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Gen. Petraeus learns the lingo in the Middle East

No, he doesn’t speak Arabic. But take a look at this quote from Gen. David Petraeus at the Manama Dialogue security summit in Bahrain, where he is trying to cajole America’s Arab allies to counter Iranian influence in Iraq. I would remind my Arab brothers if there is a concern about certain influences in Iraq ...

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WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 09: US Army Gen. David Petraeus, CENTCOM Commander, participates in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, December 9, 2009 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on the new Afghanistan strategy since President Obama has committed to sending more troops to the region. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

No, he doesn’t speak Arabic. But take a look at this quote from Gen. David Petraeus at the Manama Dialogue security summit in Bahrain, where he is trying to cajole America’s Arab allies to counter Iranian influence in Iraq.

I would remind my Arab brothers if there is a concern about certain influences in Iraq then it would be wise to increase the Arab influence.

This is an anodyne statement wrapped up in interesting rhetorical packaging. Petraeus seems to be mimicking, unconsciously or otherwise, the way many Arab leaders deliver their views in public. The most obvious example is the reference to his “Arab brothers.” However, there are two other stylistic points worth mentioning: Petraeus mentions “certain influences in Iraq” rather than accusing Iran directly, and he calls on his allies “to increase the Arab influence.” This is not the way that New York-born CENTCOM commanders generally speak English — it is, however, reminiscent of the linguistic habits of many English-speaking Arabs.

This should only reinforce Gen. Petraeus’s reputation as a talented general, diplomat, and COIN-student extraordinaire. It is also a good time to note that the United States has come a long way from Norman Schwarzkopf’s Hail Mary metaphors and George H.W. Bush’s references to “Saadum” Hussein.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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