Respect The Petraeus
Joe Klein conducted a fascinating interview with Sen. Barack Obama recently, and he’s just put the transcript online.
There’s a lot to sift through, particularly from a foreign-policy perspective. But check out Obama’s account of his July meeting in Baghdad with Gen. David Petraeus, now head of U.S. Central Command and with whom a prospective President Obama will have to work. Klein asks Obama why he didn’t back away from his 16-month plan to remove combat troops from Iraq despite Petraeus’ objections.
He made the case for maximum flexibility, and I said, you know what, if I were in your shoes, I would be making the exact same argument because your job right now is to succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. My job as a potential commander in chief is to view your counsel and your interests through the prism of our overall national security – which includes what is happening in Afghanistan; which includes the costs to our image in the Middle East [from] the continued occupation; which includes the financial costs of our occupation; which includes what it is doing to our military. So I said, look, I described in my mind an analogous situation where…he has to deal with situations where the commanding officer in [inaudible] says, I need more troops here now because I really think I can make progress doing x, y and z. That commanding officer is doing his job in Ramadi, but Petraeus’s job is to step back and see how does it impact Iraq as a whole. My argument was I have got to do the same thing here. And based on my strong assessment, particularly having just come from Afghanistan, we’re going to have to make a different decision.
That, I’d say, tells a fair amount about how Obama would govern. He deals with a serious policy difference with Petraeus, and does it head on, without equivocation or euphemism. And he seems to have done so respectfully:
I felt it necessary to make that point even though I tried not to talk about it publicly, not knowing sort of what the terms of our discussion were. Precisely because I respect the Petraeus and [inaudible], precisely because they’ve done a good job and because my job as a candidate is preparing myself to be commander in chief.
Put that on a bumper sticker (or at least an Internet meme): RESPECT THE PETRAEUS!