The Los Angeles Times runs down the options to replace John Abizaid as head of US Central Command, the outfit overseeing the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The article outlines two competing schools of thought. One would be a strategy of continuity in which George Casey, currently commanding American forces in Iraq, is promoted to Tampa. Another would be a reform strategy involving either David Petraeus (commanded the 101 Airborne in Iraq, is now running the military schools, was the lead author of the new Counterinsurgency Field Manual) or Peter Chiarelli who was Casey’s deputy until last week.
I guess my take on this is that if Petraeus knows what’s good for him, he’ll do everything possible to stay away from either Casey’s job or Abizaid’s. At this point in time, he’s essentially the only person whose reputation has been enhanced by working for the American government in Iraq. If he stays away from Iraq policy, his reputation will only be further enhanced as he’ll likely become the central figure in the inevitable revisionist account of the war whereby it could have been awesome had it only been done right.
If he goes to CENTCOM or back to Baghdad, however, he’ll join Zalmay Khalilzad in the ranks of people whose formerly glowing reputations have been tarnished by association with inevitable failure and the need to engage in spin on behalf of the Bush administration. The last thing you want to do is become a spin artist on behalf of a lame duck administration fighting a failed war. That means staying as far away as possible from the chain running from the White House to the Pentagon to Tampa to Baghdad. Under the circumstances, the US Army Combined Arms Center is an excellent place to be.