A former Assistant United States Attorney and current conservative analyst, McCarthy attempts to counteract Petraeus’ effects in the National Review with the message we so recently predicted, and uses my “nettlesome” self in the process.
Though grouped in with other “Islamic sympathizers,” how can we interpret McCarthy’s attention other than flattery to place us in the company of Stephen Walt? Random that may be.
“As night follows day, Islamist sympathizers leapt on a statement from CENTCOM’s commander that Israel causes America’s problems. Stephen Walt, the Kennedy School’s reliable Israel-basher (and, many years ago, Petraeus’s faculty adviser at Princeton), quoted the general’s testimony to bolster Walt’s argument that Israel’s policies threaten American security and interests. Rami Khouri, a renowned Palestinian-American progressive who blames Ariel Sharon for the existence of Hamas and Hezbollah, could barely contain his delight that Petraeus had “openly criticized Israel.” “The top military leadership speaking out in public with such clarity,” he proclaimed in Middle East Online, “is about as serious as it gets in terms of credible criticisms in Washington.” His views were amplified elsewhere: “By now General David Petraeus’s warning that U.S. policy with Israel is negatively affecting the Middle East has spread far and wide,” wrote James Gundun in the Palestinian Chronicle. “Petraeus believed that Israel hadn’t gotten the message yet and so lit a fire under the White House, hoping it too would learn a lesson.”We couldn’t be happier with the chosen quote. Petraeus’ initial impression is still spreading otherwise McCarthy wouldn’t focus on him, and he is far from Israel’s last shaper.
But as we also argued after Petraeus first made headlines on Foreign Policy, the overriding issue isn’t his interpretation of Israel. His opinion, as reported at the time, were weighty but commonplace. The bigger picture was a jumbled US counterinsurgency strategy being pulled in different directions by the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, and special interest groups like the Israeli and Indian lobbies.
The resulting policy has sought, during globalization, to disconnect Palestine from the Middle Eastern stability and Kashmir from South Asia.
The backlash from Petraeus himself and his defenders feeds into this problem. By making the slightest attempt to divert blame onto Foreign Policy and the blogosphere, the US public is being told to stay silent on military matters, not just Israel. Petraeus was policed in a way he’s still unaccustomed to and that, along with pressure from Israel, is why he objected.
For a general to feel this way in a democracy, where US military officials have no direct accountability to the US public, is illuminating. Far from the days of Greece and Rome are we.
Bloggers are not the problem even if they did overly spin Petraeus’ words. We deal in reality, not political correctness or mainstream propaganda, and the reality is that bloggers have become a part of America’s civil sphere. We may be a generally uninformed mass, but how does that differ from democracy?
Or from the US media for that matter? To condemn bloggers rather than adapt to them suggests the US military isn’t fully keeping up to speed with the new media era.
But we know Petraeus understands the effects of perception in war, of Israel and the Internet, and that he isn’t as naive as he’s spinning himself. Thus Petraeus is further muddling US counterinsurgency by letting Pandora out and then trying to stuff her back in. This is, frankly, unhelpful.
I wonder if that will make us “terrorist groupies” too.