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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Obama and Petraeus



Obama's replacement of McChrystal with Petraeus is in a sense a thankless task. Though General Petraeus is the neoconservative Patton, iconic, that crowd will never thank the President for this favorable command change. Ideological shitheads like Monica Crowley are reflexively predisposed to attack Obama, no matter what he does.

Those rhetorical gymnastics notwithstanding, President Obama now out-neocons even Bush the Younger's neoconservatism in his Afghanistan policy. And even though Obama had many 3 or 4 star generals to choose from Petraeus -- allegedly -- wasn't on SecDef Gates' short list.

Obama, an ardent admirer of Lincoln, truly believes in the continuity of Presidents. That is why, after an agonizing 10-month Afghanistan policy review, Obama gave a half-hearted endorsement to a surge at West Point, continuing the policies put in place by his predecessor, the reviled George Bush. His only concession to the people that brought him to the dance was a nebulous exit strategy (18 months, maybe). It was against everything that his base -- the people who got him elected -- believed. But Obama's loyalty to the brotherhood (alas, no sisters as of yet) of Presidents was stronger. Continuity must be preserved.

In that sense Barack "No Drama" Obama is, temperamentally at least, profoundly conservative. One need look no further than his natural trust (Obama is a true believer) in the American establishment in the form of the Clinton economic team and BP in the early days to confirm that diagnosis.

And so, Obama entrusts his legacy to Petraeus. Will he be Obama's McClellan? Probably not -- although that would be historically-symmetrically poetic -- but one thing is for sure: Petraeus will have tremendous power. More power, perhaps, than the President might be comfortable with. For now, though, they are stuck with one another.

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