Rethinking Petraeus in 2012

May 5th, 2010 at 12:57 pm | 19 Comments |

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In the American Spectator, Philip Klein has a big cover story on General David Petraeus, focusing on whether or not he could change his mind and run for president.  Obviously, the General has said over and over again that he won’t, but still…

Right now, the country is focused on domestic issues, but things can change, and at some point in the future a crisis may draw Americans’ attention back to national security. This could create demand for a Petraeus candidacy — perhaps making him reconsider, like Eisenhower, out of a sense of duty. And perhaps he’d master the art of campaigning in the same way in which he’s learned to excel at everything else he’s focused on over the course of his career.

It’s a good long piece, but it doesn’t quite answer the question of whether it would be good for the Republican Party or for the conservative movement for a Petraeus candidacy to take place.  I do know that Klein is very much devoted to the cause of stopping a Romney candidacy, producing post after column after post on why he sees a Romney candidacy as a bad idea.  In particular, Klein believes a Romney candidacy would mean the continued nationalization of healthcare, because Romney can’t effectively oppose the most unpopular parts of Obama’s bill.  Fair enough, but forgive me for thinking that Petraeus would be no more likely to repeal Obamacare than Romney.  He’d probably be less likely to introduce major reforms, because he’d probably keep more of a focus on foreign policy, and let the HHS bureaucracy run itself, no?

And then there’s that other question: namely, how are General Petraeus’s foreign policy achievements going to look in 2012?  Now, by sheer coincidence, the very entertaining and over-the-top polemicist David Goldman, aka Spengler, had a post on that very topic yesterday at the Asia Times.  He smashes the furniture more than a bit in his column, but there is a point in there somewhere.

Petraeus’ formulation [CENTCOM's statement on March 16 that "Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world"] lends respectability to the fanciful idea that Iran would listen to reason if only Israel would stop building apartments in East Jerusalem. Echoing Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on April 27, “Heretofore, the lack of progress in the peace process has provided political ammunition to our adversaries in the Middle East and in the region, and that progress in this arena will enable us not only to perhaps get others to support the peace process, but also support us in our efforts to try and impose effective sanctions against Iran.”

Like Alice in Wonderland, the U.S. administration is trying to play croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs. If only the hedgehog would hold still, Gates complains, Washington could hit it with a flamingo.

That’s… one way of putting it.  The trouble with Petraeus is the same; he is in charge of running major parts of Obama’s foreign policy agenda.  We should all wish him well at his post.  But if the major moving parts of Obama’s Mideast policy in particular are incoherent, then how will their incoherence made manifest in a major crisis make the case for Petraeus for President?

In 1995, extended speculation in the conservative press over the possibility of a Colin Powell candidacy did not help one bit when it came to derailing Bob Dole’s doomed ascension, or coming up with a post-1994 policy agenda.  Let’s not make the same mistake twice.

Ideas before personalities.

Recent Posts by Thomas J. Marier



19 Comments so far ↓

  • DFL

    Petraeus has surrendered to the liberal Kulturesmog in his own profession, the military. He supports open homosexuality in the military and further feminization of the military. If Petraeus won’t stand up to the Left in their efforts to force their values on the military, why would conservatives want him running the country? The man is a hollow man like most of the political generals that rise to high rank today. He sure isn’t Chesty Puller or William Dean “Hawk” Hawkins.

  • The American Spectator : AmSpecBlog : Petraeus's Presidential Prospects

    [...] a new post up at FrumForum responding to my story from our May print edition that explored the possibility of [...]

  • buddyglass

    It seems like this whole post boils down to: I don’t like Petraeus because he’s anti-Israel.

  • sinz54

    Petraeus for President???

    We don’t even know what his views are on anything except a few statements on foreign policy.

    The few hints we have don’t sound promising:
    he once described himself to a friend as a northeastern Republican, in the tradition of Nelson Rockefeller
    http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-plank/petraeus-republican

    It would be really embarrassing for the GOP, if Petraeus lost the GOP primary because he’s not perceived by the GOP base as conservative enough.

  • joemarier

    Full disclosure: this was originally posted under my pseudonym, Orestes Brownson. I’ll still use that for when I’m talking social conservatism, and stick with my real name for more generic analysis.

    Just FYI…

  • Telly Davidson

    DFL sez: “Petraeus has surrendered to the liberal Kulturesmog in his own profession, the military. He supports open homosexuality in the military and further feminization of the military. If Petraeus won’t stand up to the Left in their efforts to force their values on the military, why would conservatives want him running the country? The man is a hollow man like most of the political generals that rise to high rank today.”

    Let’s see. The worst economy since Carter — if not the Depression…. an intrusive, IRS-laden health care mandate… a nuclear North Korea and a possibly nuclear Iran…. a New Economy that’s obsoleting established jobs from print journalists to factory workers to teacher and police pensions by the second… but fuggedabout all *that*. What we need is an old-fashioned Culture Warrior like Palin or Pat Buchanan or John Hagee to scourge all those “sinful” homosex’shals and Femi-Nazis and New Agers practicing ‘witchcraft in the White House’ and Hollywood Immorality and all, eh?

    Morality in leadership is an important thing, but aside from his viewpoints on hot-button “social issues”, is there anything that would indicate he was cowardly or religiously insincere or amoral? Petraeus may not be a #1 pick — but with Romney a down-trending stock, and the rest of the lineup polarizers like Sarah and Newt or no book deal, no public speaking tour, low-profilers like Pawlenty, Thune, Jindal — he’s certainly worth some serious consideration if you want to change tenancy at 1600 Pennsylvania.

  • balconesfault

    Sinz:

    It would be really embarrassing for the GOP, if Petraeus lost the GOP primary because he’s not perceived by the GOP base as conservative enough.

    Sinz pegs it here.

    Remember that Mitt Romney runs a well oiled/well funded smear machine. The Club for Growth would probably have some serious problems with a lot of Petraeus agenda. And he’s certainly not going to kiss Palin’s ring, so I can see a constant barrage of snipes from that corner as Caribou Barbie fights to stay relevant.

    If Petraeus were to put his hat in the ring, and then go down to some very clear defeats – the effect on moderate Republicans would be like the Colin Powell defection of 2008 on steroids.

  • getzburg

    Are we seriously still talking about this? How many times does the man have to say that he isn’t running?

  • nhthinker

    Can we get Frum to have a debate with Ron Paul about what a conservative is?

    I think Paul would run circles around Frum.

    Frum would come out looking like a cross between George Bush and Dick Cheney.

  • balconesfault

    Frum would come out looking like a cross between George Bush and Dick Cheney.

    Well, yeah. Frum is a neocon … with more intellectual consistency than Bush, and less vile than Cheney.

  • ottovbvs

    …….The Republican wet dream…..Petraeus

  • franco 2

    No more military guys please. They get to avoid politics their entire careers – they have to actually, so in some ways they are effectively neutered, other ways they are inexperienced and still other ways clueless. The only thing they have going for them like Patraeus, is hero status and a sense of competency. But competency as a General isn’t the same as competency as POTUS especially on the political side.

    Colin Powell revealed himself to be a most shallow Republican, endorsing a man because of his race and believing him to be a centrist.

  • sinz54

    balconesfault: Remember that Mitt Romney runs a well oiled/well funded smear machine.
    The problem wouldn’t be Romney.
    The problem would be the Club for Growth and RedState.com and the Tea Partiers.

    When other “Rockefeller Republicans” have run, such as Dede Scozzafava, those are the groups that have opened fire on the candidate. Not Romney.

    And the spectacle of having RedState.com denounce Petraeus as a “RINO” would be an unmitigated disaster for the GOP. If Petraeus truly is a “Rockefeller Republican,” then he shouldn’t run.

  • ottovbvs

    franco 2 // May 6, 2010 at 9:07 am

    “Colin Powell revealed himself to be a most shallow Republican, ”

    ……You mean like Eisenhower did?…….the mere fact these “men on white horse” balloons are being floated by Republicans is a measure of their despair in finding anyone to beat the big guy.

  • balconesfault

    If Petraeus truly is a “Rockefeller Republican,” then he shouldn’t run.

    Thus, anyone who views themself as a Rockefeller Republican should resign himself to not having anyone to vote for who really represents his views?

    Somewhat defeatist, wouldn’t you say?

  • balconesfault

    Otto: You mean like Eisenhower did?

    You should see what True Conservatives say about Eisenhower.

    It ain’t pretty.

    Remember that John Birch Society founder Robert Welch called Eisenhower a “conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy”.

    And the John Birch Society was a co-sponsor of the most recent CPAC convention.

  • ottovbvs

    balconesfault // May 6, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    “You should see what True Conservatives say about Eisenhower.”

    ……Rather my point……my pa who was as Republican as they come and an ardent fan of Eisenhower used to go nuts……he used to go even more nuts when they said the same about the great George C. Marshall

  • ottovbvs

    DFL // May 5, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Petraeus ….The man is a hollow man like most of the political generals that rise to high rank today. He sure isn’t Chesty Puller or William Dean “Hawk” Hawkins.”

    ……Chesty Puller and Hawk Hawkins…….names being mentioned everywhere as presidential timber

  • charlesreardon

    I would welcome a Petraeus Candidacy in 2012. But he has been clear he isn’t interested in running and I don’t think he will unless Obama goes hard left on foreign policy and the war on terror goes south. As for the charge that Petraeus is a “hollow man” that is utterly absurd. But I suspect many wingers will try to compare him to the regretable Colin Powell if he were to enter the primaries. The right underestimates Petraeus at their peril. This man is no Colin Powell or Wesley Clark. I think he would clean Romney/Pawlenty’s clock. But he ain’t running, so everyone calm down.