Home / fake controversies / "Betraeus"



I haven’t seen this article cited elsewhere, but Jane Hamsher points to the inspiration for MoveOn’s “Betray Us” headline, about which many an indignant fist has been shaken today.

After being hailed as King David, the potential saviour of Iraq, the US commander General David Petraeus is facing a backlash in advance of his report to Congress in September on the progress of America’s troop surge.

Critics, including one recently retired general, are privately calling him “General Betraeus” on the grounds that he is too ambitious to deliver a balanced report on the war.

As for today’s “Betray Us” ad, it seems like a non-issue to me. Surge supporters were going to raise the stabbed-in-the-back narrative regardless of what else happened today; whether or not the headline could have been more tactfully phrased, a full-page ad from MoveOn in the Times would itself have been thrown into the wingnut wood chipper anyhow (even if, as it may be, the offending phrase had originally come from one of the general’s former colleagues).

The more interesting issue, as far as I can tell, is what the fake controversy itself reveals about the course of arguments on behalf of the surge (and the war itself). Instead of lame defenses of the clowns operating the Bush administration, we have jingoes and Serious People alike offering up Petraeus as their (infinitely more competent) proxy. At the same time, we’re asked to think of Petraeus not as someone implementing a policy dreamt up by the Kagan Family Circle, but instead as someone who is in fact one of The Troops ™.

As a result, whatever specific arguments might be raised against the prevailing “surge is workin'” narrative, Petraeus’ defenders know how to use clunky, synechdochal arguments to deputize anyone in the chain of command as The Troops. As Thers pointed out last week

if you think anything is dodgy about the Petraeus Report, you Hate the Troops, because General Petraeus is The Troops. . . . General “Troops” Petraeus is thus always and forever immune to all criticism, much as the Cootie Shot provides enduring protection against Cooties.

And since it isn’t self-evident that Petraeus — unlike Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Feith, et. al. — is a weasel, the synechdoche will probably work to some degree for a while. But since the Petraeus caucus seems to have forgotten than the surge was supposed to generate political reconciliation, I suspect the jig will be up within a Friedman Unit at the latest.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
It is main inner container footer text