Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lives of Our Leaders: Petraeus vs. McChrystal

General Petraeus may not be spilling the beans to Rolling Stone reporters at Paris Hotels while Europe is covered with volcanic ash (was the spewing forth of the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, which looks like the nomenclature of a transcriptionist having a breakdown, a sign of nature in revolt against the effects of derivatives on a small country?), but he is not walking softly into the night. In fact, he is on the verge of walking into a hornet’s nest. The Times reported on Wednesday that Petraeus “introduced the idea of blacklisting…the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani,” which “is allied with Al Quaeda and with leaders of the Afghan Taliban branch under Mohammed Omar…” (“U.S. May Label Pakistan Militants as Terrorists,” NYT, 7/13/10). The Times described the problems Petraeus is likely to have with the Afghan leader Hamid  Karzai, “…who is pressing to reconcile with all the  insurgent groups…” and with Pakistan’s Inter-services Intelligence Directorate, “…which analysts say sees the Haqqami network as a way  to exercise its own leverage in Afghanistan.”  Naturally, this poses the question of what plans the disgraced General McChrystal might have had for the Haqqani network. McChrystal was a hard-fighting warrior who at the same time was trying to cement relationships with the local populace. He was averse to taking military actions that created political conflict. To this end, he was legendarily cautious about the use of air power, where Petraeus had a reputation for increasing air attacks when he took over in Iraq. Conceivably, McChrystal might have been more Solomonic in his approach to the Haqqami group, choosing a policy of inclusion and cooptation. The Petraeus doctrine may have worked in Iraq, if you think what resulted was a military success, but Afghanistan more than any other place on earth may illustrate the adage, “man plans, God laughs.” 

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