Monday, August 16, 2010

Petraeus marketing the Afghanistan War while David Gregory fawns on him

David Gregory gets to fawn on an important guy in a uniform

Our Savior-General David Petraeus is actively marketing the Afghanistan War. Dan Froomkin in Why Petraeus Can't Make The Sale Huffington Post 08/14/2010 is skeptical of his chances of convincing the general public:

[The] reality [in the Afghanistan War], increasingly obvious to national security experts and the general public alike, is that no amount of good intentions or firepower is going to advance our fundamental interests in Afghanistan -- and that as much as Petraeus might be able to achieve in the next six months, or a year, little to none of it is sustainable and most of it is, even worse, counterproductive.

U.S. taxpayers are spending vast amounts of money on the war -- over $200 million a day for military operations alone. Our troops work tirelessly, fight and die to protect and build up the people and institutions of Afghanistan.

But how that turns into success remains wildly unclear. And even more importantly, the relationship between what we're doing on a day to day basis and our ostensible goal -- keeping America safe from al Qaeda -- seems increasingly tenuous. [my emphasis]
The Savior-General was on Meet the Press Sunday with David Gregory, who was in Afghanistan to ask him softball questions and let him make his pitch. Though Commissar Gibbs would no doubt say it shows a drug-induced state, I'm going to say that not unlike George W. Bush, Obama is putting Petraeus forward to make the case for his war, hiding behind a false screen of military expertise. It's not at all a healthy trend for the civilian government, and represents Obama's broad embrace of many of the worst aspects of the national security state.


The transcript of Gregory's love-fest with the Savior-General is here: Meet the Press transcript for August 15, 2010: David Petraeus . He opened that segment with a spiel that sounds like the narrator at the start of a melodramatic play setting the scene:

We have come to Kabul at a critical moment of this war. Nine years into the conflict, President Obama has doubled down, surging U.S. forces in order to root the insurgency and help the government of Hamid Karzai, a government ripe with corruption, stand up on its own. The man behind this new strategy is General David Petraeus, the commander behind the successful surge in Iraq. Petraeus has taken over command of U.S. and coalition forces here after General Stan McChrystal was fired by President Obama for publicly airing his grievances with the war effort. General Petraeus is speaking out for the first time, and exclusively to us, about all of the big issues in this conflict—the public’s frustration with the war, the strength of the Taliban, the government of Hamid Karzai here in Afghanistan, the expected leaking of new secret war documents on the Internet, and whether President Obama's July of 2011 withdrawal timeline will hold.
And he continues in a way that could have been scripted by a Pentagon PR hack. It wouldn't surprise me if it was, though Gregory is quite willing to supply his own obsequious hackery to a hero of the Beltway Village:

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: And begin. (He does push-ups)

MR. GREGORY: At 57, General David Petraeus is easily America’s most famous warrior. On this morning we find him in the middle of physical training as this fiercely competitive four-star general works over soldiers half his age...

GEN. PETRAEUS: Good morning, Marie. How are you?

MR. GREGORY: ...with the same intensity as he works the war plan. Despite his reputation for taking on the toughest jobs...

GEN. PETRAEUS: Sit down, please.

MR. GREGORY: ...General Petraeus admits he had his doubts about this assignment.
For those of you under 35 or so, there was a time and not so very long ago when American TV journalists might have been embarrassed, even humiliated and insulted, at being expected to act as such an obvious PR facilitator, even for a Very Important General. Not that catering to the powerful was unknown in the years before the national press went off a cliff starting with the New York Times publishing its first Whitewater story in 1992. But at least they had some sense of professionalism and even a little personal dignity. Hard to imagine now, I know.

"Now, as the commanding general on the ground, he's clear-eyed about how hard this mission is," the tough and skeptical journalist craven pandering infotainment pretty-boy says. "He is a strategist, a student of the conflict, and savvy enough to handle bottom-line questions very delicately. You always say you’re a realist..." I hope Gregory didn't literally slobber on the guy.

He pressed the Savior-General with tough questions on the course of the war these last ten years: "But you’ll take a hard look at this, and you'll make a determination about when America’s footprint should be diminished, when that's appropriate?"

Fair warning: reading the entire interview may set off gag responses. For instance:

MR. GREGORY: This is a very difficult time in this war, and, and we have talked about your assessment of winning vs. losing. The reality that you understand is that the American public is not behind this war. Our new poll with The Wall Street Journal indicates that 7 in 10 Americans lack confidence in a successful outcome to this war. And yet your position was that we’re actually winning because we're making some progress. What is it that the American public is missing?
One thing we're missing is a responsible and professional national press. That's for sure. Especially on television.

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