Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Lucian K. Truscott IV on Petraeus: Perhaps the worst op-ed I’ve ever read

It is rare to see the New York Times carry an opinion article as disastrously bad as the one about David Petraeus by Lucian K. Truscott IV that ran yesterday. Some articles contain a mistake or two, but this entire thing is a mistake. Truscott is free to be a fool, but here he makes ...

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It is rare to see the New York Times carry an opinion article as disastrously bad as the one about David Petraeus by Lucian K. Truscott IV that ran yesterday. Some articles contain a mistake or two, but this entire thing is a mistake. Truscott is free to be a fool, but here he makes the Times look foolish. You have to wonder what the editors were thinking.   

Truscott unknowingly displays his ignorance when he mocks Petraeus' beribboned uniform, admonishing that, "I would propose that every moment a general spends on his uniform jacket is a moment he's not doing his job, which is supposed to be leading soldiers in combat and winning wars." He contrasts Petraeus with the men who won World War II. 

What Truscott IV doesn't seem to know is that some fine World War II generals, including one Lucian K. Truscott Jr., were much more into natty military tailoring than Petraeus ever has been. As Rick Atkinson, who unlike LKT IV, actually knows a lot about World War II, once wrote, "In uniform, Truscott was almost foppish: enameled helmet, silk scarf, red leather jacket, riding breeches." I would propose that LKT IV owes Petraeus an apology. (Grandpa's leather jacket clashed with his yellow silk scarf, by the way.)       

It is rare to see the New York Times carry an opinion article as disastrously bad as the one about David Petraeus by Lucian K. Truscott IV that ran yesterday. Some articles contain a mistake or two, but this entire thing is a mistake. Truscott is free to be a fool, but here he makes the Times look foolish. You have to wonder what the editors were thinking.   

Truscott unknowingly displays his ignorance when he mocks Petraeus’ beribboned uniform, admonishing that, "I would propose that every moment a general spends on his uniform jacket is a moment he’s not doing his job, which is supposed to be leading soldiers in combat and winning wars." He contrasts Petraeus with the men who won World War II. 

What Truscott IV doesn’t seem to know is that some fine World War II generals, including one Lucian K. Truscott Jr., were much more into natty military tailoring than Petraeus ever has been. As Rick Atkinson, who unlike LKT IV, actually knows a lot about World War II, once wrote, "In uniform, Truscott was almost foppish: enameled helmet, silk scarf, red leather jacket, riding breeches." I would propose that LKT IV owes Petraeus an apology. (Grandpa’s leather jacket clashed with his yellow silk scarf, by the way.)       

But wait, it gets worse. Truscott on the Iraq war is positively bizarre. He says it wasn’t a "real war" at all. I wonder if he travelled to Iraq at all in 2006-07, when things got really interesting in Baghdad. He also accuses Petraeus of prolonging the war in Iraq, which is wrong-headed because Petraeus’ handling of the war in 2007-08 set the stage for the U.S. military to withdraw from the country. These are Truscott’s words: "Think of how many tens of thousands of lives could have been saved by ending those conflicts much earlier and sending Dave and his merry band of Doonesbury generals to the showers."

Is it possible to retract an op-ed?

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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