The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

✚ The Sins Of General David Petraeus

The Sins Of General David Petraeus

The Petraeus sex scandal has led to a re-examination of the general's career, and in particular the suspicious (I certainly thought at the time) adulation he received in the late Bush era, at a time when the US was facing the catastrophic consequences of its invasion of Iraq and Petraeus has banded about as the Second Coming that would fix it all by some of the media. I don't think his affair is relevant to anything, but a closer look at what happened in Iraq does suggest that in many ways the "20% solution" did take place. Here's Michael Hastings for Buzzfeed:

There’s his war record in Iraq, starting when he headed up the Iraqi security force training program in 2004. He’s more or less skated on that, including all the weapons he lost, the insane corruption, and the fact that he essentially armed and trained what later became known as “Iraqi death squads.” On his final Iraq tour, during the so-called "surge," he pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.

He did it by papering over what the surge actually was: We took the Shiites' side in a civil war, armed them to the teeth, and suckered the Sunnis into thinking we’d help them out too. It was a brutal enterprise — over 800 Americans died during the surge, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives during a sectarian conflict that Petraeus’ policies fueled. Then he popped smoke and left the members of the Sunni Awakening to fend for themselves. A journalist friend told me a story of an Awakening member, exiled in Amman, whom Petraeus personally assured he would never abandon. The former insurgent had a picture of Petraeus on his wall, but was a little hurt that the general no longer returned his calls.

There's some interesting stuff about what Hastings calls the media-military complex, too. Petraeus may very well be an excellent leaders, manager, general and strategist. He delivered results of sorts for the US, which gave Washington political cover for an exit. But the cult of personality was always excessive, and it's a shame it took a sordid reason to begin questioning it.