What Does the Petraeus Appointment Mean?
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General Petraeus has been tapped to be the next commander of CENTCOM, which leads to a number of quick questions/observations.
First, it'll be interesting to see how he handles the tension of Afghanistan and Iraq from that position since Gates, Mullen and Fallon have all made clear that Iraq is hurting our mission in Afghanistan. Somehow I have a feeling that he will advise that we continue to place all of our strategic eggs in the Iraq basket.
Second, the confirmation hearings should give Democrats an opportunity to finally get Petraeus to answer some central questions. Is the mission in Iraq hurting Afghanistan and Pakistan? What is the central front in the fight against Al Qaeda? What about our overstretched forces? Is Iraq making America safer? Petraeus was able to dodge (Somewhat legitimately) on a number of these questions in the past by arguing that this wasn't his job. Well, now it is. So he really needs to answer.
Third, there was speculation that Petraeus was going to move off to NATO right around January. This guarantees that if there is a Democratic administration, Petraeus may end up playing a central role in helping design an exit strategy. Of course, in testimony last month he brought into question whether he'd actually be willing to do that. Which is huge, and must be asked again during the hearings.
Finally, there is the question of how many quotes Mike O'Hanlon will get today in the media. Because naturally, that's the only military expert worth talking to. I'm hoping we see some comments from Andrew Bacevich, Larry Korb, Tammy Schultz, Michele Flournoy, Tony Cordesman and a slew of retired generals (Who aren't part of the Pentagon media strategy). But I doubt we'll see that.