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December 9, 2007
Anti-War General Flip Flops on the Surge
One of the Iraq War's harshest military critics, retired General John Batiste, has changed his mind and come out in support of the new counterinsurgency strategy.
In a joint Op-Ed in the Washington Post with Pete Hegseth, executive director of Vets for Freedom, Batiste, who was a board member of the anti-war group Votevets.org, gives some of his reasons for the change of heart:
First, the United States must be successful in the fight against worldwide Islamic extremism. We have seen this ruthless enemy firsthand, and its global ambitions are undeniable. This struggle, the Long War, will probably take decades to prosecute. Failure is not an option. Michael Goldfarb sums up the significance of the switch:
Second, whether or not we like it, Iraq is central to that fight. We cannot walk away from our strategic interests in the region. Iraq cannot become a staging ground for Islamic extremism or be dominated by other powers in the region, such as Iran and Syria. A premature or precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, without the requisite stability and security, is likely to cause the violence there -- which has decreased substantially but is still present -- to cascade into an even larger humanitarian crisis.
Third, the counterinsurgency campaign led by Gen. David Petraeus is the correct approach in Iraq. It is showing promise of success and, if continued, will provide the Iraqi government the opportunities it desperately needs to stabilize its country.
There are two stories here: 1) A formerly anti-war general flips on supporting the war, and now believes Petraeus has the right strategy; and 2) Batiste has left VoteVets.org, and the antiwar movement, and joined up with the pro-troop, pro-surge, pro-victory Vets for Freedom. It is doubtful that Batiste's former colleagues at VoteVets will change their positions given that they are based on wild conspiracy theories on why we are fighting the war and a healthy dose of Bush hatred. Nevertheless, the defection of one of their highest profile military officers is extremely significant.
The antiwar movement has lost one of its most powerful voices today, and it will be interesting to see whether they turn on one of their own, or come around to the view, supported by a preponderance of evidence, that the surge is working.