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Foreign Affairs

Petraeus Rules

This New York Times story is just the latest--and in some ways the most explicit--explanation of what Petraeus got in return for taking this almost thankless job; perhaps ironically, Obama also got the same great good out of it: the overlapping responsibilities (never mind their "substantial personalities") of Eikenberry and Holbrooke will have to end, and that means that Eikenberry will soon be out, and Holbrooke made less and less relevant. If Crocker comes back in some form (especially as Eikenberry's replacement), the irony will fall toward Bush, since Obama will have replaced his own wise (McChrystal was also an Obama man) team with that of the unwise Bush.  In any case, it is Petraeus that is calling the shots in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) and Obama cannot fire him.  And one more irony, it doesn't matter who gets to be CENTCOM Commander (technically Petraeus' boss) because, of course, he will not direct Petraeus.  Although I prefer Gen. Mattis, it is more likely that Gen. Allen will be raised to director from acting: because he worked under Petreaus there will be no possibility of Allen trying to give directions to him.  On the other hand, it's hard for me to imagine that a guy like Mattis would be allowed to retire in these hard times.  Good men are hard to find.
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Discussions - 2 Comments

I'm not sure I understood the need for GEN Petraeus to be reassigned. Grant basically acted as head of the Army of the Potomac at times (as well as overall commander of all Union armies), and I believe GEN Schwarzkopf was his own JFLCC.

I don't really have a problem with it, as I think the theater is big enough to justify, but we have basically carved out a MacArthur-like CINCSWPA for some reason.

It's not that I have a problem with it, it's just that I wonder if society is trying harder to make situations fit rules rather than rules fit situations...CENTCOM does this, ITAF does that, never the twain shall meet...

My alternative guess is that this is driven by the desire of the Obama adminstration to not have someone say "he wanted to duck a confirmation hearing by having Petraeus take the job." So they had a confirmation hearing. Which leads to my other concern--we are starting to let desire to avoid hits due to spin talking points overrule judgment to the point that we are losing the ability to get things done. But then, live by the spin, die by fear of the spin...because reality will reap its harvest even if you were entirely able to manage the 24-hour news cycle.

Horatius, Gen Petraeus couldn't possibly manage CENTCOM (Central Command) and command the war in Afghanistan at the same time with any effectiveness. That would be like asking Eisenhower to remain Supreme Allied Commander while taken over command of Patton's 3rd Army. I don't know what a JFLCC or a CINCSWPA is so I can't speak to your other points, but the complexity of running a counter-insurgency campaign in a country like Afghanistan while simultaneously commanding all US military forces in the Middle East (from Djibouti to Lebannon to IRAN) is beyond the scope of any mortal's ability.

All told, what had to happen happened, and as a result the man most capable of achieving victory is in direct command. Additionally, as Dr. Schramm noted, the real problem was with the command structure; this change of leadership will necessarily shake-up the whole command structure, allowing the dead weight to be dropped and a clear understanding of everyone's duties and authority established.

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