Civilian Sidekicks

My contribution to the “Richard Holbrooke is dead” genre:

More disturbing — because it’s presumably better considered — is Gen. David Petraeus’ decision to pen a postmortem homage to Holbrooke that includes the line “I used to note to him and to various audiences, with affection and respect, that he was my ‘diplomatic wingman.'”

The affection and respect Petraeus expressed were doubtlessly both genuine, but the sentiment is mistaken. It reverses the proper relationship between civilian and military authorities — generals and their troops are supposed to serve political objectives outlined by civilians, not view civilians as adjuncts to military campaigns. Holbrooke, though, likely would not have been offended. When told he was to be Petraeus’ civilian counterpart in the region, he told Der Spiegel that he laughed in response: “He has more airplanes than I have telephones.”

It’s funny because it’s true, but it’s also a huge problem for America.