Petraeus: Clearly Qualified to Lead CENTCOM

Just wanted to jump in here to comment on the question Judah raised about Petraeus’ qualifications to be leader of CENTCOM. The use of the word “temerity” in wondering why no one has so far questioned Petraeus’ qualifications for the CENTCOM job is appropriate.

Another, less cynical, less political, way of saying that “the only real qualification Petraeus seems to have for the jobis to have offered President Bush a fortuitous tactical approach thatcoincided perfectly with Bush’s political needs” is to say that Petraeus main qualification for the job is in finding a way to turn around a war that was going very badly.

It remains to be seen of course whether the gains of the surge can be consolidated and extended, but that’s beside the point when considering the question of his qualifications. Notwithstanding Judah’s punctilious parsing of the various curricula vitae of past regional commanders, there is a long tradition in the Army, as there should be, of valuing success on the battlefield above other experience.

As the Washington Post notes, “In a pattern similar to that of World War II, the nominations mark the ascent within the military of a generation of Army division commanders who rose to prominence as combat leaders during multiple battlefield tours.”

Dwight Eisenhower was promoted from lieutenant colonel to colonel about nine months before Pearl Harbor. Less than four years later, he was a General of the Army, with five stars on his shoulder.

During the too-long tenure of Gen. Casey as commander in Iraq, the Bush administration was rightly criticized by many for failing to uphold this tradition of identifying talented leaders during wartime and promoting them quickly up the ranks.

While Petraeus’ success in Iraq doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be a great CENTCOM leader, he’s certainly not an unreasonable candidate. Given the administration’s early record of rewarding failure in Iraq (Bremer’s presidential medal of freedom), or its unwillingness to punish it (Rumsfeld), its willingness to reward success (however fleeting) in Iraq with greater responsibility should be welcomed.