Newly installed General David Petraeus in Afghanistan emphatically states that victory in that region is possible. He did not come to Afghanistan to preside over a “graceful exit.”
Petraeus has indeed a specific and personal view on nation building; but he doesn’t hesitate to remind us that he is the agent of the American government and the current administration. He recognizes that the Pashtun are tribal. The indigenous people of Afghanistan, the Pashtun, is compromised of about 50 tribes. These tribes are separate and sometimes intolerant of one another, yet in times of aggression against Afghanistan, they traditionally come together to face a common enemy. Petraeus says his approach to victory in Afghanistan is formulated with this view of the Afghan people as a tribal society as an important factor. He stresses that the tactics which placed an American-friendly government in Iraq won’t work, but he wants the Afghan people to have the vote. We staunchly support General Petraeus, yet question whether the tribal population wants the vote, and whether, given voting rights, they would vote. Near the top of Petraeus’ priorities for the Afghan is that the people of Afghanistan have the security brought about by the enforcement of laws.
General Petraeus disdains practices and social concepts outside what he considers “normal.” He sites the example detailed in the recent Time Magazine article which brought to the attention of the world a woman who was punished in Afghanistan by having her ears and nose cut off. We can scarcely conceive of her pain. Also outside the “normal” range, in Petraeus’ thinking, the use of young children to suicide bomb for a cause which they are far too young to understand.
It appears Petraeus would seek to strongly influence the installation of a new government comprised of all segments of Afghan society, but he would stop short of forcefully installing an American-friendly government. Again, Petraeus sees the issue of bringing security to the people of Afghanistan as a matter of assuring the enforcement of laws.
The General refers to the wealth of minerals; gold, lithium, etc., as a blessing, and he say’s, if meaningful order could be maintained, these assets could be fully utilized.
General Petraeus calls Osama bin Laden an “iconic figure” and considers that the capture of bin Laden would have positive benefits, yet his stand on the matter is somewhat less strong than the position taken by the George W. Bush administration.
Petraeus speaks highly of the Karzai presidency; American diplomats have interplay with Karzai several times daily, but owing to corruption in the Karzai family, Petraeus reveals mixed feelings on the matter of a continuing Karzai administration.
On the issue of Iraq, it is noteworthy that General Petraeus would continue to influence, perhaps intimidate, the newly elected Parliament to guide and to rule in a system patterned on Western thinking. He apparently would rather see the democratized rule, than the traditional government which our war and overthrow replaced. In recent elections the more traditionalist contestants won the Iraqi Parliament by the slimmest of majorities, yet the 50/50 comprised government has been unable to function. Petraeus also praised recent discussion between Afghanistan and Iran.
When asked on NBC’s Sunday morning Meet the Press if he would strive for the American Presidency, General Petraeus laughed, and quoted Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant, who said, ““I am not a politician, never was, I hope never to be.”
General Petraeus continues to be very influential in forming American Policy, and we are fortunate to have this intelligent, wise, and philosophical General in our midst.