There's little doubt that General David Petraeus is a smart cookie whatever you think about his political loyalties, and quite a few people I respect
October 16, 2008

There's little doubt that General David Petraeus is a smart cookie whatever you think about his political loyalties, and quite a few people I respect highly as foreign policy reporters and analysts have good opinions of his military abilities. But when did a four star general get handed the authority to act as if he were Secretary of State?

The WaPo reports that:

Gen. David H. Petraeus has launched a major reassessment of U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and the surrounding region, while warning that the lack of development and the spiraling violence in Afghanistan will probably make it "the longest campaign of the long war."

The 100-day assessment will result in a new campaign plan for the Middle East and Central Asia, a region in which Petraeus will oversee the operations of more than 200,000 American troops as the new head of U.S. Central Command, beginning Oct. 31.

The review will formally begin next month, but experts and military officials involved said Petraeus is already focused on at least two major themes: government-led reconciliation of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the leveraging of diplomatic and economic initiatives with nearby countries that are influential in the war. [Emphasis Mine - C]

All of this seems like a good idea to me. But, crucially, neither of those themes are military ones and the military shouldn't be leading the way on them. It's about seperation of power and having the military subordinate to civilian policymakers rather than the other way around.

So where are the US ambassador, State Dept. and Condi Rice, who should be leading the way on them while the military man concentrates on military matters? For that matter, won't the leaders of other nations involved in the region wonder why America has appointed a de facto proconsul (again) and want their say?

"When you look at a lot of these problems, you see considerable regional connections," Petraeus said yesterday. The effort would embrace all of Afghanistan's neighbors and possibly extend to India, which has had a long-standing rivalry with Pakistan. "There may be opportunities with respect to India," he said.

An overview of the review team's mission obtained by The Post says that including other government agencies and other nations in the planning will "mitigate the risk of over-militarization of efforts and the development of short-term solutions to long-term problems."

Nevertheless, some experts questioned whether Petraeus will have the authority to carry out such a sweeping strategy.

"General Petraeus is not in charge of our diplomacy. He can't decide whether we try to form an international contacts group on Pakistan," said Barnett Rubin, an Afghanistan expert at New York University.

Moreover, in dealing with Afghanistan at Central Command, Petraeus will face limitations that he did not encounter as the top commander in Iraq, such as the lack of a unified military command and serious resource shortages.

"We don't own it. It's been a NATO effort since 2006. He won't have the same sway with Karzai and the ambassadors and a bunch of other people that he had in Iraq," said a former senior military official with experience in Afghanistan.

Perhaps most worrying of all, Petraus' mini foreign policy is being described as "a policy bridge from one administration to the next" by one of his team members, Clare Lockhart, co-founder of the New York-based Institute for State Effectiveness along with former Afghan finance minister Ashraf Ghani. Does Obama know and approve of Petraeus' and the military's intended hijacking of his administration's foreign policy and the authority of his SecState in Afghanistan and the surrounding region?
h/t Russ at Scholars & Rogues

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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