Petraeus Scandal is Neocons Loss
If there is a positive to come out of the unfolding scandal involving General Petraeus, it might be a more sober accounting of America’s involvement in Afghanistan.
Risks to our national security have been heightened by our continued presence there: Our handpicked president, Hamid Karzai is seen as a joke. Anti-American sentiment has grown considerably. Terrorists recruit. The Taliban endures.
To the degree Americans have even thought about the war, polls in recent years have shown overwhelmingly that the country has been ready to come home. To the degree that a small but influential minority thinks we should stay in Afghanistan, Gen. Petraeus was perhaps their greatest advocate within government.
In 2009, President Obama announced his plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 2014. The few journalists and think-tank ideologues who wished to stay in Afghanistan longer wanted a national figure who might redirect this withdrawal narrative. Until two weeks ago, Mitt Romney was one of those figures.
But for much longer, David Petraeus has been that figure.
Consider this timeline of headlines from the nation’s most pre-eminent neoconservative journal, The Weekly Standard—from the beginning of Petraeus’ role as head of Afghanistan Central Command in June 2010 until months after he stepped down in July 2011: “William Kristol: Obama’s Choice: He did the right thing, picking Petraeus and committing to success.” (July 5, 2010); “Gen. Petraeus Wants More Time in Afghanistan”(August 13, 2010); “The Case for Giving Gen. Petraeus a Fifth Star” (January 13, 2011);“Whither Petraeus?: General David Petraeus should next be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” (April 27, 2011); “Kristol: ‘Troop Deployment Schedule Is Being Determined by David Axelrod, Not by David Petraeus” (June 23, 2011); “Petraeus: Afghanistan Withdrawal ‘More Aggressive’ Than Advised” (June 23, 2011); “Petraeus: ‘Maintain the Full-Spectrum Capability’ of the Military” (September 1, 2011); “Report: Petraeus Considered Resigning Over Afghan Drawdown” (Dec. 29, 2011).
These headlines reflect (and they are not cherry-picked) the Weekly Standard’s investment in Petraeus and his consistent advice that America remain in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. This view was echoed on talk radio and Fox News—that President Obama was somehow “weak” for wanting to withdraw from Afghanistan too quickly, and that Petraeus was the man whose advice we should ultimately follow.