattered military successes, even while the surge was still falling miserably short of its own stated political goal.
    (3) Many news organizations gave tons of coverage to outside experts who said the surge is working, while giving little to none to people who said it wasn’t.
    When Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack published their infamous New York Times Op ed saying that the surge was working, an extraordinary number of big news outlets lavished coverage on it. Worse, the news orgs uniformly blared the false message that O’Hanlon and Pollack were “war critics,” thus infusing their conclusion with false portent and significance.
    It can’t be overstated just how perfectly the media’s performance on that Op ed dovetailed with the White House’s propaganda push at that moment: At precisely the same time, multiple White House and Republican officials were publicly delivering precisely the same message about these “war critics” finding success in Iraq that the big news orgs were. Meanwhile, the same news outlets gave little to no coverage to people — the troops included — who were far more pessimistic. Perhaps most dispiriting of all, some news orgs used the O’Hanlon Op ed to push a larger falsehood: That war critics in general had decided the surge was working.
    (4) Multiple news outlets repeatedly and falsely described the September Iraq assessment as representing the sole judgment of Petraeus, echoing White House propaganda.
    Even after it was widely reported that the September Iraq report wouldn’t represent the sole word of Petraeus but would actually be written by the White House, multiple news organizations continued describing the report for days and days and days as representing solely the Gospel According To Petraeus.
    It can’t be overstated just how central to the White House’s PR strategy the Petraeus Report sham was. The idea was clearly to put a new public face on the September report and separate it from the people who have been lying to us all along about Iraq, in order to enhance its credibility in advance. To that end, White House officials repeatedly described it as the Petraeus Report for weeks and weeks until the news broke that it wasn’t going to be the Petraeus Report at all. Having watched Petraeus’ PR savvy in action, we now understand, of course, that even if the report were Petraeus’ sole word, it’s unclear how much this would really enhance its credibility, anyway.
    (5) News orgs and pundits are now baselessly asserting that the White House is “confident” that it will “win” the September showdown with Dems over Iraq.
    Perhaps the most dispiriting thing about this development is its eerie echo of press coverage of the 2006 elections, where reporters and commentators kept on asserting, no matter what the polls showed, that Republicans were “confident” and “gleeful” and “on offense” against the Dems. Now this is happening again in advance of the September Iraq showdown. This has only just begun, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it increased to a roar in coming days.
    When you look at the totality of the media failure here, it suddenly becomes clear what a smoldering wreck it all is, doesn’t it?
    Again, this isn’t to minimize the failings of liberals and Dems here. As I noted some time ago (too lazy to find the link), the Dem Congressional leadership was for some time surprisingly mute while Petraeus and the White House kicked their campaign into high gear. This is partly a function of Congress being on recess — any Congressional staffer will tell you how hard it is to wrest a statement from members of Congress during August — but this just ain’t a good enough excuse.
    Still, media coverage does play a big role here — though gauging just how big is dicey — because Congressional insiders are heavily attuned to, and influenced by, shifts in media tone and insider pundit opinion. So the coverage, should it continue in this vein, probably will end up helping persuade skittish Congressional Dems that Petraeus’ ongoing PR surge just can’t be resisted, if it hasn’t persuaded some of them of this already.

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  5. Chris D. says:

    Is there any reason why he will not tapped for VP in 2008? Fred Thompson would be smart to try – he can offer Petraeus a VP post like Cheney not Gore – functioning head of the US National Security/Foreign Policy apparatus.
    As much as I do not want to say it, I am afraid they would be unbeatable in 08.

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  6. barrisj says:

    Well, the media gave Gen. Clark sort of a laisser-passer on his own rapid rise in the military, culminating with the questionably legal Kosovo campaign, so why not treat Gen. Petraeus as Douglas McArthur redux, never mind how the corruption investigations go re: weapons diversions and shady contract agreements when Himself was in charge of training and logistics aimed toward the Iraqi armed forces. His direct report, Lt Col Levonda Selph has already been indicted, but no doubt Himself will somehow elude tainting by all this, the “surge” campaign, whatever… count on it.

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  7. Sandy says:

    U.S. Says Company Bribed Officers for Work in Iraq
    By ERIC SCHMITT and JAMES GLANZ
    August 31, 2007
    WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 — An American-owned company operating from Kuwait paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to American contracting officers in efforts to win more than $11 million in contracts, the government says in court documents.
    The Reach of War
    The Army last month suspended the company, Lee Dynamics International, from doing business with the government, and the case now appears to be at the center of a contracting fraud scandal that prompted Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to dispatch the Pentagon inspector general to Iraq to investigate…..
    That officer, Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph, was at the heart of the effort to strengthen the fledgling Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005. She worked closely with Gen. David H. Petraeus, who commanded the effort at the time. The general is now the top commander in Iraq. There is no indication that investigators have uncovered any wrongdoing by General Petraeus….
    Oh yeah! Great “presidential” material….

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  8. Sandy says:

    How despicable is this post….speculating about a Petraeaus presidency in 2012!
    Ridiculous!
    It is written as though in a vacuum! Without ANY sense of what is actually going on in Iraq and the White House….and why it is. Who GIVES A DAMN what some toady goody-too-shoes general working to make a name for himself …..on the backs of….with the blood…..of his young men and women…..who GIVES A DAMN what his prospects are? THIS IS C R A Z Y!!! BAT-SHIT CRAZY!
    Do you KNOW that young kids are DYING? Do YOU give a DAMN???? Do you KNOW the corruption at all levels — the White House on down ….INCLUDING the Pentagon?????
    Would YOU vote for such a person????
    WTF????
    This really IS like George Orwell’s world….as he described it!
    Newspeak!
    Shocking! This is SHOCKING to me!
    People…right now….making big money in Washington, D.C……pay more attention to cartoons about bathroom sex by senators (tee hee …titilllating)…..and some Chris Dodd stance…..and whether some grinny goody-two-shoes general has a chance in 2012…….Good grief!
    At the very LEAST if you have lived and worked in Washington, D.C. for more than two months, you OUGHT to know …..that everything changes in an instant anyway.
    Like WHEN WE BOMB ….or NUKE CIVILIANS…..in IRAN!
    Duh! Do you not suppose that might change things between now and 2012????
    Are you drinking White House Kool-aid??? Is this a PROPAGANDA BLOG?????
    It’s surely beginning to sound like one.

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  9. Captain Dan says:

    Petraeus sold his soul to be the top general; why should he not do the same thing to get the republican (sic) nomination?

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  10. ... says:

    i like how ron paul gets ignored. probably due the fact he is a good man worthy of leadership. i suppose blog folks were waxing on about the virtues of cheney and bush back in the late 90’s.. steve, what were you doing?

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  11. Frank says:

    Christ, it never ends looking for saviours for whatever…Petraeous, the one who was in charge of training and weapons distrubution in 04/05, speculated as a candidate for a “saviour” position as a US president???He has a track record as a failed manager in Iraq, e.g, the missing weapons that he had no time to record distribution and weapon serial numbers given to the Iraqis..I wonder how many of those missing weapons have killed our soldiers..But hey, that makes him qualified to be president of the US??? Of course, I forgot. The bar for the US presidency has been set so low that one has to reach up to touch bottom.
    Thanks Bush for making your mark,….. no more appropriate making your stain on our core values , by setting the now operative preemptive incompetentcy standard of how we select our leaders..

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  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    U.S. Military Censors ThinkProgress
    ThinkProgress is now banned from the U.S. military network in Baghdad.
    Recently, an avid ThinkProgress reader — a U.S. soldier serving his second tour in Iraq — wrote to us and said that he can no longer access ThinkProgress.org. The error message he received:
    continues at…
    http://thinkprogress.org/2007/08/31/military-censors/

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  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So, Craig resigns today because he tried to find tubesteak in a airport restroom.
    Meanwhile, Rice is on the payroll, despite ignoring a congressional subpoena. Bush and Cheney continue a litany of lies and actions that amount to high crimes and treason.
    You can murder, perjure, evesdrop, torture and loot, but you can’t suck cock. (Unless it’s Jeff Gannon’s.)
    Hundreds of thousands of dead Muslims, soon to number in the millions.
    And Craig resigns.
    We are saved from bathroom stall terrorism. God bless Washington, and the war on glory holes.

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  14. judyo says:

    I’d liken him to Ollie North.

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  15. Bill R. says:

    The Iraq Tragedy and those who sold it and continued it will be thoroughly discredited and vilified. Petraeus helped to continue it by rescuing Bush when the other generals told him the truth about continuing and increasing occupation. In addition the lies that Petraeus has told about the alleged “success” of the surge will likewise be vilified. A case in point is his “sales” job to shore up Australian support when he talks about the dramatic drop in sectarian related killings due to the surge. And whatever his talents, Petraeus hardly seems like the next Eisenhower. And he certainly didn’t defeat the Nazi war machine and liberate Europe.

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  16. bob h says:

    Somehow the idea of an uncharismatic Princeton PhD heading the Republican ticket seems a little implausible. And remember that Eisenhower was the hero of D-Day and the victory over Germany.

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  17. ploeg says:

    The problem with that scenario is that Petraeus will have an Iraq track record of his very own by 2008. If things get worse under his watch (as they most probably will), he will own that. The Bush crowd will make certain that he will own that. So like with Tommy Franks, the loyalty goes only one way: Petraeus backs up the Bush strategy, and Bush blames Petraeus when things go wrong.
    In 1952, Eisenhower’s only promise was, “I will go to Korea.” Petraeus will never be able to get away with that.

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  18. B.W. says:

    As always, Steve carves up a cool and interesting pie. I had not thought of petraeus, and while DickDurata might have as well, Clemons has his cool, page turning twists.

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  19. Howard says:

    Isn’t General Petraeus the one responsible for the “disapearance” of 190,000 AK-47s and other weapons?
    “But the GAO said weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, who now commands all U.S. forces in Iraq.”
    How come he hasn’t been reprimanded for that??? And how come you’d post such speculation without reminding those idiots who might like him to run about this? Anyone who cares for our troops should be really upset about this and I can’t imagine why “pro-war” types haven’t made a stink (okay they’re total hypocrites).
    Steve – create uproar and urge congress to ask Petraeus all about this REPEATEDLY when he testifies. This will display a truthful big failure on the part of “bushs messenger”. It will make clear that he is NOT veyr competent and does not have a track record to be trusted.
    Thanks.
    Thanks.

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  20. Peterr says:

    Steve, you’ve got a bad link in the first paragraph. Instead of linking to the bio of General Petraeus, it links to the bio of Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV

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  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Petraeus. A man that is willing to prop up a political deception while his troops are dying in the field. Can there be a more despicable creature?

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  22. Jon Stopa says:

    Steve, Eisenhower in 1953 made a decision that we are living with the fearsome results of. He decided, it is said, for reasons of lower cost, to depend on covert actions instead of overt actions. The first important covert action was the overthrow of the elected leader of Iran and the re-instalation of the Sha. The birth of the modern CIA. From this flows current Iran and Iraq. The second was Indochina. From this flowed Vietnam. Yeah, and the GOP ever since, Nixon to Bush. Ike did some bad stuff, when you think about it. Could we really do without this covert drug–How do you overcome something like that?

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  23. wkmaier says:

    Steve,
    While I agree that this is possible, it strikes me as cynical at BEST, evil at worst. Assuming the Dems get the WH in 2008, they (he/she) have/has a real shot at getting the blame for this disaster, my question is how many Americans will be looking for one way tickets should Betray=US win in 2012.
    Purely hypothetical mind you.

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  24. Lurker says:

    According to the latest UN figures, more than ONE MILLION Iraqis have died as a direct result of OUR latest invasion.
    And yet Steve says this, “…understands the evolving contours of non-state, radicalized, Islamic extremist violence.”
    Which faction is more violent Steve? — the U.S. and Israel (using our tax dollars) dropping death and destruction from the sky?
    Or the “radicalized, Islamic extremist violence” which doesn’t really threaten us unless we continue our USRael HOLOCAUSTS on their countries?
    I can tell that you don’t have kids, but I would venture to guess that many of your readers have children who they love in their lives. And we’re terrified about the future Steve.
    This “War on Terror” is all about Israel, and always has been, the difference between the run-up the invasion of Iraq and the run-up to the invasion of Iran, is that now many U.S. taxpayers are realizing that Israel controls our foreign policy, and at this point, our lives.
    By the way, I.N.N. World Report had both Stephen Walt and John Mearshemier on last year talking about the Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy. The Walt/ Mearsheimer interviews are probably on their website, innworldreport.net and are definitely worth a listen.

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  25. easy e says:

    ***Petraeus says troop surge is working.***
    “General Petraeus, can you please explain for whom the surge is working?
    Is it for the 4 million Iraqis have left their homes due to sectarian violence?
    For the people who have left their homes in Iraqi border areas because Iran has conducted cross-border raids into Iraq against the PPK because the US and the Iraqi military cannot secure the border?
    Is it working to restore electricity and clean water?
    Is it working to rehabilitate ‘reconstruction’ projects so shabbily built that they can barely function?
    Is it working for Iraqi kids dying from aggressive cancers caused by the use of depleted uranium by the US military?
    Is it working for our vets who are dying from agressive cancers caused by the US military’s use of depleted uranium?
    If the answers to all of the above are honestly ‘absolutely not’, then for whom is the surge working?
    General, this evaluation of the surge as successful is for two groups, and two groups only: the companies salivating over the potential to control Iraq’s oil, and the US congress which appears to be block-headed enough (or ‘bought’ enough) to continue funding this debacle.”
    M.R.-WRH
    The general’s star would rise if he resigned in protest.

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  26. rapier says:

    It would be a thing of beauty for a military man to take the helm of The Party. Perfection.
    Eisenhower was obsessed with maintaining limits on executive power. In the end a great error. His famous warning about the military industrial complex was in fact a declaration of surrender on the war he never fought. He stood aside. A tragic legacy. (I don’t know where he stood on the great CIA coups of the 50s, I guess he was behind them. Another tragic legacy}

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