From Frank Rich, at the New York Times, behind the wall (sorry about that - but the NYT should be sorry, not me):
THERE was, of course, gallows humor galore when Dick Cheney briefly grabbed the wheel of our listing ship of state during the presidential colonoscopy last weekend. Enjoy it while it lasts. A once-durable staple of 21st-century American humor is in its last throes. We have a new surrogate president now. Sic transit Cheney. Long live David Petraeus!
And so another constitutional principle can be added to the long list of those junked by this administration: the quaint notion that our uniformed officers are supposed to report to civilian leadership. In a de facto military coup, the commander in chief is now reporting to the commander in Iraq. We must “wait to see what David has to say,” Mr. Bush says.
Though General Petraeus wrote his 1987 Princeton doctoral dissertation on “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam,” he has an unshakable penchant for seeing light at the end of tunnels. It has been three Julys since he posed for the cover of Newsweek under the headline “Can This Man Save Iraq?” The magazine noted that the general’s pacification of Mosul was “a textbook case of doing counterinsurgency the right way.” Four months later, the police chief installed by General Petraeus defected to the insurgents, along with most of the Sunni members of the police force. Mosul, population 1.7 million, is now an insurgent stronghold, according to the Pentagon’s own June report.
Well, anyone can make a mistake. And when General Petraeus cited soccer games as an example of “the astonishing signs of normalcy” in Baghdad last month, he could not have anticipated that car bombs would kill at least 50 Iraqis after the Iraqi team’s poignant victory in the Asian Cup semifinals last week. This general may well be, as many say, the brightest and bravest we have. But that doesn’t account for why he has been invested by the White House and its last-ditch apologists with such singular power over the war.
I hope that I have not gone beyond "fair use" in my quotes. If I have, I'll hear about it, if anyone takes note of my wee blog. If anyone finds a link to the whole article that is not behind the wall, let me know, and I will post it.
Just yesterday, I read this from the Associated Press:
BAGHDAD - A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's relations with Gen. David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington to withdraw the overall U.S. commander from his Baghdad post.
But then we will lose our "surrogate president".
Iraq's foreign minister calls the relationship "difficult." Petraeus, who says their ties are "very good," acknowledges expressing his "full range of emotions" at times with al-Maliki. U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who meets with both at least weekly, concedes "sometimes there are sporty exchanges."
It seems less a clash of personality than of policy. The Shiite Muslim prime minister has reacted most sharply to the American general's tactic of enlisting Sunni militants, presumably including past killers of Iraqi Shiites, as allies in the fight against al-Qaida here.
An associate said al-Maliki once, in discussion with President Bush, even threatened to counter this by arming Shiite militias.
So. According to Maliki the relationship is "difficult", Petraeus says it's "very good", and Ambassador Crocker says they're only having "sporty exchanges". What are we to make of this?
I'm struck nearly dumb, but I'm glad Frank Rich can still speak.