Real Petraeus Issue was Evaluation of Afghanistan

Maybe it is because I was brought up in part in Europe, but I just cannot understand American puritanism’s obsession with public officials’ private lives. I can’t see that most private issues affect the quality of public service, and I don’t think people’s private lives are any of our business, nor become our business because they become public servants. So I am not very interested in the lurid details that caused CIA director David Petraeus abruptly to resign on Friday.

Aljazeera English reports:

What I had been concerned about, despite my admiration for Petraeus, is that he wasn’t the right person to head the CIA when among its major tasks was to evaluate the counter=insurgency effort in Afghanistan. Since Petraeus authored that strategy and oversaw a stage of that war as commander, it actually was not fair to have him head the evaluative effort, and he shouldn’t have been put in that position.

Counter-insurgency as Petraeus defined it involves a four-stage process. The army has to take territory away from a guerrilla movement. It has to clear that territory of the enemy. It has to hold that territory for long enough to reassure the local population that the guerrillas are not coming back and won’t punish them as collaborators if they have something to do with the US. It has to build , i.e. build up local institutions such as police, so as to provide security and prosperity in the long run. Counter-insurgency is long and slow and requires winning over local hearts and minds.

Petraeus and other officers boxed Obama in in late 2009 and more or less imposed a counter-insurgency policy in Afghanistan on him. They only gave him this one plan, when he asked for 3 to choose from.

The counter-insurgency idea derived from the view of some in the officer corps that they had had a victory of sort because of the troop escalation or “surge” in Iraq late in the Bush period. As far as I can tell, however, violence in Iraq fell through 2007 not mainly because of US GI’s but because a Shiite ethnic cleansing campaign chased most Sunnis from mixed neighborhoods.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had convinced Petraeus to begin with the Sunni armed groups, and to disarm them. Once they were helpless, the Shiite militias like the Mahdi Army went in and ethnically cleansed the remaining ones.

Through 2007 forward, as mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods became more solidly Shiite, the death toll began declining. Angry Shiites who wanted to kill a Sunni would have had to get in their cars and drive for a while to find one.

Petraeus knew about the ethnic cleansing campaign. He was aware that it was creating a new wave of Sunni refugees. But he saw the troop escalation or ‘surge’ as the primary reason for the fall in violence.

Based on this misunderstanding of what had happened in Iraq, Petraeus hoped to do in Afghanistan what he thought he did with Baghdad. Hence the mantra, take clear hold build.

But this kind of counter-insurgency would have required hundreds of thousands of fresh troops. Petraeus didn’t have them. It was a huge endeavor.

It has largely failed, though US politicians and journalists seem reluctant to say so.

That failure of counter-insurgency in Afghanistan is dangerous and poses special dangers for our troops. It is dangerous for the future, since it cries out for clearsightedness lest we plunge into more such mistakes.

It was Petraeus’s CIA that was charged with evaluating the unfolding Afghanistan disaster. I don’t see how it could have done a good job of that. The author of the counter-insurgency strategy was now at the top of the evaluating agency.

As the US started planning for a post-Hamid Karzai Afghanistan, and for a massive troop drawdown, we needed unbiased reporting on the American scene. While I don’t doubt that Petraeus would hve tried hard to give it to us, it just wasn’t very likely.

So that’s my critique. President Obama needs someone at the CIA who can openly evaluate whether the troop escalation has been consistently a success or failure. I don’t care how he or she spends their time after 5 pm.

Posted in Afghanistan | 59 Responses | Print |

59 Responses

  1. Well, there is this: CIA agents caught having affairs have their security clearance suspended. Presumably, the same policy applies to DCI. If so, he couldn’t continue.

    • Yea, but if it’s true the President has now stood up for and recognized danger to all presented by global heat, or rather warm of oil based financial pyramid scheme gone nuts with derivatives which recently had sway”
      One plan that should have definitely been provided certainly should have entailed linking #1 threat of global warming, by US military’s own definition to seek or summon common purpose of all.. Peace.. -Death of Earth is not a thing anyone in right mind would want or wish on another.
      -That and the fact Earth is considered God’s good Earth apply..
      We can wish for a happy afterlife all we want but if we fail to our children to leave them a home could God give us shelter.. So to now see if Peace sign on Main has weight..

  2. What an incredibly naive statement! It is well understood that a CIA operative endangers the agency and the nation if he opens himself up to the threat of blackmail. This is not like someone who sells auto insurance.

  3. A simpler way to state “Petraeus knew about the ethnic cleansing campaign. He was aware that it was creating a new wave of Sunni refugees. ….” is that Gen Petraeus’ strategy was to divide and conquer. He used Shiites against the Sunnis in Iraq which then seeds the next violence in Syria for the Qatar/Saudi to fund Sunnis against the Assad regime.

    The strategy might have failed in Afghanistan because after decades of divide and conquer strategies by various occupiers in Afghanistan, we have reached the “atoms” of the resistance. It can’t be divide any further for any meaningful gains.

    • This theory assumes that Patraeus, and the US, were in control of everything happening in Iraq, and that’s clearly not the case. Iraq got very much out of American control – ask “President” Ahmed Chalabi.

      Foreign al Qaeda operatives deliberately conducted a campaign of anti-Shiite atrocities, like the Golden Mosque bombing, for the purpose of provoking a sectarian civil war, because they knew that doing so would make Iraq ungovernable for the occupying Americans. That conflict wasn’t something beneficial for the occupiers.

    • and yet, it remains the foundation of the US strategy:
      subjugate the Oashtuns under the Northern Alliance.

  4. Juan: Aren’t you forgetting one important element?: a government that can gain the support of the people. I don’t know where a US installed government has any credibility anymore…. Ok, Grenada!

  5. “Petraeus and other officers boxed Obama in in late 2009 and more or less imposed a counter-insurgency policy in Afghanistan on him.”

    A very questionable statement or a sad commentary on our Commander-in Chief

  6. This is most interesting. And like you, I couldn’t care less about Petraeus’s extramarital activities. I am concerned about Afghanistan and our part in what happens there. Excellent post!

  7. Juan, the practical issue in marital cheating for security officers is the possibility of blackmail. This is not necessarily a trivial concern. I wrote the following in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed in September, 1998:

    “We can’t expect elected officials to be human robots. We elect them on the basis of their administrative skills, not their sexual preferences or conflicts. They are entitled to privacy and should be encouraged to seek therapy for personal problems.

    “Bill Clinton did lie. He could have gotten off of this a long time ago and saved us all a lot of grief. Why did he try so hard to cover his tracks?

    “Maybe he was so terrified of confronting his wife that he went through months of hell to avoid hurting her and facing her anguished wrath.

    “I don’t think it’s appropriate to make psychological judgments about people I’ve never met, but I’m sure that Hillary is quite formidable, possibly the only person who makes him tremble with fear. Moreover, if we see Clinton as this needy man looking for affirmation, his whole personality is thrown into relief and many otherwise inexplicable actions become easy to understand.”

    That said, I find Petraeus’s resignation suspicious. Surely the FBI investigation could have been quietly filed away, and Petraeus reprimanded, perhaps. So who had a motive for getting rid of him should be the first question.

  8. Really the fbi feels a little different about passing secrets on by email to said mistress who writing a book about betryus life. It sounds like from what who’ve written he’s sold out Amerika more than once.

  9. You are too kind to Petraeus. Petraeus was always more the politician than a military leader. You must remember him on the news answering the “how is the war going” question. His answer was always; it is going well but send more troops. The press always lapped that up yet it was a clear indication of failure.

    A general should always report the facts to the public or stay silent. Leave the lies to the politicians.

    More broadly, as a military strategist he was a failure. Remember his widely touted counter insurgency manual. Mostly simple stuff like; don’t shoot the civilians. It was the plan for the hearts and minds campaign. How did it work out? Was there any chance that we, the foreign invader, were going to convince the local population that we were the good guy?

    Further, isn’t the current wide ranging assassination plan a complete repudiation of the hearts and mind strategy? Did we want Petraeus in charge of the CIA, the implementer of this death from the air campaign?

    There should be no admiration for Petraeus. At least McChrystal spoke the truth on occasion with his assessments of the war. If only Petraeus had been so honest.

    • >Was there any chance that we, the foreign invader, were going to convince the local population that we were the good guy?

      Polls in afghanistan have time and time again shown that most afghans do see the invasion as just and vastly support foreign efforts over those of the taliban.

      • DMOL,
        in analyzing polls or any other application of statistics, it is important to weigh “stratification” to see if the numbers really say what you want them to say.
        Who outside the major cities is accessible to being polled ?
        And, in this case, are these responses from Pashtuns ?

        You illustrate why Samuel Clemens despised statistical analysis. The facts speak for themselves, but for most laymen, require an interpreter. And your translation reflects the keen edge on the axe you are grinding.

      • Dmol,

        “DID see the invasion as just” is probably a better way to put that, because the invasion took place eleven years ago.

        Polls do show everything you say. They also show that Afghans want the occupation to end. Most Afghans don’t like us or the Taliban.

    • There is no “wide ranging assassination plan.” The total number of strikes across the entire world is a tiny fraction of the amount of fighting that goes in in Afghanistan in a month.

      The degree of angst and attention focused on the targeted air strikes is completely out of proportion to their scope and significance. Just to put things in perspective: the Taliban killed more civilians just in Afghanistan last year than the total number of civilians and militants killed in all of the drone strikes ever conducted in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, since they began over a decade ago.

      • By “wide ranging” I mean across the Islamic world. I quite understand that the numbers have been small compared the populations involved, hundreds of millions. My point was that people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, to the horn of Africa (who next?) do not know when death from the sky will hit them. Terror on an enormous scale.

        Of course your statement: “The degree of angst and attention focused on the targeted air strikes is completely out of proportion to their scope and significance” applies to us Americans. We are not (yet) in the crosshairs of this horror. We are quite comfortably numb.

        • people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, to the horn of Africa (who next?)

          Even this phrasing grossly overstates the situation. The vast majority of the people in the Islamic world are not living in any such situation. Not in Egypt or any other part of North Africa, not in Iran, not in any of the Southeast Asian Muslim countries, not in in any of the Gulf states or Saudi Arabia, not in any part of Southwest Asia except one small country.

          There are three or four countries in which anyone fears “death from above.” Trying to bootstrap that into a statement about the entire Muslim world is far off-base.

      • “Targeted air strike angst?” Moral relativism in service of whatever what “we” are doing is so fetching.

        So people we identify as “the Taliban” (a very disparate, non-organized set, by all accounts, that “we” are now sneaking around to try to “negotiate” a safe withdrawal with) have killed a lot of their fellow citizens. How many plain old ordinary people have “the ANA and APolice” killed, not counting “the enemy?” I bet there are “republics” in sub-Saharan Africa where the gunmen and Unlawful Thugs have killed lots more civilians and Unlawful Enema Combatants than all the drone strikes (so far.) And something like 5-10 percent of all death penalties in America apparently are carried out on people innocent of the charged crime, maybe even more, and something like 2/3 of all death penalty cases are so loaded with error that they get reversed or even dismissed, before Oopsie time. link to

        And even in that carefully controlled, multi-level-reviewed, decades-long process of “full due process, judicially imposed” death sentences, a combination of prosecutorial zeal and bias, incompetent counsel (who speaks for the Drone Dead, at trial or during sentencing?) and system prejudices and public and private enthusiasms like our own Prison Industrial Complex’s lobbying for more crimes and higher penalties (none of which are of course present in the Matrix Shoot to Kill process, now are they?), there’s a buttload of “error.”

        Maybe some of those wrongfully charged and convicted and even executed were guilty of something else, isn’t that the argument? And they had some kind of “process,” right? Even if it was wrong? And for the Droned, as with death penalty statutes, if the idea is to produce deterrence (and of course to “wreak justice” and retribution, and for some of us, I bet, just to have some serious unaccountable fun) guess what? People still kill people — a “husband” down here in FL doused his annoying wife (“allegedly”) with gasoline and set her on fire, and she died in horrible pain and fear weeks later. And of course “Talibanners” and ANAers and all the rest of us humans will keep on killing and oppressing.

        Does that make what the CIA and contractors and uniformed drone pilots and GIs on the ground are doing either wise or effective or “right?” Can there be any doubt? link to

        3×5 check complete, and of course I don’t know nothing, right?

        • Well, JT, you started off misusing the phrase “moral relativism,” and I stopped reading after that.

          Seriously. Look the term up. I know it’s one of those super-awesome, smart-sounding words you learned during the Bush administration, but you have to actually be able to use it correctly in a sentence if you want anyone to pay attention to what you have to say.

      • Joe sez:
        “The … attention focused on the targeted air strikes is completely out of proportion to their … significance.”

        Joe does not comprehend their significance. To people around the world, this says that the US does not respect the rule of law. Pretty big deal, in my opinion.

        • Brian sez: “To people around the world, this says that the US does not respect the rule of law. Pretty big deal, in my opinion.”

          Whatever some people may think, they are wrong on this point. The U.S. drone strikes fall within international and domestic U.S. law. The U.S. is in compliance with Article 51 of the UN Charter, which grants nations the right of self defense against enemy attempts to attack. This certainly applies in the case of unlawful enemy combatants planning to attack the United States and U.S. interests worldwide.

          Congress granted the President authorization to use such force with the “Authorization for the Use of Military Force,” a joint resolution passed by Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizing the use of all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the September 11, 2001 attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups fall within Congress’s above-cited definition.

          There is nothing “outside the rule of law” about the drone program. To suggest so is to either reveal one’s ignorance about the legal framework within which the drone program operates or deliberately misrepresent the facts to fit one’s preconceived Narrative.

        • Bill sez, “Anyone who disagrees with him is stoopid or lying.”

          Gee, Bill, so nice to blow right past the obvious and easily obtained debate materials over the “legality” of your beloved drone program, and do your usual flat and unsupported and likely unsupportable assertion that it’s all just pattycake and smiles in DroneWorld.

          From the Wall Street Journal, recently: link to

          There’s the Council on Foreign Relations: link to

          And the word from those damn hippie commies at The Guardian: link to

          And a whole lot more, no doubt including commentary by folks within the Pentagram’s Rings who not only see the dangers of opening doors like this for other “Enemas” to walk through too, but have their own moral and legal-interpretive discomforts with what “we” are up to.

          Speaking of revealing one’s ignorance or misrepresenting stuff, your flat assertion about the “legality” (I note you don’t argue the UTILITY or EFFECTIVENESS — either cost-effectiveness or tactical and strategic effectiveness, short- or long-term, which both are pretty hotly contested too) is pretty much plain old wrong, for those who live outside your brain.

          There ain’t a whole lot of evidence that “the US” is in the business of “respecting the rule of law” ANYwhere, now any more than it has done since entering the Imperial Game back toward the end of the 19th Century.

        • To people around the world, this says that the US does not respect the rule of law.

          I could not make up a more perfect example of someone on the internet projecting his personal opinions onto everyone else.

          Yes, Brian, people in tents in Yemen are saying, “You know what I really hate about the drone strikes? Their implications for the rule of law.”

  10. When people hold public positions, their private lives can influence public views. As an example it can cloud views on rape, sexual harassment in the work place, spousal abuse, exploitation of others etc. In this case, the mistress also had access to his CIA e-mails. Affairs with people in sensitive positions, have at times, lead to the leaking of restrictive information. It also has opened high profile people to blackmail. A good motto is to keep your pants zipped and your lips.

    • Debbie, think of the family-defending politicians who’ve been caught cheating, sometimes in same-sex encounters. They did not let their private lives influence their voting.

      You say the wrong type of private life could cloud views on rape. Well, maybe we should investigate Todd Aikens private life. If he is a faithful husband, maybe some time with a hooker would clear up his mind.

  11. The CIA secretariat is not and has not been for some time an honest broker and analyst. Those guys and gals, and a lot of people in the various branches and offices, clearly are “players” with their own little mini-games in motion. Not the least of which is the droning noise you hear, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

    And the cool part, in the perverse system of “checks and balances” that now obtains (you, Mr. President, don’t mess with our stratagems and money, and we won’t depose/bowstring you like the Roman Mercenary Imperial Guard used to do so frequently in that collapsing Empire), is that Big Mo is all on the side of the Serious People.

    It’s not like there’s not been a few astute voices from inside the Rings of Power or that Langley jackaltopolis who didn’t pretty clearly state the likely outcomes that mirabile dictu have come to pass. Too bad that the Players, behind the painted flats of the phonied-up America the Exceptional Drama are actually doing something else or a bunch of sneaky something elses altogether. “We” pretend that we are all goody two-shoes, needing to “take care of the women and children” and the Quisling/Vichy types who took and take our money and now have to worry about the post-Saigon scenario. Same song, next verse. You can bet Karzai et al have their exit cues and marks firmly memorized. And gee, what consequences to screw-ups like Petraeus and the other generals and colonels suffer for walking us off the end of the dock? Even a war lover like Thomas Ricks sees that “our war chiefs” can’t find their butts with both hands, though they are masters of Milbabble and Pentagrammetonics and all the complexity noises that make up a CAREER. Too bad all that “expertise” is in areas other than the ones the Myths have the rest of us believing are appropriate. Though of course there are those whose elastic notions of imperial goodness, complete with neo-dumbisms like “Unlawful Enema Combatants,” who see some kind of personal advantage in The Way Things Have Come To Be Done.

    Query: Is sticking one’s arm into a running wood chipper a “disaster,” or a “stupid?”

    • Your statement about the CIA “secretariat” not being an “honest broker” and “analyst” demonstrates how little you know about the CIA. To suggest that the “secretariat” is on the analytical side of the house is ludicrous. In any organization, including the CIA, the secretariat ensures that appropriate taskings, briefing papers, and reports are produced and submitted to the top echelon in proper format and on time. As to the rest of your rant, it is totally unintelligible.

      • During my prolonged and ultimately unsuccessful process to get a job in the European analysis office of the CIA (couldn’t get Top Secret clearance), my would-be supervisor explained that my job as a 24-year-old analyst would be to tell clients – Congressmen and higher – what they should think, because they didn’t really know anything about the matters they came to us about, but didn’t really want to admit it.

        That was pretty scary, but I realize now that if I’d gotten the job, years later I would have been working for the Bush gang, who promoted analysts who were wrong about Iraq, and forced out analysts who were right. If elected officials are completely dependent on the CIA for their understanding of the outside world, then our democracy is as broken as Mr. McPhee says it is.

  12. “As far as I can tell, however, violence in Iraq fell through 2007 not mainly because of US GI’s but because a Shiite ethnic cleansing campaign chased most Sunnis from mixed neighborhoods.”

    A key factor in the promising turn of events in Iraq, in addition to your cited quote above, was the combination of the Sunni Awakening and the U.S. “surge” in Anbar Province. Together, they had a devastating effect on Al Qaeda in Iraq and helped to stabilize the situation.

    • You’re right about the first part, but not the second.

      The Anbar Awakening – their rejection of the foreign jihadists who had been their allies, and their turn to the US – certainly did help put a lid on al Qaeda, who had provoked the civil war.

      But by that point, the effort to provoke a civil war had already succeeded. It had become a self-sustaining thing, and did not require al Qaeda continually stoking the flames.

      • Without the Surge, and the additional manpower and troops, the civil war would have been more prolonged and stabilization more difficult to achieve.

        • I understand that that is your point, Bill, but the argument you just made to support it doesn’t hold up.

          The civil war and ethnic cleansing continued to expand for months, perhaps a year of more, after the surge was begun. The Baghdad Security Plan was supposed to stop the ethnic cleansing, but it continued right under our noses, and now, Baghdad has no more mixed neighborhoods. It’s difficult for me to believe that a program which was so ineffective at its stated objectives can be credited with the end of the civil war, especially when much-more credible alternatives (the accomplishment of the ethnic cleansing, the announcement of the withdrawal) can explain that outcome.

    • There are, of course, dissenting viewpoints to the one expressed by Bill. Interesting how the situation stabilized…

      • Interesting how the situation stabilized…

        …while the Americans executed a gradual, not immediate, withdrawal.

        That’s how your sentence ends, right?

  13. An interesting point here is how the affair became known in the first place.

    I doubt that the general just simply volunteered this information to the authorities.

    Did the U.S. intelligence community have an informant or electronic surveillance that provided proof of the affair?

    I seem to recall that professional career officers of the CIA have an aversion to having military or other non-intelligence personnel holding the directorship.

    Admiral William Raborn was appointed as CIA director in 1965 to replace John McCone and resigned after about a year of friction with subordinates. Richard Helms became the first career CIA officer to lead the CIA and was fired by Richard Nixon in 1973; he was considered a favorite of career CIA officers. When James Schlesinger, an outsider who was close to Nixon was appointed to replace him, Schlesinger’s portrait was hung in the lobby of CIA headquarters in Langley but placed under camera surveillance to prevent CIA employees from vandalizing it.

    My hunch is that Petraeus angered someone who got wind of the affair and used it to cause his resignation. Who is responsible is anyone’s guess.

    • According to an article in this morning’s Abq Journal (and undoubtedly elsewhere), a woman complained about getting harassing emails from Paula Broadwell, co-author of the Petraeus hagiography. In investigating Broadwell’s emails, the FBI found the incriminating emails to Petraeus, which triggered further investigation.

      We may consider ourselves lucky, if this takes The General off his planned presidential/political career track…

      • The GOP definitely can’t use Petraeus now. They’re so obsessed with the need for short-term smears against Obama to keep their movement going that they must now explain the adultery of Petraeus as typical of an “Obamanaut” and fellow-traveler, like every other Republican who has cooperated with Obama in customary ways. I hope they’re stupid enough to go even further and condemn the Army as a tainted, socialist organization that doesn’t want to murder Moslems enough – what with their treatment of Colin Powell. That will derail the unknown plans of extremist theocrats like Jerry Boykin already in the high command.

  14. My most distinct recollection of Iraq-Petraeus was all the “yanks are coming” excitement when two-star-Petraeus went there to take over training of the Iraqi Army. After he departed that assignment we found out that only a tiny percentage of the Iraqi troops were combat ready, in other words Petraeus had failed. Neither the media nor the politicians associated Petraeus with the failure, instead gave him another “yanks are coming” treatment when he returned to Iraq with more stars.

    My initial thought when CIA-Petraeus was established was that Obama put him there to formalize, and enhance the weaponization of the organization. href=””>See this

  15. As far as I can tell, most people never noticed that we rather quickly abandoned COIN

    NYT: 07/02/2009: In Tactical Shift, Troops Will Stay and Hold Ground in Afghanistan

    NYT: 02/21/2010: U.S. Commander Describes Marja Battle as First Salvo in Campaign.

    Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of the United States Central Command, said Sunday that the battle being fought in the Taliban stronghold of Marja was the “initial salvo” in a military campaign that could last 12 to 18 months

    NYT: 08/01/2010: Targeted Killing Is New U.S. Focus in Afghanistan

    Many Americans who had wearied of Afghanistan by 2008 had their hopes raised for a “better outcome” by the promise of a new, better, smarter administration which included the “genius” of David Petraeus.

    I’m not sure COIN can possibly work for an occupying force in a foreign culture, speaking a very foreign language, etc. with inadequate manpower — however — my memory of that period was that the the first failure was to win the “hearts and minds” of our own troops who were not at all happy to get any closer to a “native population” they neither trusted or liked.

    It was self-serving of the Obama Administration to allow Petraeus to fail-upward. The cancellation of the Congressional Hearings on Benghazi will only fan the flames of an “outrage” already exaggerated beyond belief.

  16. The idea that Petraeus had to resign because he could be blackmailed is illogical. Once the story was made public, he might appear dishonourable, he’ll doubtless catch hell from Mrs Petraeus, but he can no longer be blackmailed. So there’s no reason for him to resign.

    So what else do the Stasi, sorry, I mean the FBI, have on him?

    • The idea that people in sensitive intelligence positions are not allowed to have affairs is not illogical. It is long-established practice, and for good reason: because people have been blackmailed in “honeypot” operations before.

      link to

      And Patraeus was Director of the CIA. He would have, and perhaps did, fire people under him for having affairs. For him to stay on after being caught having one of his own would have destroyed morale, and his ability to effectively run the agency.

  17. In sports terms, Petraeus being a careerist and after many other military declined Bush’s plea, came in a game early in the fourth quarter with the visiting team, his, trailing
    45-7, rallied the visitors at the finish to a 52-21 loss
    and left so the vanquished team could pretend it won.
    IOW, the surge did not work (on its own terms) and if Petraeus was a truthteller he would have admitted as much.

  18. Juan, would you agree that counter-insurgency has been a loser policy wherever it has been attempted?

    As Michael Hastings has reported: Afghanistan experts have been arguing that negotiations, not an increase in military operations, are the best way for the US to get out. “The simple and terrifying reality, forbidden from discussion in America, was that despite spending $600 billion a year on the military, despite having the best fighting force the world had ever known, [the US was] getting their asses kicked by illiterate peasants who made bombs out of manure and wood.” link to

    • Petraeus was not forced, but chose, to implement a variety of COIN with “the army he had” which likely differed considerably from the army he imagined.

      Problems with lack of discipline and high level of accepted racism and other bigotry would make COIN damn near impossible. In fact, a couple of recent studies state that most of the “insider attacks” have been the result — not of Taliban infiltration — but of cross cultural disrespect issues.

      Even before Iraq, in Afghanistan, a number of other coutries refused or were very reluctant to cooperate iwth American “cowboys” becasue they believed close proximity was dangerous to their health. This dangerous/recklessness was repeated in Iraq — The Spanish in Najaf, the British in the South felt endangered by the reckless disregard for civilian lives/property and disrepectful behavior of American troops.

      After the Khadahar Sura (attendees having placed themselves at risk to even attend) in anticipation of expansion of COIN into that region, in which the elders strongly objected ot the plan — McCrystal was quoted as saying, oh, well, we’ll be proceeding anyway, their approval is not necessary, or words to that effect.

      Reports on the ground in Marjah were strikingly reminiscent of Vietnam — Every family had taliban ties, American troops could not tell who was taliban and who was not, individual farmers who cooperated with the Americans were punished by the Taliban, the Americans being unable or unwilling to protect them.

      The Petraeus resignation has taken virtually all the attention away from the massacre (Robert Bales, Panjwai Massacre) — although the likelihood of an outcome significantly different from that of Haditha is probably a longshot.

      • Useful response, Susan. However, is the problem US-specific or inevitable due to the nature of an occupation? Can you point me to situations where the absence of American “cowboys” resulted in considerably more success with COIN?

        • I think — but now realize I don’t know (and don’t have time at the moment to research) the model for COIN was/is guerrilla warfare — as outlined by Che Guevara in his book by that name and by the diaries and Little Red Book of Mao Zedung as well as the NLF in Vietname … in both conflicts, the revolutionary guerrilla army made allies of the local population by being honest and reliable partners and promoting local welfare, etc.

          Che’s Bolivian adventures were unsuccessfu, irrc, because the presence of guerrillas brought the wrath of the American back CIA-enabled Bolivian, in part on a quest to kill Guevara.

          Al-Qa’ida in Iraq failed (at least initially) because although their bombmaking expertise and endless supply of martyrs was appreciated, they were bossy and intrusive in the lives of Sunni Iraqis who had no desire to live the rigid life they advocated, so there were turf wars and falling-outs.

          The Taliban eventually won control over the warlords because they were honest and reliable not only in business but also in adminstering justice over local matters (which is part of their current hold on Afghanistan whose weak/corrupt central government cannot be relied upon to adjudicate local disputes/crimes)

          It’s all about people and interpersonal relationships over time. It would be difficult to overcome the mistrust/power imbalance of an “occupying force” such as the United States, but even in Afghanistan, various members of the NATO coalition had sufficiently DIFFERENT levels of success and acceptance to make even Afghanistan worthy of study to see what works … however, revolutionary success of small number of foreign-to-the-region guerrillas I think is the larger model.

        • What scares me is how much we Americans have changed since our successful Occupations of Germany and Japan after 1945. What, do you have to attack American forces with equally advanced technology just so that we will treat you like human beings after we beat you? Or is it that we felt so good about ourselves because Germany and Japan were clearly admitting that we’d beaten them – being totalitarian societies that spoke with one voice – but we never felt that way in South Vietnam, Iraq, etc. where the people never submitted to our wonderfulness?

          Or, are Americans, in whole or the part that serves in the military, just more racist and barbaric now?

  19. Juan–

    II agree with the you on private lives. based on the current reporting, exposure does not seem to be a trip wire to get flip Gen P and in my opinion any others. I would be more comfortable with your analysis and conclusions if you provided more insight that indicated the the Obama team were concerned with the ideological/practical box that he was /in?

  20. How much would Petraeus have paid to keep his wife from finding out about his sexual affair with the woman who was “researching” a hagiography of him? What information might he have passed to blackmailers, if that was the only way to keep them quiet? How many blackmailers could there be?

    If, like Europe, folks in the United States accepted the idea that all men will have mistresses and assorted short-term lovers, and American women were good with that, there would be no security risk. Back in the day when I had a clearance, homosexuality was a big no-no. Not because there was anything wrong with that, they always hastened to add, but because of the risk of blackmail upon threat of disclosure. Now, nobody cares if you’re gay, lesbian, or any of the modern innovations, and that’s probably a good thing.

    But the US has not yet embraced “infidelity” as Europe has. Maybe it has something to do with our lack of a social safety net. At the moment, it is what it is: a dirty secret that many men would go to great lengths to keep hidden from certain people. So it’s a security risk.

    • except that everyone affected by this already knew.
      Petraeus had her standing in as his escort at official CIA functions.
      He had meetings with her in his offices, one-on-one, that were not brief. That’s every office he had over the last 4 years.
      All of his closest associates knew.
      No way his wife didn’t know; little chance their children didn’t. And maybe she was OK with that; none o’ my bizness.

  21. “admiration for Petraeus” Juan, you are joking right? His triumph in Iraq was the result of bribing the locals not to kill the Ameriki. All in support of empire building for Bush II and his Big Oil patrons.

    • Now don’t you dare go poking holes in the hot air balloon that is the Narrative. It’s taken as a given that “the surge worked,” because it’s so easy to pack into a sound bite and so many “experts” with shall we say interests in that theme are happy to repeat it and expand on it.

  22. It seems only part of the doctrine was somewhat achieved: take and clear (sort of). Hold and Build never got off the ground. The Build phase was so disastrous, it’s a serious reason for our debt crisis – for several years, programs and government agency budgets were mined as part of the Afghanistan and Iraq “tax” as it was euphemistically called so that contractors would get that money and supposedly develop Iraq and Afghanistan, except that failed to happen. So all those funds taken over the course of several years could have built up much of the regions, not just two countries. Just down a black pit

  23. In an interview with Chris Wallace, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today stated that protocols required the FBI to immediately disclose information of the affair to both her and the vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and this was not done for several weeks after the FBI had notice of a possible affair.

    She indicated that the FBI’s inaction in notifying her would be a subject of committee investigation. She agreed with the CIA director’s decision to resign.

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