In Defense Of Petraeus

A reader writes:

Quoting you:

"At one point last year, I was worried that Petraeus was being used politically. I was wrong. He's been a magnificent general, in a near-impossible situation. Ditto Crocker. Along with Patrick Fitzgerald, they strike me as among the most impressive public servants of our time."

Petraeus is being used to a degree, but I think, given the situation he's in, it's the price he feels he has to pay.  The reality is that no general would be allowed to serve in his position who was willing to speak out, candidly, against the overall strategy.  If you look at what Petraeus has said about the necessary force strength to maintain a counterinsurgency it's quite clear he's aware of the deep flaws in the current strategy.  Given all of that though, he is almost certainly the most qualified general to be doing the job right now, and I think he knows that.

Thus he's put in an untenable position.  Speak out against Bush and hand off command to somebody who may very well be less qualified, or support the administration position and do the best he can for the troops in the field.  While soldiers have many reasons to join the military, it seems that the most consistent reason for them to fight and continue on day to day is for their fellow soldiers.  My sense is that, as a general, Petraeus bites the political bullet in the interests of doing his best to protect the men under his command. 

Nothing can really be changed about the strategy in Iraq until this administration leaves.  Individual generals can speak out against it, but all this does is expedite their retirement.  So Petraeus stays, implements the best tactics for a poor strategy, and does his best to keep the ship afloat until a new administration can move into the White House.  What else is he supposed to do?