General Adulation

Glenn Greenwald makes an excellent point about the unquestioning nature of Media scrutiny of statements by the U.S. military, especially Generals, very especially, General David Petraeus:

Klein, while paying lip service to "surge" opposition, hails Petraeus' brilliant counter-insurgency strategies and spends his time demonizing war opponents as morons while lavishing "surge" proponents and Bush's chosen military commanders with the most obsequious praise. That is who Col. Boylan [Petraeus' press liaison] then gets to hold up as an example of "liberal" "journalists" to whom Gen. Petreaus has given interviews. That is why there are few things more damaging than how reverent and gullible and authority-worshipping and Beltway-defending are those assigned to play the "liberal pundit" role in the Beltway court.

This phenomenon is not limited to the Joe Kleins of the Media. Too often our representatives, witness Sens. Clinton and Biden discussing withdrawal from Iraq last night, do too. It is why I have such trepidation about Petraeus' September report.


One quibble I do have with Glenn is his attributing to Petraeus a political adherence to President Bush's political goals. I think Petraeus' motivation is different. He is a proud soldier who wants to succeed in Iraq. He has pride of authorship in the Surge. And his personal reputation is now inexorably wrapped up in its success. I believe Petraeus' motivations are that of a soldier determined to do his duty as well as a human being who wants to protecthis reputation. Neither of these are bad in and of themselves.

What is bad is when people like Joe Klein ignore these obvious motivations and uncritically swallow the assertions of a General Petraeus. The basic skepticism that should be applied to anyone making self interested statements is thrown aside when dealing with generals. It is the fundamental problem of waiting to September - because we can all see the stories now - "Petraeus Sees Success In 2008 (or as the NYTimes reports today, in 2009)." and we are all expected to swallow it.

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    Trepidation? (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Dadler on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 11:29:36 AM EST
    The writing is on the wall, you know what's going to be said: Progress has been made, less that we'd hoped for, but enough that we can't get out.

    This is as easy a prediction as that of the sun rising in the east.  

    about the One quibble (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by martin on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 12:22:39 PM EST
    He did write a column right before the 2004 election that essentially said that the corner had been turned in Iraq. Writing a column like that right before the election might be construed as political adherence to President Bush's political goals..........


    Goodness (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 04:10:31 PM EST
    He was seeing the begining of a successful counterinsurgency then.  I'm confused......how can we be at the beginning of the Successful Counterinsurgency Handbook in 2004 and still there in 2007?  And what happened to all these guys working together and surrendering together

    Six battalions of the Iraqi regular army and the Iraqi Intervention Force are now conducting operations. Two of these battalions, along with the Iraqi commando battalion, the counterterrorist force, two Iraqi National Guard battalions and thousands of policemen recently contributed to successful operations in Najaf. Their readiness to enter and clear the Imam Ali shrine was undoubtedly a key factor in enabling Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to persuade members of the Mahdi militia to lay down their arms and leave the shrine.

    How many corners are on this thing?


    The other easy prediction (1.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Slado on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 11:45:12 AM EST
    is no amount of success is going to be good enough for those who think we've already lost (BTD is that you?) and vice versa no lack of succes is going to be enough for the people who like me think we have to win no matter the cost.

    This war is passed the phase of slogans and propoganda.  

    Quite frankly in a global media age I see no reason for the press automaticaly skeptical when our generals tell them something.   Let the foreign press and Al Jazzera sing the praises of our enenmies.

    While they shouldn't swallow everything the military says and become a propoganda device I honestly think they have lept to negative conclusions and this in an unmeasurable way has helped our enemy.   Remember the predicted defeat ont he road to Baghdad?  Remember the dire predictions before the invasion of Afghanistan?   So many predictions and actual stories spelling defeat, war crimes etc... that have turned out to be either not true or greatly exaggerated.    Some have been true obviously but I get the sense the media is batting .200 on the doom and gloom side of these two wars and that is ridiculous to me.

    The enemy can only win if we get tired of the war and think it's unwinnable.   Why should our media be their cheif supporter?

    I don't remember anything about (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 11:41:28 AM EST
    a predicted defeat on the road to Baghdad and I don't remember dire predictions before the invasion of Afghanistan.  I wasn't blogging yet but before my husband left for Iraq I was reading everything I could find and I don't remember finding any of that.

    Maybe you just don't remember... (none / 0) (#11)
    by Slado on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 01:44:26 PM EST
    Leslie Stall interveiwed Powell during the trip to Baghdad and asked questions like..."how could you not have been ready for the resistance."  The boob (can't remember his name) from the NYT's did a telecast from Baghdad saying that Americans would be mired before reaching Baghdad because of Saddam's elite troops.

    Time and Newsweek magazines wrote lenghty articles aobut the seige of Baghdad.

    Multiple outlets reported that the strategy of using the Northern Alliance was doomed to failure.  

    etc... etc...

    Some of their predictions came true most of them didn't.

    For anyone to complain that our media is being soft on the generals frankly is popy cock in the grand scheme of things.   It's as ridiculous as me claiming that the war has gone according to plan.


    I think you just googled some stuff (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 03:55:59 PM EST
    up and thought I would have to pay for the Times story, which I don't and it isn't all that grand. Funny how what I remember from that time being caution to the wind and let's go to Baghdad.  I don't remember anyone fearing Saddams military, just his WMDs he didn't have. I remember stupid me reading stuff from sociologists describing what would happen if we destabilized Iraq and that has all come to pass.  The last part of the Times article "Forseeing a Bloody Siege in Baghdad" October 2002 New York Times is very prophetic also.

    Iraq cannot prevent an American military victory. But it might be able to extend the war over weeks or months, imposing significant costs and putting on a bloody show for the rest of the world. American political and military leaders ought not to embark on this war of choice, unless they are ready to pay the price.

    As for the war going as planned (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 03:57:37 PM EST
    All I can say is what plan ever and try reading Cobra II and then Fiasco.  Never was a plan and it's probably a little too late now.

    I can't recall reading such clueless claptrap (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Al on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 06:17:11 PM EST
    in a very long time. Either (a) you actually believe this, in which case I fear for your sanity, or (b) you don't, in which case  your dishonesty knows no bounds.

    Wars are not won or lost by the media, they are won or lost by the government officials and military commanders responsible for the war. This war didn't start last week. In four years of throwing everything at Iraq, you have achieved exactly nothing. Don't blame the media.


    fool me once ... (none / 0) (#5)
    by Sailor on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 11:51:29 AM EST
    in a global media age I see no reason for the press automaticaly skeptical when our generals tell them something.
    Yes, you can fool some of the people all of the time.

    Last throes, turning a corner, sea change, violence is down ... all lies.


    Seen this Movie Before (none / 0) (#9)
    by Molly Bloom on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 12:28:51 PM EST
    The enemy can only win if we get tired of the war and think it's unwinnable.

    I've seen this movie before

    Right. I'll do you for that!
    You'll what?
    Come here!
    What are you going to do, bleed on me?
    I'm invincible!
    You're a looney.
    The Black Knight always triumphs! Have at you! Come on, then.
    [ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's last leg off]

    For anyone interested (none / 0) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 11:37:12 AM EST
    here's the new counterinsurgency manual that Petraeus wrote.  It's a pretty dry read.  You don't have to be a Jarhead to "get it" though.  According to NPR 2 million people have downloaded it.  It is Jarhead though in that if you come upon a situation not in the manual "No standard solution exists" except losing our minds like Swofford did I suppose.

    P.S. I know I'm hard to please (none / 0) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 11:53:57 AM EST
    also, but the illustrations in this little piece of work don't strike me as brilliant.  Especially that rope thing that sort of looks like a noose.........anyhow, I have heard that Petraeus is Brilliant and Genius and blah blah blah but I come away from this manual only able to say he is organized into nice little compartments ;)

    The generals (none / 0) (#8)
    by koshembos on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 12:26:20 PM EST
    Very little was written about the role of the generals in the current Iraqi mess. The Israeli experience may be very helpful in this regard. For instance, in the last war between Hezbollah and Israel the Israeli generals had a plan that was almost ridiculously stupid; the war didn't go well for these generals. (By the way, the plan was almost Made in America.) The fighting against Fatah and Hamas was much more successful and always found solutions to new opposition initiatives. (Still, you never win against insurgency; you must have a political solution.)

    American generals have never found even a semi solution to the IEDs; this is unacceptable. There is a huge difference between wining and finding local solutions. The generals do and did lttle.

    Patreas and other generals should not only be subject to scrutiny, they should be a valid target of journalistic investigation, public discussion and, in my opinion, subject to heavy criticism.

    Petraeus at Brookings (none / 0) (#10)
    by joejoejoe on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 01:01:24 PM EST
    I just read a transcript that Gen. Petraeus gave at the Brookings Institute last September and he didn't sound much different than your average corporate CEO with a lot of catch phrases and "visionary" gobbledy goop.

    Two things struck me from Petraeus.

    I was impressed to learn about the 21st Century Defense Initiative. I must confess I didn't realize that this is the inaugural presentation of it until I just heard that, but that's an honor to do. It clearly is a timely and important endeavor, and I'm encouraged by the fact that you've got Peter Singer and, above all, my Woodrow Wilson School wingman, Michael O'Hanlon, to head that up, and I look forward to the products of that effort.

    So O'Hanlon was your wingman in grad school, eh? I guess I'll take the op-eds he writes in your defense with a more giant grain of salt. And...

    We also have the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Studies. That's the former School of the Americas--changed the name somewhere along the line to confuse the demonstrators. It hasn't quite worked yet, but we're -- we actually have invited them in. We would stand very happy to have on the front page of the New York Times -- I don't see the Washington Post here -- or the Washington Post -- good to see you. Michael's up in the front here, you know.

    I'm guessing that's the same Michael Gordon who gave Gen. Petraeus his NYT A1 story today. Gen. Petraeus is a lot better at pacifying the press and DC than he is at stabilizing Iraq.

    Yep ... (none / 0) (#15)
    by Sailor on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 04:23:10 PM EST
    ... bush had to go way down the evolutionary ladder before he got a general to agree to wade waist deep in the big muddy.

    "School of the Americas... (none / 0) (#16)
    by desertswine on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 04:31:33 PM EST
    --changed the name somewhere along the line to confuse the demonstrators."

    Yeah, the SOA; its still the School of Assassins.