Yesterday, President Obama appointed Gen. David Petraeus—onetime top general in Iraq, then top general for all operations in the Middle East and Central Asia—to head the U.S. military’s effort in Afghanistan after Gen. Stanley McChrystal was sacked for semi-insubordinate comments reported in Rolling Stone. Slate’s Fred Kaplan, usually a military analyst worth reading, calls it an impeccable choice.
Tablet Magazine has covered Petraeus several times over the past few months. Depending on what you believe Petraeus said, he either espoused the doctrine of “linkage,” which states that the continued irresolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hinders America’s ability to achieve its national security goals in the region, such as withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan and preventing Iran from going nuclear; or he argued that anger in the Arab world over the Palestinian situation is one of many factors that, in his own words, “foment anti-American sentiment,” “gives Iran influence,” and helps Al-Qaeda and like-minded groups “mobilize support.”
Meanwhile, argued David P. Goldman, Jewish conservatives, for whom Petraeus tends to be something of a hero, should have bashed the general’s remarks in a ploy for Jewish votes.
Although this latest move has further raised Petraeus’s stature (if that were possible) and further confirmed him the most broadly respected American general since Eisenhower, it has arguably lowered his influence, at least day-to-day. He will go from managing CENTCOM, which is in charge of the region that includes Israel, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and more, to managing Afghanistan, just one country in that region. This job transfer is a compliment to Petraeus, yet another feather in his cap … and, technically, a demotion.