American Conservative Mag Mocks Petraeus As ‘Sycophant Savoir’ – Will Congress Condemn It Like They Did the Ad?

The cover of the October 8, 2007, issue of Pat Buchanan’s magazine, American Conservative, shows a photo of Gen. David Petraeus under the headline, “Sycophant Savior.” The cover story is subheaded, “General Petraeus wins a battle in Washington — if not in Baghdad.”

Beyond the headline, the American Conservative article is harshly critical of the general and the partisan political role he has chosen to play. The writer, Andrew J. Bacevich, describes Petraeus as a “politcal general of the worst kind — one who indulges in the politics of accommodation that is Washington’s bread and butter but has thereby deferred a far more urgent political imperative, namely, bringing our military policies into harmony with our political purposes.”

Bacevich accuses Petraeus of deploying a strategy in Iraq that is designed to succeed politically in Washington, not militarily in Iraq:

Petraeus has chosen a middle course, carefully crafted to cause the least amount of consternation among various Washington constituencies he is eager to accommodate. This is the politics of give and take, of horse trading, of putting lipstick on a pig. Ultimately, it is the politics of avoidance.

Petraeus’ critics make a good case, says Bacevich, when they accuse him of “…relying on dubious statistics, with ignoring facts that he finds inconvenient, and with discovering trends where none exist. They question whether to credit the much-touted progress in Anbar province to American shrewdness or to the vagaries of Iraqi sectarian and tribal politics. They cite the pathetic performance of the corrupt and dysfunctional Iraqi government. They note the disparity between the Petraeus assessment and those offered by the intelligence community, by the Government Accountability Office, and by congressionally appointed blue-ribbon commissions. They point out that other highly qualified and well-informed senior military officers — notably, Gen. George Casey, the army chief of staff, and Adm. William Fallon, commander of United States Central Command –have publicly expressed views notably at odds with those of General Petraeus.”

If the surge is working, as Petraeus claimed in his congressional testimony, a strong military leader would exploit the opportunities provided by the increased security by pouring in resources to bring the enemy to bay. Instead, Petraeus recommends ending the surge by reducing forces. The only reason for acting in such a counter-military way, Bacevich suggests, is politics. The strategy has nothing to do with “victory” in Iraq, and everything to do with appeasing Petraeus’ interest groups in Washington, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, moderate Republicans in Congress (as well as the Democrats) and even Pres. Bush.

Bacevich concludes:

Politically, it qualifies as a brilliant maneuver. The general’s relationships with official Washington remain intact. Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life. He has failed his country. History will not judge him kindly.

When criticized Petraeus for many of these same reasons in its much vilified ad with the headline, “General Petraeus or General Betray Us? Cooking the books for the White House,” the Senate passed a resolution condemning the liberal group that read:

To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.

We’ll be waiting (but not holding our breath) to see if anyone drafts a similar measure condemning the American Conservative magazine.


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  • Zola Daniels
    September 30, 2007 - 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I think the most damage the general did was to the troops. When your leader is chosen to be a political appointee its over for them. No respect will be given. So sorry General that you are only serving the minority of our country. True history will not treat you kindly!

  • Clemsy
    October 1, 2007 - 4:11 am | Permalink

    “We’ll be waiting to see if anyone drafts a similar measure condemning the American Conservative magazine.”

    As if they would know what “sycophant” means. Now if the article said “Ass Kissing,” they’d be in a tight spot.

  • robthomaseyes
    October 1, 2007 - 8:19 pm | Permalink

    I am here to petition to have people start calling Rush by his original radio name – the one he got arrested under – JEFF CHRISTIE. Rush is very fond of doling out insulting nicknames to everybody else; I think he deserves a little turnabout. So from now on, he is JEFF CHRISTIE. If you don’t know about that name, google it up. You’ll be happy you did.

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