Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq

10 08 2007
david petraeus

Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal

In the lives of interesting people, there are bound to be interesting events. This is about one in the life of Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Gen. Petraeus of course will be all over television in September, reporting to Congress on the war, and America will be getting used to him. He is not in an easy position. The left and most Democrats are invested in the idea of Iraq as disaster. The right and most Republicans placed their bets on the president and the decision to invade.

Normal Americans just want Iraq handled. They want America to succeed: for the war to end in a way and time that prove if possible that the Iraq endeavor helped the world, or us, or didn’t make things worse for the world, or us. My hunch: The American people have concluded the war was a mistake, but know from their own lives that mistakes can be salvaged, and sometimes turned to good.

Whatever Gen. Petraeus says, it will be used politically, by politicians. “They’ll be trying to fit his round facts into their square holes,” as the novelist Tom Clancy, who has followed Gen. Petraeus’s career, put it.

But Gen. Petraeus is also in a good position. America is still open to good news that is also believable news. They will welcome hope that is grounded in data.

They have no faith in Republican boosterism or Democratic pandering. They’re tired of blowhardism on all fronts. But if Gen. Petraeus comports himself like what he is, a professional soldier, if he seems to be giving it to you straight, if he sounds as if he didn’t get rolled by the White House or pressured by the political atmosphere, if he seems to be thinking clearly, he can make a big and even decisive impression. And he will buy time.

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