Thursday, July 1, 2010

Takes Two or Three To Tango

When will the other shoes drop?  That is, with McChrystal gone, the civilian side of the American effort needs something more than tinkering as well.  Unity of command needs, well, unity.  So, unless Eikenberry and Holbrooke quickly prove that they can be on the same page as General Petraeus, my guess is that they will be finding new posts soon.
In recent days, other administration officials have begun floating the idea that Ambassador Eikenberry might be replaced by Ryan C. Crocker, the highly regarded former ambassador in Iraq who forged a close partnership with General Petraeus during the successful Iraq troop increase. Such a prospect is viewed as remote, given Mr. Crocker’s prestigious new post at Texas A&M University. But the fact that his name is being invoked underlines the challenges that confront Ambassador Eikenberry, as he adapts to a new partner — one who has strong ideas about how soldiers and diplomats should work together in war.
Just as the choice of Petraeus demonstrated a creative lack of imagination or an imaginative lack of creativity--or, more realistically, the lack of good alternatives, Crocker, too, would be an interesting choice.  And being Dean of the Bush School is not quite like being President of Yale or Harvard.  He can leave and come back or he can leave and then find another big spot somewhere.  While the academic job market sucks for newly minted PhDs, it will always be good for those with great connections and standing in the policy world.

Speaking of connections:
Still, General Petraeus is indisputably the key player, and he has wasted no time asserting his control. On a secure videoconference call last Saturday, a person familiar with the call said, General Petraeus threw his support behind a costly, and controversial, plan to install temporary generators to supply more electricity to Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold that is the next major American military target.
So, Petraeus quickly acts here like he did in Iraq (Ricks focuses much attention on Petraeus's focus on electricity during the Iraqi surge)--trying to demonstrate quickly that he and ISAF can make a difference in the lives of ordinary Afghans.  We take electricity for granted, and they do not and cannot.  Costly?  In $, but not in lives.

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