Pondering David Petraeus’ Future: Running for VP?

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Petraeus.jpgI recently had the opportunity to participate in a small dinner with CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus and his wife Holly. These sorts of discussions are nearly always off the record — but the fact that they happened is not off limits.
Petraeus was not in uniform but rather wore what looked to me to be a brand new, perfectly tailored dark suit. I joked to him that if I Twittered that out of two dozen or so times I had seen Petraeus that this was the first time I’d seen him out of uniform, an ice cold shudder of fear would spread quickly through some political circles in DC.
In August of 2007, I wrote a piece stating that folks should keep an eye out for the possibility that General Petraeus might run for President in 2012. In April 2008, Steven Lee Myers wrote a solid New York Times follow up titled “The Political General” referencing my earlier take.
Recently, legendary newsman Arnaud de Borchgrave resuscitated the topic of an Eisenhoweresque future for the counterinsurgency guru in his piece, “President Petraeus?
Petraeus was recently named as one of Foreign Policy magazine’s top 100 global thinkers, and as U.S. News & World Report‘s “Washington Whispers” notes, he is going to be speaking in May 2010 at the annual American Enterprise Institute dinner receiving the Irving Kristol Award.
In January 2010, Public Policy Polling revealed that while Obama held a ten point lead over a potential wild card race against Petraeus, the General had some strengths. But the pollsters also noted that many in the American public just didn’t know enough yet about Petraeus to form an opinion:

Finally our blog readers voted for David Petraeus as our wild card Republican this month and his numbers come out as a mixed bag. He has the largest deficit against Obama, trailing 44-34. But at +13 his net favorability is better than the President or any of the other Republicans we tested. The problem for him is that the numbers break down 25/12- 63% of voters in the country don’t know enough about him to have formed an opinion. Who knows if Petraeus would actually have any interest in going into politics, but if he did he would be introducing himself to many voters for the first time.

President Obama himself, according to what some of his aides have reported to me, is quite taken with David Petraeus and respects his approach and thinking.

Petraeus has also been respectful of the President — although when pushed at a recent forum about how he might react to a Presidential decision on Afghanistan that the General might not have liked, Petraeus offered a cryptic rather than clear response. (see above video)
At the “First Draft of History” meeting sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly/Atlantic Media Group, the Newseum, and the Aspen Institute, Petraeus when asked if he would support the President no matter what the result of the strategic review on Afghanistan responded that he “would continue to give the President the best professional military advice he could.” Contrast that with Defense Secretary Robert Gates responding to the same question, “We will salute and execute [the President's] decisions faithfully and to the best of our ability.”
But after spending an evening with General Petraeus and watching him closely for a number of years, there is no way that this intelligent leader — with whom I have some disagreements but respect — could be comfortable with the Tea Party takeover of the Republican political machine.
There is always the possibility that a core of reasonable Republicans like Michael Bloomberg, James Baker, Olympia Snowe, Chuck Hagel, Alan Simpson, John Whitehead, Peter Peterson, Rita Hauser and others will try to rekindle classic Republican sensibilities by fighting to re-hijack their party back in an Eisenhower-like campaign with Petraeus at the lead. Remember that Eisenhower clinched the Republican nomination by promising to be the President who though he knew war would end the Korean War. Petraeus knows Afghanistan and Iraq — and though it seems hard to envision today could be the kind of leader promising to end those wars if Obama proves unable to do so.
But there is another option that intrigues me and seems more realistic than imagining the iconic David Petraeus running for President — and that is his running for Vice President.
I think Vice President Joe Biden has done an outstanding job and of all the big guns in the Obama White House, Biden has done the best job of outperforming expectations. He had given President Obama much needed counsel, not always taken regrettably, but counsel that Obama needed to show the American public he was getting. Biden has been the key agent behind the scenes in moving Iraq’s elections forward. He has scored a lot of wins — not reported — in the nuclear/WMD controls arena. Biden has worked with Gates in stabilizing an awkward and complex relationship with Russia — and his counterpoints on the Afghanistan surge, in my view, remain compelling.
But Biden is going to have to find a way to hold his spot in 2012 because others are going to be gunning for it.
As I look at it now, Hillary Clinton who has now said that she will not do more than one term as Secretary of State would be a natural candidate for the Obama VP slot. Her franchise is not completely in the control of the Obama team yet, but moving Hillary closer to the White House (although her private home on Whitehaven Street is actually a couple of hundred feet closer to the White House than the VP residence at the Naval Observatory) would finalize Obama’s takeover of all the key political franchises in the Democratic Party — starting with Daley’s machine, Daschle’s machine, Kennedy’s machine, Edwards’ machine, and then the Clintons’.
But General David Petraeus, in his business suit, lurks out there. Obama seems to be concerned about looking like he is weak on national security. The Republicans — at Cheney’s constant goading (and now Sarah Palin’s) — seem to want to continue to play politics through fear-mongering.
Obama could neutralize the possibility that he faces a Republican party challenge by David Petraeus by inviting the General on to the 2012 ticket as a Democrat.
Crazy? Perhaps.
But inviting potential rivals into his tent is becoming a standard Obama trademark — much as he did by appointing Republican Governor of Utah and former G.W. Bush administration Deputy US Trade Representative Jon Huntsman, Jr. to serve as US Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.
And get this, The Washington Note has learned that David Petraeus has not voted since 2002 — not because he doesn’t care to vote — but reportedly because he wants to keep his eventual political options and political loyalties open.
This is a soldier for whom all options are on the table and who is keeping his powder dry.
My hunch is that whether Obama sticks with Vice President Biden or pivots to someone else, Petraeus will be on the short list of those considered.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

67 comments on “Pondering David Petraeus’ Future: Running for VP?

  1. questions says:

    Note that my reference to “excess deaths” above is incomplete. It’s not simply an estimate, but it does attempt to ascribe differences in death rates to an obvious event as opposed to other causes. Causation is not necessarily transparent and death doesn’t fall neatly into single causes, so the ascriptions are likely to be off, but still telling. Reading excess death numbers requires us to assume that past patterns hold up, that those people simply would not have died absent the event. There is, in this notion, suggestion rather than proof, correlation rather than causation. But, again, it’s generally fairly suggestive correlation.
    This is all offered with the caveat that I’m not an epidemiologist or a statistician, though I have read a little bit. Feel free to correct what I have wrong…..

    Reply

  2. questions says:

    I think we simply go down the wrong road when we start going crazy about body counts. The fact is that we cannot count accurately in all sorts of ways. Epidemiologists talk about “excess deaths” — an estimate rather than a count. We can’t count votes with precision, only with the amount of accuracy that our counting technology allows. Try handcounting anything and see how quickly even that can get screwed up. Then add in machine biases, reporting biases, the possibility that the same body is counted by more than one interviewee…and basically, there are fairly significant limits on what can be counted.
    Rather than get involoved in debating impossible numbers, think more about the trade offs between someone’s life and someone else’s. Someone’s political advantage, and someone else’s. Under what conditions is anyone’s life trade-off-able? Can we, in utilitarian fashion, simply allow a group of people to die so that others do better? That’s what war really does. And this issue is perhaps the one to deal with. There’s uncertainty here, as well, but at least it’s an uncertainty that focuses on the actual issue.
    Body counts are like the heap problem. Trying to make a discrete designation based on a continuous quantity isn’t workable. So the question of how many deaths is too many deaths is clearly the wrong question.
    The right question has to be, how much value does any one life carry, what does it mean to sacrifice someone else for your own good, should we be Kantians or utilitarians?
    The distance from one death to a million deaths is no distance at all. The distance from zero to one is what we need to deal with.

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  3. MarkL says:

    Thanks for the good faith response, as opposed to what Drew wrote.
    125,000 deaths—your number—is a sizeable fraction of the total that Saddam killed in 30-some years. It’s definitely something to measure any “success” of the US policy against. This number doesn’t even count the years after 2006.
    And what about the refugee count and the burden that creates on the region? Over 2 million refugees, I think.
    And if the US leaves, many think civil war will follow, which means in the best case, we are committed to spending many more dollars to maintain an unstable peace.

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  4. nadine says:

    MarkL,
    The IBC doesn’t claim that it covers every death; however, if you come up with a figure not 50% more but 600% more you have some explaining to do. It’s reasonable to ask how an extra 500 people PER DAY could die and have nobody notice it.
    Wikipedia covers the the controversy sparked by the two Lancet articles. IBC noted that the Iraqi Ministry never issued death certificates for 500,000 of these supposed casualties, adding that death certificates are a) free b) necessary to collect survivor benefits:
    “The Iraq Body Count project (IBC), who compiles a database of reported civilian deaths, has criticised the Lancet’s estimate of 601,000 violent deaths[26] out of the Lancet estimate of 654,965 total excess deaths related to the war. The IBC argues that the Lancet estimate is suspect “because of a very different conclusion reached by another random household survey, the Iraq Living Conditions Survey 2004 (ILCS), using a comparable method but a considerably better-distributed and much larger sample.” IBC also enumerates several “shocking implications” which would be true if the Lancet report were accurate, e.g. “Half a million death certificates were received by families which were never officially recorded as having been issued” and claims that these “extreme and improbable implications” and “utter failure of local or external agencies to notice and respond to a decimation of the adult male population in key urban areas” are some of several reasons why they doubt the study’s estimates. IBC states that these consequences would constitute “extreme notions”.[27]”
    Here are some other scientific critiques including peer reviewed papers:
    “Jon Pedersen of the Fafo Institute[28] and research director for the ILCS survey, which estimated approximately 24,000 (95% CI 18,000-29,000) war-related deaths in Iraq up to April 2004, expressed reservations about the low pre-war mortality rate used in the Lancet study and about the ability of its authors to oversee the interviews properly as they were conducted throughout Iraq. Pedersen has been quoted saying he thinks the Lancet numbers are “high, and probably way too high. I would accept something in the vicinity of 100,000 but 600,000 is too much.”[29]
    Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Brussels, was quoted in an interview for Nature.com saying that Burnham’s team have published “inflated” numbers that “discredit” the process of estimating death counts. “Why are they doing this?” she asks. “It’s because of the elections.”[30]. However, another interviewer a week later paints a more measured picture of her criticisms: “She has some methodological concerns about the paper, including the use of local people — who might have opposed the occupation — as interviewers. She also points out that the result does not fit with any she has recorded in 15 years of studying conflict zones. Even in Darfur, where armed groups have wiped out whole villages, she says that researchers have not recorded the 500 predominately violent deaths per day that the Johns Hopkins team estimates are occurring in Iraq. But overall Guha-Sapir says the paper contains the best data yet on the mortality rate in Iraq.”[31] A subsequent article co-authored by Guha-Sapir and Olivier Degomme for CRED reviews the Lancet data in detail. It concludes that the Lancet overestimated deaths and that the war-related death toll was most likely to be around 125,000 for the period covered by the Lancet study, reaching its conclusions by correcting errors in the 2006 Lancet estimate and triangulating with data from IBC and ILCS.[32]”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancet_surveys_of_casualties_of_the_Iraq_War

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  5. MarkL says:

    Funny how neither Drew nor Nadine mention the survey from 2007 which showed approximately 1 million violent deaths in Iraq to that point.
    Right or wrong, I don’t know, but surely they want to look at all the data..

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  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I didn’t find someone who agreed with him……..”
    I did when I googled him up. It seems David Duke followers are fans of Kane’s conclusions.

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  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    David Kane?
    Now theres a neutral anaylist, eh???
    Not. Google the RW fanatical piece of shit, if you doubt my conclusion.
    Its interesting that the same people that blow their bugles for the neo-cons and zionism are so quick to discount Muslim death statistics, and show indifference to Muslim fatalities or suffering. Despite Drew’s short time here, I doubt there are many regular posters here that would be unable to cite Drew’s argument on any given issue concerning Israel, Muslims, the GWOT, or the Middle East in general.
    When considering the statistics on Iraq, it is easy to forget those statistics we have no way of compiling, such as the numbers of GENERATIONS of Iraqis that will be adversely affected by our prolific use of DU weaponry in theatre. And what of the genetic damage done to the Iraqis who lived near Tuwaitha, and drank, bathed, and laundered with water stored in barrels that once contained yellowcake?
    These bigots and RW fanatics cite figures that are appalling even if the Lancet study is to be completely ignored. 250,000 Iraqis killed by violence is chicken soup? If not 500,000 Iraqi infants killed by the sanctions, how many than? 100,000??? 300,000??? Gee, is that all?
    Screw these people like Drew or Nadine, that think they can diminish the import of what we have done by citing figures that are less appalling, yet still an indictment of a campaign constructed on lies and propaganda. Are we to celebrate that we murdered a quarter of a million, or a half a million, rather than a full million? And when does it stop, when will the Iraqis stop dying for the lies and meddling of these warmongering pieces of shit like George Bush and Dick Cheney?
    Drew is just the same old shit, spouting the same old lies, justifications, and rationales. Whether we killed 100,000, 800,000 or over a million, the lies used to do it are no less despicable, and the real numbers are no less dead.

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  8. MarkL says:

    More about Kane. He’s the manager of a hedge fund, not a statistician. His research interests are in finance (duh).
    Here’s what Daniel Davies wrote to Kane:
    “David, at present your entire paper rests on your assumption that the reported confidence intervals are based on parametric estimates from a unimodal distribution. The paper says pretty specifically that they were calculated by bootstrapping from a bimodal empirical distribution. This is a big problem for your paper. The nature of the dataset makes it very clear that the bootstrap was the correct way to calculate the confidence interval for the risk ratio. That is another big problem for your paper. Finally, your paper has the implication that it would be sensible for a statistician to conclude that the discovery of mass deaths in Fallujah is evidence in favour of the proposition that the death rate had fallen. That’s the really, really big problem for your paper.”
    The last two sentences are classic.
    I should have known you were a know-nothing rightwing apparatchik from your allusions to the supposed global warming research scandal.

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  9. MarkL says:

    Hmmm,
    perusing more of the comments on Drew’s link, I can’t find anyone who doesn’t think Kane is full of shit.
    I didn’t read all 230 comments, but most people who know any statistics don’t agree with his analysis. I didn’t find someone who agreed with him, although there may have been some.
    I guess you didn’t expect me to click the link.

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  10. MarkL says:

    Nadine,
    You’ve never made yourself look stupider than when you reference IBC as a measure of Iraqi deaths. What they do is laudable, because by listing documented deaths, they establish an absolute lower baseline for all other estimates.
    But only a complete moron would think that in a war torn country one could get an accurate estimate of total deaths by counting only those one is able to verify by documents.

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  11. MarkL says:

    By the way, I clicked on your link, and found a discussion which was mostly very civil, and focused on the technical aspects of the analysis.
    You simply lied when you claimed that people resorted to saying “Bush=Hitler”.
    It’s clear that by the end of the thread, Kane has not convinced many people of the validity of his arguments.
    Also by the way, the fact you have patents gives you no expertise in statistics. I have a Ph.D in math but I wouldn’t try to pass myself off as an expert in statistics—or any other field I haven’t directly studied.
    Do you have links to letters or articles in peer-reviewed publications which dispute the conclusions of the Lancet article?

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  12. MarkL says:

    Drew,
    You make yourself unserious by prefacing your remarks by a mention of the vaccine issue.
    Even the best journals publish bad articles from time to time. This has nothing at all to do with the question at hand.
    I’m not going to wade into an analysis of the statitistics because I”m not a statistician.
    I”ll leave that to experts.
    Your point about the data not being replicable is a big “duh” to me, considering the conditions.
    As I understand it, the Lancet methodology was used in previous conflicts, without complaint–for example in the former Yugoslavia.
    Surely you don’t think the Iraq Body Count is accurate? That’s not a methodology at ALL, not that they make any such claim.

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  13. Drew says:

    The Lancet is a discredited publication on this subject and
    others.
    Before we get to the Iraq study, note the Lancet’s most recent
    difficulty. They published another embarrassing “study”: a
    debauched analysis of the relationship between vaccine
    administration in infants, and autism. For ten years they left it
    out there despite 10 of the 13 co-authors renouncing it as
    fraudulent. The Lancet only retracted and renounced the paper
    when its competitor, the British Medical Journal, was about to
    blow it up this month. This autism ‘paper’ demonstrably caused
    an increase in death rates for childhood diseases.
    Now, the Iraq case: I actually know something about statistical
    methods, as that is related to my work, where I have a few
    patents. And the Lancet study is not one I would quote. It is
    demonstrably in error — an undergraduate doing the same
    work would be flunked. To wit:
    a. its results are not replicable
    b. the data are not available! (uh … people who assert
    numerical analyses and don’t produce their raw data for
    inspection? These people are politicians, not professional
    scientists (cf.: the recent unpleasantness at East Anglia)).
    c. David Kane, Institute Fellow at the Institute for Quantitative
    Social Science at Harvard University, already demolished it by
    honing in on its broken confidence interval calculations.
    As an adjunctive piece of folderol for the Amerika as War
    Criminals meme, the Lancet study proved very, very useful. The
    MSM, knowing even less about numerical methods than finance,
    picked it up and painted their faces with it. Unfortunately, 2+2
    does not equal 5, yet, even if we wished it did, because we think
    that Iraq proves that Bush is Hitler.
    Anyway, if you read mathematical notation the below is a good
    place to start. Note that as soon as Kane re-proves the validity
    of his analysis, the commenting opponents divert from a
    discussion of the analysis to some yelling in the Bush-as-Hitler
    mode:
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/07/david_kane_on_lance
    t_confidenc.php
    (Now, to wrestle with the infernal “Captcha” widget, and have my
    first five entries rejected.)

    Reply

  14. kotzabasis says:

    Drew
    It’s good and refreshing to see on Clemons’ blog an American with the strength of character who justly praises both Petraeus and Bolton for their exemplary moral clarity and strategic and political sagacity, in contrast to all the leftist and ‘progressive’ weaklings on this blog who have demonized both Petraeus and Bolton.

    Reply

  15. nadine says:

    I have no idea who this British polling outfit is or why anybody is supposed to accept them as experts in doing polls in Iraq. Since the article spends most of the time saying ‘they agree with the Lancet so they must be right’ it’s clear which answer they wanted. It doesn’t answer any of the questions about the Lancet sampling methods, as written up in “Data Bomb” in the National Journal http://www.nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2008/0104nj1.htm
    Lots of leftist groups seized on the Lancet, not because they cared about the Iraqis – indeed they wanted the US to withdraw even when they said it would lead to genocide, e.g. the NYT editorial board – but because they wanted oh so very very badly for Iraq to fail because it was Bush’s war. If five million Iraqis got killed in the ensuing genocide they would have danced in the street for joy and gleefully blamed Bush.

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  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And you will now show us where they “derided the Lancet sampling methods as bogus”?
    Gotta love that part about “outside supervision”, eh? From whom?
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/uk-poll-consistent-with-1_b_64475.html
    excerpt…
    Until now, many — including critics of the war — have shied away from the Lancet estimate because of the lack of independent confirmation. Unfortunately, this has led many to cite the Iraq Body Count tally of deaths reported in Western media as if it were an estimate of the death toll, which it is not. Now that the order of magnitude of the death toll reported by the Lancet study has been independently confirmed, pressure should be redoubled on media outlets to tell the truth about the Iraqi death toll.

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  17. nadine says:

    Sure, POS, the WHO, that well-known neocon hotbed, used the same methods, only competently, and came up with a total one quarter as high. Are you really unable to Google, so you just sit and call everybody a liar who tries to connect you back to reality? From 2008:
    A new survey estimates that 151,000 Iraqis died from violence in the three years following the U.S.-led invasion of the country. Roughly 9 out of 10 of those deaths were a consequence of U.S. military operations, insurgent attacks and sectarian warfare.
    The survey, conducted by the Iraqi government and the World Health Organization, also found a 60 percent increase in nonviolent deaths — from such causes as childhood infections and kidney failure — during the period. The results, which will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine at the end of the month, are the latest of several widely divergent and controversial estimates of mortality attributed to the Iraq war.
    The three-year toll of violent deaths calculated in the survey is one-quarter the size of that found in a smaller survey by Iraqi and Johns Hopkins University researchers published in the journal Lancet in 2006.
    Both teams used the same method — a random sample of houses throughout the country. For the new study, however, surveyors visited 23 times as many places and interviewed five times as many households. Surveyors also got more outside supervision in the recent study; that wasn’t possible in the spring of 2006 when the Johns Hopkins survey was conducted.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/09/AR2008010902793.html

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  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Every other humanitarian agency – from left to right across the spectrum – derided the Lancet sampling methods as bogus and came up with much lower numbers”
    That is a lie. Another lie.
    Show us one single credible example of your claim.

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  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “POS, you still peddling the 500,000 dead Iraqi babies due to sanctions? Who told you that, Saddam Hussein?”
    Actually, you racist propaganda spewing piece of garbage, it was a UN report.
    You really like them dead Muslims, don’t you Nadine?
    Turn you on, just a little, thinking about torturing one? Get a little envy going every time you hear Lyndie England mentioned?

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  20. nadine says:

    MarkL, only Obama’s imminent election saved us from a Lancet study in October 2008 claiming that 2 million Iraqis had died. That would have been in line with the findings of their October 2004 and October 2006 studies (election timing not accidental). Every other humanitarian agency – from left to right across the spectrum – derided the Lancet sampling methods as bogus and came up with much lower numbers. Still bad, but much lower. For instance, Iraqbodycount.org is estimating around 100,000 civilian casualties.
    POS, you still peddling the 500,000 dead Iraqi babies due to sanctions? Who told you that, Saddam Hussein? Of course you would believe him implicitly. Did you notice the follow up reporting after the fall of Baghdad that asked how that number was compiled, where Iraqi doctors described snatching dead babies from their bereaved families on orders from the regime and keeping them a month in the morgue, so Saddam could stage his dead baby parades, and claim they had all died in a single day? That was how the number was compiled, and duly touted by Saddam’s paid mouthpieces. Of course, if you had read those reports, you would have a different attitude, something closer to…sanity.

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  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Interesting how Drew chooses to ignore a report from Lancet, rather than actually comment on it.
    Stating that “…I don’t have an opportunity to interact with people who think the USA just killed one million humans in Iraq…” is hardly a relevent or credibility establishing comment. It seems to me that if you “interact” with those ignorant of the facts, there is an odds on chance that you too will be ignorant of the facts.
    Sometimes I find Nadine’s purposeful lies less irritating than some of the obtuse and circuitous routes some here take to obscure the truth.

    Reply

  22. MarkL says:

    The Lancet study on excess deaths in Iraq from 2006 estimated 600,000 excess Iraqi deaths had been caused up until 2006, with the biggest single cause being US bombing.
    POA is right, too.
    I wonder what Nadine’s tally of Palestinian children klled by Israel is—probably zero, because, as everyone knows, there are no Palestinians.

    Reply

  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “No, MarkL, the US has not buried more Iraqis, especially if you take the standard used by normal people, of counting only those whom US troops have actually killed, instead of taking the “deep pockets” approach of the Left, whereby everybody blown up by Al Qaeda or insurgents has been killed by the US too. Neither side has yet approached anyting near Saddam’s total — over 300,000 in mass graves. You don’t have to believe me, go look at the UN’s totals”
    500,000 infant deaths, caused by the ’92 – ’03 sanctions alone. Like I said, Nadine, you’re a liar. Shameless, purposeful, and despicable.

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  24. DonS says:

    “the jeering is tedious. ” Jeering? Would that be like: “is it your view that the USG created 9/11 (instigated or enabled the 9/11 attacks) in order to go a trillion dollars in debt and kill a million Iraqis?”
    Drew, your fairly new here, but you seem to be quickly setting yourself up as some sort of above the fray guy who uses the military to justify yourself and your positions. It’s not gonna work. We’re a bit beyond the ‘false choice’ of patriot or traitor, your with us or with the terrorists.

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  25. Drew says:

    You know, the jeering is tedious.
    It doesn’t matter who or what I am, but the problem with necons
    is that they exaggerate the value of their clever brains once
    attached to the ship of state. The neocons were bailed out in
    Iraq by Petraeus’ surge: they got their middle eastern democracy,
    but it was a very close call. Too close to call again, in my view.
    I would spend more time rebuilding our nation and merely
    punish those that would bother us, rather than attempting to
    remake them.
    I think Bolton understands how the world works, and has the
    appropriate humility of a man who’s dad was a Baltimore
    firefighter. He likes choices, whereas most in his job fear
    making them. He distills strategic quandaries to blunt options.
    He is essential to any understanding of what can, or will, really
    happen in places like Iran now. He’s honest.
    I wonder if his children wouldn’t fight the wars he might
    suggest, and I wonder if we couldn’t get a lot more done with
    these tinhorn tyrants and illiterate bands of killers and those
    who would kill over cartoons, if we just carried boxes of money
    around. It costs $1-$2mm a year to keep a trooper in theater,
    before we pay for the heavy equipment. Bribing people seems to
    be a fairly old profession, and perhaps more financially efficient
    than using military power as a political expression by other
    means.

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  26. DonS says:

    Oh yeah, this is the Petreaus thread. Funny how that happens.
    Still interested in you views on Bolton?

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  27. DonS says:

    Hey Drew, I’ve stopped beating my wife too.
    This isn’t a Petreaus thread you know. But since you brought it up, my view is that the US is a militaristic country and becoming more so all the time. Petreaus is just another symptom. If the US wants to change direction it needs to take some risks to slash the military and the military budget. I’d be a start.
    And you sound like a neocon apologist. How about sharing your views on Bolton?

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  28. Drew says:

    DonS, is it your view that the USG created 9/11 (instigated or
    enabled the 9/11 attacks) in order to go a trillion dollars in debt
    and kill a million Iraqis? Because killing over one million people
    would seem to require a lot of planning aforethought and a
    worthy pretext.
    I confess that I don’t have an opportunity to interact with people
    who think the USA just killed one million humans in Iraq, but I
    have read about people who think that, and it’s useful.
    Anyway, back to Petraeus, and Steve’s thesis, I do think there is a
    huge issue with the idea of his running as a dem, given the
    personal nature of the attacks on his integrity and intelligence
    during the testimony in the runup to the surge. And again, the
    surge was the most successful, efficient, least violent
    counterinsurgency strategy, plan and implementation in human
    history. So it is hard for me to imagine him sustaining
    relationships with people who made it personal when they
    attempted to discredit his strategy. It’s one thing to raise
    grievous doubt and opposition to a military adventure; that’s the
    role of legislators. It’s another thing to accuse a career military
    man of lying and betrayal.
    Has there been any such organized personal attack on any senior
    military leader, other than that one, in the past 50 years? Ever?
    I don’t think so. I don’t think it got nearly this bad with
    Westmoreland. I think that is the salient observation here, if
    there is one. This was an innovation in slander, libel and anti-
    military animus.
    Anyway, I’m speculating and Steve knows the guy so, whatever.

    Reply

  29. DonS says:

    Over one million dead Iraqis caused by US. “Caused” = happened as a result of US invading Iraq, transforming a country ruled by a bad regime into an inferno.
    http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/1-over-one-million-iraqi-deaths-caused-by-us-occupation/

    Reply

  30. nadine says:

    No, MarkL, the US has not buried more Iraqis, especially if you take the standard used by normal people, of counting only those whom US troops have actually killed, instead of taking the “deep pockets” approach of the Left, whereby everybody blown up by Al Qaeda or insurgents has been killed by the US too. Neither side has yet approached anyting near Saddam’s total — over 300,000 in mass graves. You don’t have to believe me, go look at the UN’s totals.

    Reply

  31. MarkL says:

    Nadine,
    The US has buried far more Iraqis in nearly 7 years than Saddam did in his entire reign—not to mentioning poisoning the land with our weapons and destroying the infrastructure.
    How about Nadine for Obama’s next VP?
    She’s a Republican, like Obama, and she lies clumsily and often, also like Obama.

    Reply

  32. Bathus says:

    Poor Steve, where you wrote the line, “I think Vice President Joe Biden has done an outstanding job,” I had to stop and laugh. And I’m still laughing.
    Joe “the-daily-gaffe-fest” Biden has done an excellent job?!?! Excellent job . . . of comic relief in this otherwise humorlessly inept admin! At least Biden, unlike the Dear Leader Himself, seems to realize that if you can’t help being a bungling bumbler, you might as well give the people a good laugh while you’re at it.
    Yes, Steve, I guess you’re right, that Biden has done an outstanding job, giving us a daily respite from the Obamas’ boresome and perpetual self-referential self-seriousness.
    The rest of this piece doesn’t sound quite as stupid as that line. . . but it is.

    Reply

  33. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “DonS, the dead Iraqis died at the hands of the insurgents or sectarian violence that the insurgents were working to whip up”
    Oh bullshit. The majority of the Iraqis were “collatoral damage” during the time our military engagement was more intense. You’re a shameless liar, Nadine.
    Why Steve continues to let you post your progaganda here is beyond me. He might as well provide a forum for John Haggee, or David Duke.

    Reply

  34. nadine says:

    DonS, the dead Iraqis died at the hands of the insurgents or sectarian violence that the insurgents were working to whip up. If we had withdrawn like Biden wanted, there would have been hundreds of thousands MORE dead Iraqis, and you wouldn’t have cared, just like you didn’t care about the three or four HUNDRED THOUSAND Iraqis Saddam buried in mass graves. So don’t you dare throw dead Iraqis in my face. With you, it’s not who dies, or how, or how many, but only if you can put the blame onto America — whether Americans are responsible or not.

    Reply

  35. Hillary C says:

    Petraeus for VP would make sense for the country, but with unemployment at 10% and the Republicans rehashing Bush’s 2000 talking points with fantastic results, I have to wonder why Petraeus would accept running with an earnest, doomed Obama over a victorious Bush-clone.
    Let’s face it, feckless voters are bored with the current wars and will only become interested in war again (and Petraeus) when the economy picks up or they become convinced that invading Iran will end terrorism. And I doubt Petraeus will be into invading Iran right now anyway, so it’s all about the economy.

    Reply

  36. eatbees says:

    I yearn for a Biden White House. Then Petraeus can be Vice
    President, why not? and Obama can be Ambassador to Japan.
    Hillary can move to a new blue state with an open seat, and resume
    her career in the Senate.

    Reply

  37. DonS says:

    Convenient that you can so easily dismiss the hundreds of thousands of dead innocent Iraqis as so much collateral damage. And that Iraq would not have been “the central front” if the US hadn’t invaded. And that Al Quaeda reconstitutes elsewhere and US aggression becomes a recruiting poster.
    “Success” and “victory”? Only in the very circumscribed Cheney world, the neocon propaganda machine, and now the Obama spin. But then, that’s the real America to such apologists and true believers; and that’s all that counts.

    Reply

  38. nadine says:

    I know it just kills you that the Iraqi insurgents, led by Al Qaeda in Iraq, declared Iraq “the central front in world jihad” and then lost, but there it is. Now they are ruled by a democracy, imperfect for sure, but lots better than Saddam. This is a victory and a success however little you like it.
    But if America had a hand in it, the perfect is ALWAYS the enemy of the good in your eyes. And if America didn’t have a hand in it, you could care less what anybody does.

    Reply

  39. DonS says:

    Hey, don’t try to imply that I suggest Iraq is a “success” under any circumstances and regardless of who — whether Biden or anyone else — might seek to bend the truth. The Iraq clusterfuck is s pig that no amount of lipstick can cover. An unmitigated foreign policy disaster. Politicians will develop talking points to try to influence and characterize the results of their actions. If you are impressed by political talking points, by all means, continue to delude yourself.
    I would certainly expect Petraeus to characterize Iraq, et seq, policy execution as revelatory of his brilliance.

    Reply

  40. nadine says:

    THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE on Biden’s Iraq Victory Claim: “There’s an odd thing about this administration claiming credit for victory in Iraq – half the country knows Biden and Obama had nothing to do with it, and the other half will never admit there is a victory to claim. However, since they think we’re all stupid, I guess the White House wants to give it a shot.”

    Reply

  41. DonS says:

    “The so-called surge will be studied by soldiers and historians for hundreds of years. ” (Drew)
    “Iraq is a success (Nadine)
    Just keep dancing faster.

    Reply

  42. nadine says:

    Why on earth would General Petraeus ever want to join the party of Moveon.org, that ran an ad in the NY Times calling him “General Betrayus”? The party Hillary Clinton, who called him a liar to his face? of Joe Biden, who stood on the floor of the Senate and said “Mark my words, the Surge will fail” who now tells Larry King that Iraq could be “one of the great achievements of this administration.” What chutzpah!
    Thank God nobody listened to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden in 2005 and 2006. Iraq is a success in spite of their efforts to turn it into Bush’s failure. Now they claim the credit for it. I mean, how stupid do they think we are? Do they think we don’t remember what they said then?

    Reply

  43. Mr.Murder says:

    “…the Aspen Institute…”
    The leaves in Aspen turn…

    Reply

  44. Vigilante says:

    So, why would Obama buddy up with Petreaus in 2010, when he refused to buddy up with Wes Clark in 2008?

    Reply

  45. drew says:

    The so-called surge will be studied by soldiers and historians
    for hundreds of years.
    US Army and Marine effectiveness in Fallujah2 must have the
    Russians swearing into their shot glasses. Contrast Fallujah with
    Grosny, which was “taken” by reducing it to gravel.
    Petraeus has directed hundreds of thousands of people and
    accomplished historically significant things, while being
    responsible for $100B+ expenses. While I think he is more likely
    to run as a Republican, I could care less, actually, because he is
    bigger than a political party and its then-current cheerleading
    squad. The country needs people who have done important
    things competing for the levers of power. It doesn’t so much
    matter which party they represent provided they are able to
    articulate their objectives, and we get to vote in regard to those
    objectives. The people who haven’t done important things need
    to step aside.
    In this regard, actually, and apropros everyone’s comments on
    2012, I would be somewhat surprised if Obama ran again. I
    think he’s bored and looking for the next brass ring.

    Reply

  46. Dan Kervick says:

    Appoint H. Clinton to the Supreme Court as soon as the next justice retires, and then make Petraeus Secretary of State.
    The only person with the ability to claw back lost foreign policy power and prerogatives from the Defense Department, and put them back with the State Department where they belong, is a highly respected and bespangled brother of the fraternity, one who probably knows by now where all the bodies are buried, and which skeletons are hiding in which Pentagon closets.
    The Vice Presidency is a nothing position with near-zilch constitutional authority. But the inherent constitutional idleness of the VP-cy has proven to be the devil’s workshop for scheming usurpers like Dick Cheney. Since VPs have no real official job, they have dangerously pushed themselves into ad-hoc governmental occupations and poorly supervised free-lancing, made possible by their abundant free time, and limited only by their imaginations and ambition, and the whims of the foolish and weak chief executives who might give them important jobs to do. I’d rather have Petraeus working on the team, carrying a message crafted in the White House’s foreign policy group. I’m sure he would bring a lot of discipline to the job. And people would listen to him when he speaks.
    I have suggested before that the Vice Presidency should be abolished. Since the Vice Presidency is an independent elected position, the VP is part of the executive branch, but is not subordinate to the President. The President can’t fire or discipline the VP. The VP doesn’t have to appear before any Congressional committees. The VP’s movements and actions are barely covered by the press, and so are unchecked by public scrutiny. Is it any wonder we eventually ended up with a bounding, power-drunk diabolical creep like Dick Cheney in that position?

    Reply

  47. Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle says:

    Steve:
    Have you totally thought out the political implications of what you suggest? Is the Democratic base gonna go for a Petraeus as VP in ’12 deal? I don’t. Especially if unemployment is still at 10% and higher. it will rightly be seen as a stunt, especially consider how Petraeus was willing to be used by Dubya. One last thing. You call Pete Peterson a moderate? Are you kidding me? This guy wants to destroy the social safety of this country as we know it. Where was he when Dubya was spending like a drunken sailor?

    Reply

  48. kotzabasis says:

    No intelligent eminent American would accept running as VP, least of all General Petraeus, with a by now politically bankrupt president as Obama, whose political stocks will be totally dwindled by 2012.
    Clemons speculation that Petraeus would accept such an offer by Obama is in blatant contradiction to his own thinking. Only a few days ago he was flagging his much discussed post “…Sinking Obama Presidency” and presently he wants to place Petraeus on this sinking Titanic and the highly intelligent Petraeus would assent to take this ‘voyage’ that would lead to his own drowning. There is no “perhaps” this is indeed, “crazy.”
    Clemons has to make up his mind whether the Obama Presidency is sinking or floating.

    Reply

  49. Outraged American says:

    I’m trying to find the scathing article that detailed Petraeus
    career and crass opportunism, but haven’t been able to yet,
    obviously.
    He’s no Eisenhower, he’s a shmuck.
    As to Princeton, Rumsfeld roomed with Carlucci there, and
    Carlucci later served as chairman of the infamous Carlyle Group
    – ’nuff said? War profiteers all around.
    I used to visit The Mean One at Princeton when I was living in
    Manhattan, just to get out of the city. I went to a few very posh
    schools myself (on scholarship) but I never saw the level of
    pretension and sheer cut-throatedness (I just invented a new
    word!) at any of the schools I went to that I saw at Princeton,
    and I knew people at my schools who were the sons and
    daughters of kings and heads of state.
    I remember sitting at a table with Brooke Shields (she was
    actually quite sweet) where the topic of discussion was which
    airport was best to land your private plane at – how’s that for
    relating to Mittle Amerika?
    Princeton is the Death Star. Ask a few million Iraqis. Where are
    those WMDs, Rummy? North, south, east or west of Baghdad?
    Or nestling next to the dubloons in your bank account to be
    pulled out again in preparation for the neo-con/ military/
    industrial/ terrorism/ Israel Lobby’s lies to use against Iran?

    Reply

  50. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I wonder if Petreaus will be such a rock star after the general public figures out that “the success of the surge” is as big a lie as the rationale for the invasion was.

    Reply

  51. Erik Gunhus says:

    I have it on it on good authority that General Petraeus bought the suit 4 years ago, on sale, off the rack! It just hasn’t had much wear since then because he has been deployed for most of those 4 years. Beyond that, he has repeatedly said, on the record, that he would support the President’s decision at the end of the Afghanistan policy review, as he would any other decision made by the Commander in Chief. He has also said repeatedly, on the record, that he will not run for public office following his Army career.

    Reply

  52. questions says:

    I think the hope regarding generals in the White House is that they might have some legitimacy vis-s-vis military cuts.
    The problem though is that military production is now a congressional issue, not a presidential one. So, unless they do the comprehensive base closure sort of thing where it’s all or nothing and no MC can be entirely traced to the economic dislocation, I don’t think Petraeus would be able to do as much.
    It’s possible that the military simply can’t be controlled anymore, not, at least, until there’s some kind of competition for tech, research, and manufacturing that they cover.
    By the way, I’m guessing, Steve, that you’re more snowed in than not? You’re answering a lot more posts than usual! Hope you have enough food to get you through the great snowclysm of 2010.

    Reply

  53. MarkL says:

    Obama is burnt toast already. A strong Republican will win easily in 2012.
    And Steve, I disagree strongly that Obama deserves to be where he is. Unless you believe in Peter Principle (accelerated and on steroids),
    Obama should be in the Senate where we could evaluate him.

    Reply

  54. Steve Clemons says:

    Frank C — thanks for your own view, which I found constructive. But this is not a gossip post, it’s a brainstorming post — and one thinking aloud.
    best, steve

    Reply

  55. Frank C. says:

    It is blindingly obvious that if the General wants to be President as a Republican, 2012 would be idiotic, and 2016 would be an infinitely better time. And not only is it the Tea-ism, it’s the required free market fundamentalism, which is antithetical to the anti-authoritarian populism of the ‘baggers.
    If he is willing to be a Democrat, positioning inside the admin for post 2012 to build party bona-fides is the right move. (Barring unemployment in the teens, Obama will be reelected). Petraeus will not be able to coast to the Democratic nomination under any circumstances; he is too unknown.
    But this is another one of those gossip posts.

    Reply

  56. drew says:

    Steve, no, I think you are highlighting a superior American talent,
    and appropriately, and thank you very much.
    OA, sorry about your sister. But I think she’s your problem, not
    mine or anyone else’s. Ws there something you wanted to say?
    DonS, n regard to Obamas credentials, and all that: if you hire an
    executive (we did) you should expect to evaluate him on outcomes
    (what are they?).
    –drew

    Reply

  57. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks folks for working toward a more constructive tone. I think General Petraeus is a very interesting political figure today. My colleague and friend, James Fallows, wrote about Petraeus when Rumsfeld had had him exiled for a while to Ft. Leavenworth where Petraeus did so much of his work (w/Jon Nagl and others) on the Counterinsurgency Field Manual…. but that said, I worry about some of the ongoing blind spots in the view that larger and larger deployments equate to stabilizing rough regions.
    But to avoid his political rise is avoiding reality — and the Obama team, or some Dem in the future will either try to coopt him or will perhaps end up facing him. We’ll see.
    This is more of a respectful, brainstorming piece about General Petraeus and his future — and trying to think through Obama’s VP options in 2012.

    Reply

  58. DonS says:

    Apologies, Steve, for getting a bit carried away . . .

    Reply

  59. DonS says:

    Actually, Drew, it doesn’t sound like you know a whole hell of a lot about what it takes to kiss ass, er, I mean, get ahead in the military, the “most dangerous profession” as you presciently note.

    Reply

  60. Steve Clemons says:

    Drew, I assume your comment was not directed at my post but rather to commenters. I think President Obama, though having difficulties right now, deserves to be where he is — but I also agree that General Petraeus is an unavoidable fact of political life now, which is why I wrote what I did. Just wanted to clarify.
    Outraged — I am interested in more constructive commentary on this one. Just because you or some others may not want to see Petraeus in the political mix does not change the fact that he likely will be. I’d love to see the Republican Party get healthy again — and if he was the Republican heir apparent in the form of Eisenhower, I could probably be quite supportive of that course as opposed to the Tea Party course the party seems to be on right now — which is hyper-rejectionism of anything that Obama is proposing.
    But my sense is that if General Petraeus were to seek office at the highest level, the pathway to the Presidency could work better for him via the VPship — but of course, Biden, Clinton and perhaps others are also key factors.
    This was an outloud think piece — and frankly, I was impressed by Petraeus, though I don’t agree with him generally on the course in Afghanistan that we are taking right now which continues to be 99.9% military and little on the non-military front.
    all best, steve clemons

    Reply

  61. DonS says:

    Thanks for sharing Drew. Yeah, what was I thinking. A Princeton Ph.d. for god sake. And a real life warrior. And war is serious business; guess that’s why it’s so good for America, huh.
    BTW, I didn’t notice any comparison with Obama’s credential in the post. Did you? Sounds like you know the guy intimately. “Extremely talented” and all that. Oh, man, it’s hard to find those extremely talented kind. Maybe on Wall Street. That’s probably where he’s headed if we don’t beg him to serve as our leader.

    Reply

  62. JohnH says:

    I’m not sure what advantage the military would gain from having Petraeus in the oval office. They already have a figure head who gives them everything they want. Wouldn’t they prefer to continue their uncontrolled spending under civilian cover?

    Reply

  63. Outraged American says:

    My little sister, The Mean One, graduated from Princeton magna
    cum laude, Princeton sure knows how to churn out monsters.

    Reply

  64. Drew says:

    Wow. Petraeus is only a Princeton Ph.D who has commanded
    (i.e., been an executive supervising) hundreds of thousands of
    humans engaged in the most serious of endeavors: war.
    Meanwhile, the current president hasn’t run a gas station or a
    coffee shop. He *was* a state senator for four years. He was a
    temp teaching a law school class. Based on what he did with a
    supermajority Congress, I suppose we’re lucky he’s so feckless.
    He’s never done anything in life except get the next (temporary)
    job. Petraeus has made a successful career at the most
    dangerous profession.
    Anyway, I’ll back off. It’s clear you guys know nothing, and
    know no one, in positions of authority in the military. Petraeus
    is an extremely talented, extremely well-educated, extremely
    successful soldier and executive. I have no idea what his politics
    are, and neither do you. Dismissing people like Petraeus
    expresses only ignorance. We should invite them into the
    political arena so that we gain benefit from their experience.

    Reply

  65. Outraged American says:

    You’ve got to be joking — Betrayus? Heil Military / Terrorism
    Industrial Complex, Sieg Heil.

    Reply

  66. DonS says:

    Great! Yeah, Bidens a surrender monkey. We need a real military guy to cover those bases, and set up more. Petraeus end wars? I don’t think so; not without starting a bunch of new ones. Wars r US, lest we forget. It takes more than a perfectly tailored dark suit to convince me he’s the kind of leader we need. Sure is “hard to envision”. And it’ll take a whole lot of scrubbing to get off the blood already on his hands, but that seems to be what makes him a potential asset, not a liability.
    I mean, really, isn’t it about time we grew up as a nation, stopped fawning over over all these military retreads, and redirect the important thinking and resources to domestic development and international cooperation?

    Reply

  67. Josh M. says:

    Fascinating suggestion, but the assumption to
    carry forward then seems to be that the VP should
    be intelligent council to the president instead of
    having a permanently subordinated, acquiescent,
    and quiet role as the VP has had historically.
    This is interesting and worthy of debate
    independently.
    But on Petraeus running for VP, what’re his
    credentials outside of the military? I realize
    this article isn’t debating the merit of his
    candidacy, so I guess I’m bringing this up in
    somewhat ad hoc form.
    Contrary to most suspicions, data reflects that
    civilian presidents are just as likely, if not
    more so than military presidents, to start wars.
    Reigning in U.S. military spending is a good idea,
    and making sure that the use of the U.S. military
    is more confined to areas where force is most
    likely to yield the highest positive outcome is
    the best idea.
    Yet on the economy, healthcare, connecting with
    the general society, education, drugs, abortion,
    civil rights, interpreting the Constitution, the
    legal grey areas under the Bush Admin’s war policy
    etc. — where does Petraeus stand? This article
    makes clear that “non-knowing Petraeus” is
    Petraeus’s biggest political risk.
    But would it be fair to wager that he isn’t
    qualified for the position? Could he galvanize the
    American people, mobilize the legislative body,
    and set an executive agenda? I don’t know–just
    asking.
    Interestingly though, he’d be only the second Ph.D
    President if he ran for office and won (Wilson
    obv. being the first and only)…

    Reply

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