An Impolite Question For General Petraeus
by James Glaser
September 11, 2007
Major General David H. Petraeus was testifying Monday to Congress and the nation about what is going on with George Bush's War in Iraq. The General was very articulate, and he looked good, too. Nine rows of ribbons always set a uniform off nicely, but a display like that, even one that is warranted, tends to remind me of Cold War Russian generals, a bit gauche.
Politicians were asking the general all sorts of questions about the War in Iraq, and my favorite was the softball that almost every Republican asked, "How is troop morale." I have to tell you that a Major General in any army is going to be the last man in that army to know what the troops are thinking or if morale is high or low.
Every officer in the chain of command is going to tell the General that the troops are doing just fine and that morale is high. Any enlisted man or woman who is questioned by the General himself is going to say the same or suffer the consequences of being honest, while his superior officer was blowing smoke about the condition of his troop.
The impolite question I wanted some one to ask was if the General ever thought about his place in history. Petraeus is a smart man, and he for sure knows that when the history of Bush's Iraq War is written, Major General David H. Petraeus will have a prominent role.
I have to wonder if the General ever thinks about another Major General, and that would be George B. McClellan, and his place in our Civil War history, and how that compares to how General Ulysses S. Grant is remembered.
If Petraeus were to say things are going badly and that we should pull the troops, he would go down in history as the General who lost the war. He would be thought of as a disgrace, much like history has thought of McClellan. However, if he is stout and resolute, and somehow he pulls out a victory, history will treat him as a hero, much like Grant.
But nobody is going to ask that question. It might sound impolite, and no one in Congress wants to sound impolite when talking to a medal bedecked General on national television. Generals are heroes as long as they go along with what those in power want to hear. If you doubt that, just ask General Eric Shinseki what happens to Generals who speak their minds.
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