David Petraeus

On a balmy summer’s day in the village of Hiratian in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, locals found the body of eight-year-old Dilawar hanging from a tree of a small fruit farm. Taliban fighters had accused the boy of spying for the American forces and had kidnapped him, strung him up and left his body to sway in the wind for hours for all to see. The murder was horrifying, yet few villagers would come to the defense of anyone charged with spying for the hated foreign forces. But slowly, the details of the story emerged.

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For those of us who can remember how lonely it was to be in favor of the Iraq war and the hoped-for surge in 2006, reflecting on America’s current travails in Afghanistan—a “fool’s errand” (George F. Will) administered by “well-meaning infidels” (Andrew J. Bacevich)—isn’t nearly so depressing.

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The plainly intolerable violations of professional behavior exhibited by General Stanley McChrystal in the Rolling Stone article surely justified his firing. Any officer in a position of responsibility who permits a culture of arrogance and contempt for civilian leadership to develop, instead of crushing both at their first appearance, surrenders his or her legitimacy as a commander of American armed forces. This was hardly a trivial gaffe or some error in judgment.

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“Command climate” is what shapes a military organization. The preferences, priorities, and peccadilloes of the commander echo across its staff and subordinate units. Command climate functions as an organization's persona and it plays just as powerful a role in its behavior—and effectiveness—as an individual's personality.

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Had the president chosen some one else, a cry would have risen up from the demos: why not Petraeus? In an age when generals are seldom heroes, David Petraeus was a true hero. Not because he catered to the press or to Congress or, for that matter, to the military intellectuals.

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James Risen, a Washington-based writer, and Yossi Klein Halevi, a Jerusalem-based writer, have been friends since they both crashed the Nazi Party headquarters in Chicago as student reporters 30 years ago. They have been joking and arguing about news and politics ever since, especially when it comes to Israel and the Middle East.  This e-mail exchange began in the shadow of the dispute between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.

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From the Horse’s Mouth: Petraeus on Israel Posted by Max Boot on March 25, 2010 Back on March 13, terrorist groupie Mark Perry—a former Arafat aide who now pals around with Hamas and Hezbollah—posted an article on Foreign Policy’s website, claiming that General David Petraeus was behind the administration’s policy of getting tough with Israel.

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The story had some wings for a few days. But, like the tale of Icarus, Mark Perry's fabrication in Foreign Policy about David Petraeus collapsed into the tempestuous sea of truth. As we know, there are many in the media who would have wanted the general to have accused Israel of endangering American soldiers and U.S. interests. And, frankly, I suspect that Barack Obama would have also been happy if the Commander of the U.S. Central Command had enunciated such anxieties. These would have given the president some rationale for his desperate and accelerated distancing from the Jewish state.

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Ban Ki-moon is the secretary general of the United Nations. The world is in pretty good shape. This is why he can spend so much of his time relieving the pain of the Arabs of Palestine, who are (if you don’t know already) the only people who suffer from their neighbors. The other Arabs probably suffer from their local overlords. But most of this is kept hush-hush, maybe because Barack Obama wants to have nice relations with them. Mr. Ban certainly wants to have good ties with them.

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Islamabad Boys

On August 26, 2008, Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, touched down for a secret meeting on an aircraft carrier stationed in the Indian Ocean. The topic: Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The summit had been arranged the previous month. Mullen had grown anxious about the rising danger from Pakistan’s tribal areas, which Islamic militants were using as a base from which to strike American troops in Afghanistan and to plot terrorist attacks against the United States. He flew to Islamabad to see the country’s army chief of staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

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