A lot of the commentary about the Petraeus performance on Capitol Hill last week has noted how the general has displaced the guys in suits as the point man and even formulator of geopolitical policy in the region. He’s constrained by Bush’s refusal to give up on any of his pet fantasies like ‘victory,’ whatever on earth that could mean, but within those obvious limits, Petraeus is now as much in charge as Pompey or Gaius Cassius were in their provinces of the Roman Empire.
Bush has done enormous damage to the concept of civilian leadership even though or because he has been such a booster of military force. Where once service families or career types scoffed at the Democrats or mocked Clinton for his mushy ‘compromise’ on gays and lesbians in service, now they spew disdain at the ‘chicken-hawks’ like Bush who don bomber jackets or tour the front under massive protection to then brag about it later on U-Tube.
Whom does that leave to determine policy? While Petraeus obtains some (surely temporary) breathing room, Bush shows no interest in the political solution and instead blames Iran and the nationalistic Sadrist faction who want U.S. troops out. The clueless White House civilians refuse to cede any ground and insist on more sacrifice and miracles from the ‘boots on the ground,’ to use one of their faux-butch phrases. To avoid retreat in the tin-soldier war in Bush’s head, he engineers ever greater collapse, chaos and destruction.
How much longer can this go on? The populace has long since turned against the failed conquest, yet the political threat of being made to look disloyal to the troops trumps any real defiance of the endless campaign. Bush’s gang retaliate against any dissidents in uniform while the grumbling grows. Voters hold out the hope of changing policy at the polls, but they tried that in 2006 and failed. The situation is fraught with dangers and potential surprises of a most unpleasant nature.