Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Petraeus: Side with Al Qaeda Against ISIS

Once someone starts referring to members of an Al Qaeda affiliate as "moderates," it's safe to say that he has lost the plot.

David Petraeus has come up with a horrid idea for the war on ISIS:

Members of al Qaeda’s branch in Syria have a surprising advocate in the corridors of American power: Retired Army general and former CIA Director David Petraeus.

The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front [bold mine-DL] to fight ISIS in Syria, four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly, told The Daily Beast.

Once someone starts referring to members of an Al Qaeda affiliate as “moderates,” it’s safe to say that he has lost the plot, but don’t expect that to be held against Petraeus. As for the notion of working with the Nusra front against ISIS, it is a wretched idea that no one should be willing to entertain. While these groups may oppose one another, it is not acceptable or possible for the U.S. to work with a group that our government rightly classifies as a terrorist organization. This deranged idea ought to make Petraeus persona non grata in Washington, but unfortunately we can assume that it won’t turn out that way. As the report makes clear, Petraeus continues to have clout in spite of his failures and scandals:

Yet Petraeus and his plan cannot be written off. He still wields considerable influence with current officials, U.S. lawmakers, and foreign leaders.

Petraeus’ suggestion that there are “less extreme” Al Qaeda members that can be won over to America’s cause of fighting ISIS would be considered certifiable if it came from anyone else, and yet because he continues to benefit from the mythology of the “surge” he is able to propose such ludicrous things and they are taken seriously. It ought to be obvious that there are no “moderates” to be found in Jabhat al-Nusra by definition, but the hunt for the ever-elusive “moderate” Syrian opposition continues.