Ilan Goldenberg notes this crucial sentence from Tom Ricks: “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and top military officers have said they would like to see continued withdrawals throughout this year, but Bush has indicated he is likely to be guided by Petraeus’s views.”
I hope we can keep this in mind in the future. It’s clearly within Bush’s right as President to decide that he doesn’t agree with his key advisors on military policy and instead wants to give David Petraeus extra resources that Petraeus’ superiors think could be better used elsewhere. But that’s what Bush is doing. He’s not being guided by “military advice” as opposed to political logic inside the Beltway. Just as he decided upon the surge in the first place and then set about firing the already-in-place generals who disagreed with it, he’s again siding with a minority viewpoint.
In this particular case, though, it’s worth asking what probative value Petraeus’ opinions are supposed to have. It seems to me that any officer in Petraeus’ position would probably feel that more resources should go to his mission and fewer resources should go to someone else’s mission. If he were in charge of Afghanistan wouldn’t he want more troops there, too? That’s not to say anything against the guy. But it’s just common sense that you need to discount these kind of claims. The people in charge of the Navy want the Navy’s budget to go up, and every member of congress things his district deserves more highway spending.