They Don’t Have Ham Sandwiches in the Muslim World, or Petraeus is Nothing More Than an Easy Out

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Last week, the American Prospect‘s Spencer Ackerman wrote that Iraq is a waste of General David Petraeus’ time and expertise and that we should send him to Afghanistan where his expertise will not be lost on “cauterizing a wound” and “population protection.” In fact, he makes this analogy:

“This is like hiring Spanish avant-garde chef Ferran Adria to whip up a ham sandwich.”

I do think “God is unfair” to Petraeus, to use Ackerman’s words, but I think unfair, moreso, for the following reason: Petraeus has been set up. Last week, following his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made it clear that it is a setup indeed. “If it can’t be done under General Petraeus, then it cannot be done at all.”

Oh, I get it, so if we fail in Iraq it will no longer be the fault of the Bush administration’s years of incompetence before, during and after the war (all of which is thoroughly documented in the Mother Jones timeline). This is the same criticism that has been made about Bush’s escalation of troops, that the administration can claim, “we sent 20,000 troops, what more can we do?” Now, they have an even better scapegoat — the most revered General in the United States Army. That seems fair. “Look, if Petraeus couldn’t do it, there was nothing more that possibly could have been done,” they’ll say, as they wipe their hands clean. What is even more infuriating is that maybe it can be done, maybe Petraeus’ insurgency doctrine has all the answers or he has several other tricks up his sleeve. But if the administration’s past actions have been any indication of how well they support their military leaders in Iraq, it doesn’t matter what the doctrine looks like, Petraeus won’t be given the resources or the freedom to show us how talented he really is. Not to mention that it really is way too late for a Hail Mary.

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It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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