There is an excellent article in the LA Times today, did I just write that? It's about the retirement of Gen Abizaid and who will replace him as Commander of Centcom and primary architect of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both of these are counter-insurgencies so you would like to believe the candidates for this role would be our flag officers most knowledgable about that topic. If that is the case then Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus should get the nod.
He led the 101st Airborne into Iraq in 2003, got the program to train Iraqi troops running and just finished a rewrite of the Army and USMC counter-insurgency manuals at the Combined Arms Center. He is widely regarded as wicked smaht, and has focused extensively on low-intensity conflict and the very conditions we currently face in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are plenty of fine General officers senior to LTG Petraeus, but this situation cries out for the best possible person.
The military is often looked at as monolithic with all the basic units and commanders as interchangeable. But there are huge differences in mind set, tactics and general world view between individual officers, different units and branches of service. The bulk of the officers in the military would properly be classed as conventional warriors. Their training and experiences have been in conducting conventional military operations i.e. moving troops and materiel into position to lay some hurt on someone or something. That is vital, but not applicable to the problems of counter-insurgency, which are social and cultural as much as military.
If we faced the possibility that the Iranians and Syrians were going to roll tanks toward Baghdad, then I would wholeheartedly support an old school Armor general to command the slaughter. But with two active insurgencies to deal with I want someone a lot more focused on how the actions of his forces either help or hinder the effort to gain trust and support of the people away from the insurgents. We have never had enough troops to garrison the whole of Iraq and make an insurgency impossible. What we need is a commander who can use our forces and our resources to convince the Iraqis to make the insurgency impossible.
So give the gig to Petraeus, send another couple of boatloads of troops to secure Baghdad, and send him a bunch of satchels of cash to give to local sheiks and to fund local projects. Get our troops and the Iraqi troops among the people, living, securing, rebuilding. Oh and one last thing, LTG Petraeus...please bust a cap in Mookie's ass.