Did you like being the center of attention, for a while the other night, during the presidential debates?
The guys had lots to say about you in the midst of the back and forth about Iraq.
It seems to me, and tell me if I'm right, that Barack Obama is a proponent of a new kind of engagement as a backdrop to his practical policies about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Al Qaida, and the war on terror generally. That backdrop is one that is partly expressed when he speaks of being open sitting down and talking to other world leaders with preparation but without preconditions. He is saying, that in the 21st century we must explore new avenues of diplomacy. McCain accuses Obama of being naive. But it isn't naivete is it, General Petraeus? It is a recognition that the Powell doctrine* of the late 20th century has died. The Petraeus doctrine has arrived.
Both McCain and Obama seem to acknowledge your importance. But I think that they appreciate different things. McCain wants to say, "Hah, the surge worked. Military might really does work." But his understanding is hearkening back to the Powell doctrine. Obama says instead, and perhaps with more understanding than McCain of the Petraeus doctrine, "Hm.m.m, the surge cannot be a surge of might. It is instead a surge of cultural engagement." Embracing some of the new thinking from military philosophers such as John Nagl, Obama accepts that events such as those of 9/11, “conclusively demonstrated that instability anywhere can be a real threat to the American people here at home.” For the foreseeable future, political conditions abroad rather than specific military threats will pose the greatest danger to the United States.
General Petraeus, have you seen this video? It will take about eight minutes, but I think it is eloquent.
When Obama does sometimes sidestep the question of "winning" the war in Iraq, he is acknowledging that traditional military victory is secondary to the greater necessity of instituting diplomatic scaffolding that will maintain lasting stability throughout the region.
The Atlantic Monthly states,
"According to the emerging Petraeus Doctrine, the Army (like it or not) is entering an era in which armed conflict will be protracted, ambiguous, and continuous—with the application of force becoming a lesser part of the soldier’s repertoire."We are living in a very different world from the one that predated the global society. Even the lessons of Vietnam don't quite apply, do they? To effectively maintain just and decent leadership in this world, we cannot afford to place all of our hopes on the gun, on the bomb, on the power of power. We must seek a new solution. That is what Barack Obama is saying when he calls for an end to the military engagement in Iraq.
Instability creates ungoverned spaces in which violent anti-American radicals thrive. Yet if instability anywhere poses a threat, then ensuring the existence of stability everywhere—denying terrorists sanctuary in rogue or failed states—becomes a national-security imperative. Define the problem in these terms, and winning battles becomes less urgent than pacifying populations and establishing effective governance.
War in this context implies not only coercion but also social engineering. As Nagl puts it, the security challenges of the 21st century will require the U.S. military “not just to dominate land operations, but to change entire societies.”
. . . enabling the Army, he writes, “to get better at building societies that can stand on their own.” That means buying fewer tanks while spending more on language proficiency; curtailing the hours spent on marksmanship ranges while increasing those devoted to studying foreign cultures. It also implies changing the culture of the officer corps. An Army that since Vietnam has self-consciously cultivated a battle-oriented warrior ethos will instead emphasize, in Nagl’s words, “the intellectual tools necessary to foster host-nation political and economic development.”
Could you say that too? Would you serve him as your commander-in-chief?
Link to Obama on Iraq from Presidential debates.
*The Powell Doctrine held that military force should only be used if there was a clear risk to national security; that the force used should be overwhelming; and that the operation must have strong public support and a clear exit strategy.