Petraeus: top intellectual, next CENTCOM commander

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images Today’s big news is no surprise: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that Gen. David Petraeus will be promoted to head Central Command, pending Senate approval. It’s been a good week for the top American general in Iraq. On Monday, FP and Britain’s Prospect magazine named Petraeus one of the ...

595347_080423_petraeus2.jpg
595347_080423_petraeus2.jpg

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Today's big news is no surprise: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that Gen. David Petraeus will be promoted to head Central Command, pending Senate approval.

It's been a good week for the top American general in Iraq. On Monday, FP and Britain's Prospect magazine named Petraeus one of the world's top 100 public intellectuals, and he's doing remarkably well in the early voting.

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Today’s big news is no surprise: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that Gen. David Petraeus will be promoted to head Central Command, pending Senate approval.

It’s been a good week for the top American general in Iraq. On Monday, FP and Britain’s Prospect magazine named Petraeus one of the world’s top 100 public intellectuals, and he’s doing remarkably well in the early voting.

It’ll be interesting to see how Petraeus handles his new role. Matt Yglesias is cynical, calling the promotion “a pretty savvy political move” by Bush:

In this new office, Petraeus will have the appropriate kind of standing to argue that, no, those who say we ought to shift resources out of Iraq and toward Pakistan/Afghanistan are wrong.

Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, in contrast, is highly enthused:

The allegedly lame duck Bush administration has–if this report is correct–hit a home run. CENTCOM is the central theater of the war on terror, and the president is putting our best commander in charge of it.

I’d be surprised if Petraeus proceeds as Yglesias fears and Kristol hopes. The general strikes me as a pretty smart guy who is carrying out his mission to the best of his ability, but not some kind of fanatic about Iraq. Once he gets comfortable at CENTCOM, he’s going to have to start weighing priorities and matching them up to resources across his entire command. He may well conclude that a strategic shift is in order, even if it takes some adjustment. He may also conclude, as his predecessor William J. Fallon did, that the United States is going to have to reach some kind of modus vivendi with Iran. But it’s also worth noting that he’ll mostly do so under the next U.S. president. According to Gates, Petraeus won’t be taking the reins at CENTCOM until the fall, leaving him precious little time to effect any major changes on Bush’s watch.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.