Talking Surge (and Jogging) with General Petraeus

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Spencer Ackerman got to join General David Petraeus on his morning exercise routine recently, and the results give us some clue as to what Petraeus will say before Congress next week.

“There are some encouraging signs,” [Petraeus] said cautiously. “It’s still pretty early, but sectarian violence and murders are down [in Baghdad], and that’s hugely important. It’s about [stopping] sectarian violence.” He qualified his statement. “There are still, obviously, huge car bombs, since al-Qaeda is trying to reignite sectarian violence.”

So the results of the surge are a decidedly mixed bag. The security is getting mildly better (very much in question) but the politics of Iraq have not improved. In fact, they’re worse than they were a year ago. We may be winning on some of the details, but we’re still losing on the big picture. Why continue the occupation?

Politics in the country was moving slowly, [Petraeus] conceded, but he was impressed with the performance of the Iraqi Army in Baghdad. I wasn’t exactly sure what the connection was. Could a competent Army really convince Sunnis to accept minority status, or stop Shiites from hoarding power? But nothing is a non sequitur to Petraeus. Instead, the strategy he describes is one where each small contingency exerts an ephemeral but real influence on every seemingly unrelated aspect of the war.

It appears the surge meant something very different to General Petraeus than it did to the rest of America. To everyone here stateside, the surge in troops was a temporary effort to give Iraqi politicians the space and stability they needed to achieve some kind of reconciliation. To Petraeus, it was a chance to implement his strategy and re-fight the war.

And you know what’s funny? Inklings of this were reported in February. I spotted a Newsweek story by Michael Hirsh and wrote a blog entitled “Petraeus is Engaged in a Giant ‘Do-Over'” on 02/23/07. Maybe we should have all raised a bigger fuss.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate