Petraeus vs. Webb
This exchange wasn’t so significant for its substance, but rather its tone. Jim Webb really got in Petraeus’s face over his Iran statements. What does it mean, he said, that Iran has a "malign" influence, as Petraeus testified?
Petraeus reiterated that Iran is playing a destabilizing role. But Webb figured Petraeus was trying to snow him, and reminded Petraeus that Nixon opened relations with China even as China was providing weapons and money to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. "Would you agree, historically, that one of the realities we have to deal with is some sort Iranian influence in the region?" The subtext: General, aren’t you out of touch with reality?
That wasn’t an implication Petraeus appreciated. "Senator, I think if you’ll read my statement,you’ll see that sentiment in Iraq," he said, icily. The two went back and forth over very little substantive yardage.
What’s important is that Webb showed why he’s on the shortlist for the Democratic vice-presidential nod. Not only does he have a firm grasp on both military realities and on the broader strategic questions of the Middle East, but he’s willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone, even the most respected general in the country.