Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Petreaus 2012? Doubtfull....

One of the most interesting things I've read about the debate between advocates of leaving Afghanistan to the T&T (Terminators and Taliban) and those who advocate a COIN strategy was a short passage in a NYT article about general Petreaus's role in the debate:

General Petraeus’s aides now privately call him “Dave the Dull,” and say he has largely muzzled himself from the fierce public debate about the war to avoid antagonizing the White House, which does not want pressure from military superstars and is wary of the general’s ambitions in particular.

The general’s aides requested anonymity to talk more candidly about his relationship with the White House.

“General Petraeus has not hinted to anyone that he is interested in political life, and in fact has said on many occasions that he’s not,” said Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel and professor of military history at Ohio State University who was the executive officer to General Petraeus when he was the top American commander in Iraq.
“It is other people who are looking at his popularity and saying that he would be a good presidential candidate, and I think rightly that makes the administration a little suspicious of him.”
And, later in the article:

By then the general had been talked about as a potential presidential candidate himself, which still worries some political aides at the White House.

Is it possible that this whole hubbub about McChrystal and the debate over increasing troops in Afghanistan is really the White House projecting its fears that they'll face Patreaus/Jindal in 2012? Could the White House intentionally be trying to weaken the reputation of certain generals that they see as potential revivals for Obama?

It sounds pretty far fetched, and I wouldn't suggest that the president himself is thinking along these lines, but its entirely possible there are various political operatives within the White House who are both Lefties and hoping that there will be no one left to challenge Obama when the Taliban comes rolling back into Kabul.

Dick Morris - not the single most reliable source, I acknowledge - has often said that the Clinton administration spent the better part of 1994 and 1995 living in perpetual fear that Colin Powell was about to announce his presidential run and that that would be the end of Clinton's presidency.

Obama - or his administration - should put their minds at ease. I think it is highly unlikely that a general is going to take off his uniform and show up in Iowa and be considered a serious candidate. Petreaus would show up for the first primary and want to talk about his extremely complex and nuisance understanding of American foreign policy and national security but pretty soon he'd realize everyone in the room just wanted to know whether he was for or against abortion. Career politicians are used to the knucklehead issues the average slack-jawed yokel cares about, and would be well prepared to navigate the waters; a 4 star is not used to having his agenda dictated to him by dilettantes. Running for president is a process that takes years; decades sometimes, and you have to build a lrge base of domestic support. You have to have people who know you (meaning they know you will bring home the bacon) well enough to go door to door and make phone calls on your behalf. So any career officer (this is for 2012 - not 2016) will be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to every aspect of campaigning, especially fund raising and a "get out the vote" effort.

Still, if Petreaus - or McChrystal, were to resign over a difference of opinion with the White House (I'm not sure that's something that's really in the cards, either) I would expect a number of polls to show either man beating Obama by 10-12%. I would also expect those poll numbers to drop precipitately as both the administration and Mitt Romney trained their fire on the potential future rival.  

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