The Petraeus Doctrine

From James Joyner Outside The Beltway | OTB | Online Journal of Politics and Foreign Affairs:

When it’s obvious that the president and his senior advisors are seriously considering a major policy change, however, it’s probably best for the generals to provide their inputs in private to risk giving the appearance of undermining civilian control of policy.

But maybe that’s outdated thinking in the age of Petraeus?

He’s responding to this story in the NYT McChrystal Rejects Scaling Down Afghan Military Aims – NYTimes.com:

General McChrystal was asked by a member of an audience that included retired military commanders and security specialists whether he would support an idea put forward by Mr. Biden to scale back the American military presence in Afghanistan to focus on tracking down the leaders of Al Qaeda, in place of the current broader effort now under way to defeat the Taliban.

“The short answer is: no,” he said. “You have to navigate from where you are, not where you wish to be. A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.”

He did not mention Mr. Biden by name.

This is simply inappropriate behavior on McChystal’s part.  It is not his job to shape the domestic debate.  It is his job to shut up and implement  — and provide his opinion IN PRIVATE if asked.  James writes, “This isn’t exactly Douglas MacArthur territory.”  He’s right.  It is worse.  MacArthur was fired for writing a letter to a Congressman questioning Truman, which was later read on the floor of the House.  This was a public intervention in a policy debate at a public speech in London.  And why the hell is he giving speeches?  And why in London?  What the hell is going on here? 

But as James notes, in the “age of Petraeus” these sorts of expectations and rules don’t apply.  The Petraeus doctrine is apparently that the military knows best and that it is the job of the civilian leadership to provide military leaders with the resources they need without raising too many question.  It is a doctrine of military supremacy.

McChrystal should apologize or be removed.

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