To follow up on Kelley Vlahos’ post below on Thomas Ricks’ sudden infatuation with and promotion of General Ray Odierno, Commander of the Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I), as a born-again counterinsurgency true believer (in his book Fiasco, Ricks described Odierno’s allegedly heavy-handed tactics as commander of the 4th Infantry as instrumental in the rise of the insurgency–of course, the 4th ID was planted in the middle of the Sunni Triangle, undermanned and given the impossible task of making Donald Rumsfeld look like a military genius); on the third of this month Gareth Porter warned us this concerted effort to force the Obama administration off of his withdrawal timetable was coming.
Make no mistake, that’s what this is. Odierno gets the lead in this production; rhetorical flourishes expounding on the general’s physical stature and great bald head are like the little transition shots in a film that glance along an exposed thigh or linger on a knit brow. A political putsch needs its personalities. I wonder what sort of rift there might be, or might be in the making, between him and his former boss General Petraeus (described as diminutive next to the oak Odierno, and “buck-toothed” to boot), who was shocked and humiliated after being sent packing after confidently advising President Obama to abandon his withdrawal plans–through the subterfuge of relabelling combat troops (see Porter’s column above). As any work of narrative art, it can’t come out and state its appeal plainly, but one can usually pick out the lines of dialogue that more or less do just that:
Obama is likely to find Odierno and other generals arguing passionately that to come close to meeting his commitment to keeping U.S. troops safe, keeping Iraq edging toward stability and maintaining the pressure on extremists, he will need a relatively large force to remain in Iraq for may years.
When asked what sort of U.S. military presence he expected in Iraq around 2014 or 2015 — well after Obama’s first term — Odierno said, “I would like to see a . . . force probably around 30,000 or so, 35,000,” with many troops training Iraqi forces and others conducting combat operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq and its allies.
Back when we were being sold the Surge, a common phrase being bandied about was “the nation trusts the generals.” I always thought that, as a headline, the phrase begged for a panicked exclamation point, along the lines of “Mass Delusion Overtakes Nation!”