Friday, April 29, 2011

Petraeus to CIA

One of the central principles of governance for this nation has always been the separation that is maintained between civilian government and the military, and the supremacy of the former over the latter. It is not a trivial matter. It is that principle which stands as a bulwark between us and a military coup. It is so fundamental to our way of thinking that the thought of a military takeover does not even enter our thoughts

That principle is weakened when a person of high military rank is placed into a position of decision-making authority over a civilian agency of government. It’s one thing for such a person to serve in an advisory capacity in the White House or to Congress, but when placed as head of a civilian agency and authorized to be making policy decisions for that agency, that is quite a different matter.

The choice of Petraeus is particularly pernicious for a couple of reasons.

For one, he is peculiarly powerful in the political arena, being a man who is infallibly able to make Congress hop by merely uttering the word “frog.” Congressional oversight of the CIA has been feckless, at best, throughout its checkered history. With Saint David in charge Congress is not going to be able to summon up enough courage even to ask him what time the CIA staffers normally eat lunch.

He also has a track record of being openly willing to participate in the political arena, as displayed by his op-ed in 2004 which was a blatant contribution to the reelection campaign of George W. Bush and his manipulation of the media throughout his career as a flag-rank officer. As such, his appointment is especially contributive to the blurring of the dividing line between military and civilian authority in governance.

And, of course, the same Democrats who objected vigorously when George Bush appointed a general, Michael Hayden, as head of the CIA are perfectly content with Obama appointing David Petraeus, a much more high profile and much more politically powerful general, to that position. It differs only in that it’s okay if Obama does it.

No comments:

Post a Comment