Gen. Petraeus, King of the Conservative Lecture Circuit

Gen. David Petraeus, who led the successful surge in Iraq and who supervises the American campaign in Afghanistan, is now attempting to root out pockets of al Qaeda activity at the country's leading conservative think tanks. This is the conclusion I've drawn from a careful study of his public schedule this spring. An alternative explanation: He's running for something. An alternative alternative explanation: He's just a general who can't say no.

It's not overly surprising that conservatives would seek to hear from Gen. Petraeus, or grant him honors; one wouldn't expect left-wing groups, such as Moveon.org, which infamously labeled him "Gen. Betray Us," to honor him for his accomplishments in Iraq. Still, the sheer number of appearances is surprising. Tonight, he is scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate from the Institute of World Politics, a conservative graduate program in international relations (among the board members of the institute is Erik Prince, founder of the company formerly known as Blackwater).  On May 6th, Gen. Petraeus is scheduled to receive the Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute. On June 1st, he is scheduled to speak at a Commentary Magazine dinner in New York.  And later this spring he will be speaking at a Hudson Institute event as well. Gen. Petraeus was also scheduled to speak at a Heritage Foundation event in Florida last week, but had to cancel at the last moment because of a scheduling conflict. 
 
I asked John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, what all of this means. He said, "The meaning is - seriously - that we asked him and he said yes." I also asked Podhoretz if Gen. Petraeus's recent testimony about Israel - he said that Washington's perceived closeness to Israel is a drag on America's reputation in the Arab world - has caused any fallout in the Commentary crowd. "None," he said.

Gen. Petraeus, it should be noted, is also scheduled to be the featured speaker at  tomorrow's Holocaust Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. His participation in all of these events suggests to me that he might, in fact, be running for president, not of the United States, but of the men's auxiliary of Hadassah.


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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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