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Friday, November 16, 2012

Analyst: David Petraeus Is No General Patton

A 2011 photo of U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, left (U.S. Military), and an undated photo of George S. Patton as a lieutenant general (Wikimedia Commons).

As commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, General David Petraeus got credit as a great general.

Is that an accurate reflection of reality? Not everyone thinks so.

Military analyst Andrew Bacevich. (Kalman Zabarsky)

Retired Army Col. and military analyst Andrew Bacevich told Here & Now that the goal posts have been moved. We now judge our military leaders not by winning wars, like General George Patton and his soldiers did in World War II, but by not losing them.

We’ve also been putting military leaders on a pedestal, Bacevich said.

“These figures who had become God-like are mere mortals,” he said. “And in a sense that’s the good news that will come out of these scandals, that we will become less inclined to defer to people just because they wear four stars and have lots of ribbons.”

Hear Bacevich’s take on Petraeus’ role in the increased use of drones:


  • Andrew Bacevich, retired Army colonel and military analyst. He’s also a professor of history and international relations at Boston University.

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  • J__o__h__n

    Is a “victory” in Iraq or Afghanistan possible?  Hadn’t Bacevich objected to our foolish invasion of Iraq and now is complaining that we didn’t win? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1586840974 Mary Mendoza

      Thats because we didn’t win. The problem with Iraq is that SUnni and Shia hate one another and will hate each other for the foreseable future.  The problem with Afghanistan is that it’s take on 50 % of the population is not even medieval. That would be dignifying it. IT;s somewhere between Stone Age and Bronze age.  WE can’t fix that. They must fix that.

    • Sinclair2

      The victories in these wars are in successfully meeting our objectives and not in winning in a classical sense where the enemy surrenders, signs a peace treaty, and Johnny comes marching home.

      Saddam Hussein (sp), Osama Bin laden and Ghadafi are dead.  Iraq is now on a rocky road with a democratic government.  Afghanistan is heading toward self sufficiency as it assumes its own internal defense and security to beat back and contain the Taliban.  Libya is in transition and a far cry from where it was as a sponsoring terrorist state.

      Up next; Iran.

      • AndoverBob

        Not sure what victories or objectives Sinclair2 is talking about. Was it the removal of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? How about the flight of 2 million people out of Iraq, mostly middle class doctors, teachers. Meanwhile thousands of US soldiers were killed, maimed for life or  living with severe psychological damage.  
        In Afganistan the objective was to remove the Taliban. Result: the Taliban are firmly entrenched in Pakistan. Corruption is rampant in Afganistan. Americans are being killed by people they train. More US soldiers are dead and damaged. And of course the US government does not have the resources to handle the casualties of either war. 
        What a disgrace.

        • Sinclair2

          Yes, these Bush wars are a disgrace.  What would have been AndoverBob’s objective as president after inheriting these disgraceful wars from Bush II?


    ‘Analyst: David Petraeus Is No General Patton’Andrew Bacevich is one of the best patriots this country has. Mr. Bacevich speaks and writes with clarity and common sense. I have one of his books, which is quite good. I have seen and heard Mr. Bacevich many times, however, his common sense ideas seem to go nowhere by the Republican driven right wing and some democrats whom believe in the fiction of war as a remedy for ill conceived ideas? Andrew Bacevich needs to be on the President’s cabinet or better yet, Secretary of Defense. This position, Secretary of Defense, should not be awarded to politicians simply on the basis of seniority! As far as comparing David Patraeus to General George Patton, this is a stretch of the imagination. Proof:  Iraq and Afghanistan are still a mess, why, you can’t fight a war with a people steeped in medieval religious ideas greased by oil! We need to get out of Afghanistan now and not in 2014 and we need to start listening to the advice of  Col. Andrew Bacevich (a real PHd person).  Last but never least: Sex rules the planet. Read Blake’s pome on love. When a military person with a huge ego and lots of stars on his shoulder meets an ambitious well endowed babe, commons sense falls  by the wayside and biology takes over. Nature always wins, especially when one is stationed in the hell holes of Afghanistan and Iraq for months on end. Last: General should not be making party lists with socialites whom use Generals as ornaments at their Boca Ratan an Town & Country parties and loosing sight of the intent of their job! Perhaps Generals are paid too much?

  • Tbirdtriple

    What were the titles of the books that were mentioned. One was by a fighter pilot in the Korean War.

    • Wlodyr

      I think the second was guard of honor. I did not hear the first.

    • Bridget

      I only managed to write down one: The Hunters by James Salter

    • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

      “The Hunters,” a novel by James Salter, who was a fighter pilot in the Korean War.”With The Old Breed: At Peleliu And Okinawa,” a memoir by E.B. Sledge who fought with the Marines in the Pacific during World War II.”Guard Of Honor,” a novel by James Cozzens about life at a stateside Air Force base during World War II.The Hunters,” a novel by James Salter, who was a fighter pilot in the Korean War.”With The Old Breed: At Peleliu And Okinawa,” a memor by E.B. Sledge who fought with the Marines in the Pacific during World War II.
      “Guard Of Honor,” a novel by James Cozzens about life at a stateside Air Force base during World War II. a novel by James Cozzens about life at a stateside Air Force base during World War II.

      • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

        I’ve heard of but have never read the Sledge book, but I’ve never heard of the others. Sounds like I’ve got some reading to do. And I’m really looking forward to Bacevich’s next book which should be out some time next year. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1586840974 Mary Mendoza

          I strongly recommend the book: With the old breed. If you want  to read at all about WWII, it’s an every man take on that war from the American perspective.  If you want to read about what it was like to be a British POW, read Railway
          Man: A POW’s Searing Account of War, Brutality and Forgiveness  by Eric Lomax.  I think they’re going to make it into a movie, but be forewarned. Searing is indeed a good description of what happened to him.

      • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

        By the way, I found several other books by James Salter at the bookstore the other day. One of them is called “Cassada” and it’s about life on a US air base in Europe in the 1950s. Haven’t been able to find either “The Hunters” or the book by James Cozzens, “Guard of Honor.”   

  • BAS

    Missed this conversation; would very much like to listen to it.  Why no audio?

    • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

      We’re having some technical problems, but it should be up shortly. 

  • Mtoldman33

    I did not hear Mr Bacevich speak at all to the environment in which the current generals have to operate. Patton and the other WW II generals were able to operate with the full backing of the Commander in Chief and the Congress. Any of the generals from the time Korea have been hamstrung by the political leadership who race to engage in war but absolutely refuse to follow through to a conclusion. If the Politicians won’t let you conclude you cannot make it happen, no matter how good (or evil) you may be as a general.

  • Robin Young is the Bomb

    I’m a little surprised by Robin’s insistence upon characterizing what has happened to Petreus as a “fall from grace” or “Icarus flying too close to the sun”. If you simply mean a fall from political grace, then I suppose you are right about that. But other than that I don’t think any human being except for those closest to him have any right to judge this man as though he has somehow broken America’s heart by cheating on his wife. No, he did not break America’s heart, he broke his wife’s heart.  Why are we pretending like we have any right to be upset in her place? We don’t.

    It almost comes across as naive to think that a man in power isn’t constantly being tempted by woman (or men) around him, and that those very same men wouldn’t at times give in to the temptation. Why? Because they are human.

    We in this country like to wear our connection to Christinity on our sleeves in order to push our personal agendas forward. What about forgiveness? I think every man woman and child who are involved in war of any kind deserve a least some extent of special consideration. Just as “parents”, “business people”, “clergy” have special consideration to various degrees, let’s not forget about the existential stress of being involved with war whether it’s by choice or not.

    He’s not carving people up or beating up his wife, he had an affair. That doesn’t equate to a fall from grace. It just means he is human. I would not have removed him from post just for that alone. 

    Now I’m not just picking on Robin because Tom Ashbrook is saying the same things too. 

  • Phearless

    Patton was a warmongering fool who routinely, deliberately put his troops into situations of artificially heightened danger, for his own glory. He thought war was fun, and took absolutely no time to consider the cost of his own pursuit of fame. He demanded too much from his men… again, all for his own glory.
    Any so-called “leader” who publicly ridicules his own subordinates for showing signs and symptoms of PTSD, and advocates the attacking of our own allies, is a page best left torn out of the history book, and re-listed under “how NOT to lead an army”.

    You want to reach back into WWII, and fish out an officer to use as a yardstick? Try Ridgeway, Roosevelt (the BG, not the President), Winters, MacArthur, or Bradley, instead.
    Hell, early Vietnam gave us Hal Moore, and there’s even a Mel Gibson movie about him.
    “I’ll never forgive myself, because my men died, and I didn’t” is a far cry away from “SHELLSHOCK?!?!? YOU’RE JUST A GODDAMN COWARD!!!”

    If Patton were my commander, during my tour in Iraq… I’d have encouraged a great many of my battle buddies to visit a little place we like to call IG, with me.

    • Michael Terry

      You seem to base your comments on Patton as portrayed in the movie, and not on that man’s actual record in combat.  He was anything but a warmongering fool, and he cerainly did not deliberately put his troops in artificially heightened danger.  Instead, he believed that offense kept the enemy on the defense, and allowed his (Patton’s) army to choose the time and approach to combat.  Task Force Baum was the sole area that I will agree with you on poor judgement by Patton.  Sadly, many of Patton’s “warmongering” statements about the Russians came true, and harshly so, very soon after the war.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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