The Two Toms Talk Paula-Petraeus

by Joshua Foust on 11/26/2012 · 4 comments

Good evening! I’m Tom, and I’d like to share with you some of my time-untested flat-worlded, hidden market fisted, al Qaeda supply chain dance party happenings!
Bon soir to you, Tom! I’m also Tom, and I’m in a bit of a pickle.
This sounds bad, Tom. What happened to your latest book?
Oh Tom, my book is selling great! The American people love it when writers with no leadership experience or background in history or conflict studies rank wartime generals in a favorites list.
One of your generals got caught with a fly in his zipper, I heard.
That he did, Tom, and therein lies my pickle.
Gross. So this Petraeus guy, he had really great leadership right? Is this about how he led Paula Broadwell to write her book about his great leadership?
Sort of. See, I’ve spent a long time lauding the US Navy for firing captains when they cheat on their wives. But this time it’s different.
In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears-and that is our problem.
Exactly. You know, I love it when generals and captains and everyone else I don’t know or like gets fired. But when it happens to a friend I like and have built my career off of, all of that gets thrown out the window like a bomb dropped on Tarok Kolache.
Some would ask what country am I from? We ara supposed to tell the truth, [so] we tell them India. Some thought it was Indiana, not India! Some did not know where India is. I said the country next to Pakistan.
Precisely my point! It’s true I blurbed Paula Broadwell’s book alongside a known plagiarist, noting my love of reading emails instead of doing my own research, but this is about leadership. It’s about the man who bailed out Presidents when their wars failed by making those wars even more failier. It’s so unfair!
It’s like when you’re in a hotel in Cairo, and someone asks you how their revolution is going, and you’re like, “If you are not sober about the scale of the challenge, then you are not paying attention. But if you are not an optimist, you have no chance of generating the kind of mass movement needed to achieve the needed scale.”
Optimism is precisely the point. That’s David Petraeus’ greatest gift to Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a man who was so optimistic about the power of leadership he banged his own biographer who had just failed out of her Harvard PhD program but still kept telling people she was getting her PhD from Harvard.

True story: Paula Broadwell once helped a wealthy white woman talking to a bunch of Germans about race relations through a painful divorce driven by infidelity, which isn’t at all ironic.
But the real tragedy here, Tom, is that my entire schtick about generals, leadership, accountability, and strategy has all been rendered moot by my iconoclast’s humiliating fall from grace.
Gentlemen: if I may interrupt?
No, Hamid. What on earth do you know about leadership?
Yeah, we don’t like your kind here. You’re such a negative poo-nancy!
Right. So, umm, how do I say this? Petraeus made Afghanistan worse off by the time he left. Peace is further away now than ever before.
Iraq, too.
Gah! What’s on Fox News? It’s time I spoke truth to power.
Oh, Tom.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Nathan November 26, 2012 at 10:14 pm

These are so good, people should have to pay to read them.

Schwartz November 27, 2012 at 5:27 am

By the time I finished convulsing in laughter, a much more somber thought crept over: holy shit, the real kicker is that this ISN’T a joke!

Xenophon November 28, 2012 at 9:31 am

Well done, and of course you’re exactly right: These two absolutely do personify the concept of conventional wisdom.

Don Bacon November 29, 2012 at 8:34 am

Let’s hope that Petraeus comes back so we can kick him around some more. To paraphrase Donilon (who was talking about drones, actually):

In a rare move, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon on Wednesday publicly defended Foust’s use of cutting sarcasm in the counter-bullshit fight, calling it a “targeted effort.” He said it is only used against groups and individuals who pose the most serious threats against the United States.

“We are using all of the tools” available to fight worthless generals and their apologists, and one of those is words, Donilon said.

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