The Next Step: Confirming Petraeus

Now that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has resigned as the top military commander for the U.S. and allied war effort in Afghanistan, the White House and Congress will move on to the next step: confirming his replacement.


President Obama announced today in the Rose Garden that he has nominated Gen. David Petraeus to replace McChrystal in Afghanistan. Petraeus will now undergo hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will likely hear testimony from the general before voting on his nomination. The full Senate will then vote on Petraeus's nomination to lead the war in Afghanistan.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has not yet given word on when hearings will start.

Petraeus, as observers have noted, enjoys wide support and respect on Capitol Hill. He appeared before Congress under difficult circumstances in 2007, charged with selling President Bush's Iraq "surge," appearing before both Senate and House armed services committees along with Bush's ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. He faced difficult questions from Democrats and an ad in The New York Times from MoveOn.org, infamously dubbing him Gen. "Betray Us."

But lawmakers generally came to accept that Petraeus was not responsible for the invasion, or for the things they didn't like about Bush. As the Iraq surge came to succeed, Petraeus was no longer considered a villain in any sense of the word. He has a reputation of managerial and strategic competence, and his success in Iraq has inspired confidence in his ability to lead a complicated war effort that requires counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and building ties with local populations.

Petraeus was tapped to lead CENTCOM (the U.S. military's Central Command) by President Obama at the outset of his new administration. The Senate confirmed Petraeus 95-2 in June 2008 for that job. Given that vote, it's likely Petraeus will face critical questions about the Afghan war effort in his confirmation hearings, but few impeachments of his own credentials.

"I think we have seen a historic moment of the Obama presidency," Sen. Joe Lieberman said after Obama made his announcement regarding Petraeus's new nomination, in an interview on MSNBC. "If there ever was a case of putting the national interest ahead of personal interest, it's Gen. Petraeus accepting this assignment."

If the hawkish Lieberman is any indication of the rest of the Senate, Petraeus should be endorsed fully by the upper chamber.