How do you solve a problem like Petraeus? (updated)

General David Petraeus is a problem for the Left. Not only has he falsified their predictions of a quagmire and facilitated the emergence of a new democratic political system in Iraq, he is brilliant, accomplished (PhD from Princeton), and strikingly handsome. For blue-staters who lust after acquiring Ivy League credentials for their children, he is a big, big problem. He must be discredited, by any means necessary.

But how do you slime a man whose integrity has never been seriously questioned, and who is achieving a historic victory through a strategy he implemented?

The Los Angeles Times provided the disgraceful answer two days ago, in an op-ed that has received insufficient recognition so far for its vileness.  In it, Matthew DeBord, a writer whose expertise is wine, critiques the General's dress uniform appearance -- specifically all those medals that adorn his chest and the four stars on his shoulders. If the piece were dated April 1st, I would be relatively certain that it was a spoof. But apparently the unselfconscious DeBord means it when he writes:

There he sits in elaborate Army regalia, four stars glistening on each shoulder, nine rows of colorful ribbons on his left breast, and various other medallions, brooches and patches scattered across the rest of the available real estate on his uniform. He even wears his name tag, a lone and incongruous hunk of cheap plastic in a region of pristine gilt, just in case the politicians aren't sure who he is.

That's a lot of martial bling, especially for an officer who hadn't seen combat until five years ago. Unfortunately, brazen preening and "ribbon creep" among the Army's modern-day upper crust have trumped the time-honored military virtues of humility, duty and personal reserve. [....]

... is all that ostentation the best way to present the situation in Iraq to an increasingly war-skeptical public?

The naked stupidity on display here boggles the mind. Public support is growing for the war, because, as General Patton told us, America loves a winner, and will not tolerate a loser. That is why DeBord must try to find even the silliest grounds on which to slime the General. DeBord goes on to cite pictures of other generals, all of them taken in the field, to make the point that the uniform worn in formal testimony before Congress is somehow showy. Except, of course, for that "cheap plastic" name tag -- a regulation item, not something that one would customize in, say, platinum.

For my part, I am grateful for the pattern of General Petraeus's career path. He studied and acquired extremely valuable perspective before he served in combat. The proof of the wisdom of his approach is evident in the results he has achieved. The man has cultivated a brilliant mind, and put it to work for his nation. The Unted States Military needs (and thankfully has) men and women of highly diverse accomplishments and natural endowments.

If DeBord is a combat veteran himself, perhaps he has the right to note that General Petraeus didn't serve in combat when he was younger. But he makes no such claim. If he is lacking those chops, he has no basis on which to critique a man who, when he was already a senior officer, exposed himself to the dangers of combat.

I doubt DeBord has any military service at all. If he did, he would know something about the uniforms worn in a non field situation. I don't begrudge him his choice of career in wine criticism, as do some other bloggers. Perhaps he picked uyp some fashion expertise at wine tastings. But what any of his expertise has to do with serious questions worthy of op-ed attention is a mystery.

This op-ed is nothing short of shameful.

Hat tip: Alan Fraser

Update -- Russ Vaughn writes:

Matthew DeBord, of the LA Times, is a dumbass civilian who apparently has no compunction about demonstrating it for all to witness. Any serving military officer, NCO or private appearing before the Congress would wear the Class A uniform of their particular service, if for no other reason than out of respect for their civilian paymasters. From my own military experience, I would imagine that the Class A uniform is required by regulation for any such appearance.

As for the General's bling, to put it in terms a shallow lightweight like DeBord might understand, there are plenty of serving sergeants and lower-ranking officers who wear far more ribbons, badges and medals than General Petraeus. To a clueless civilian like DeBord, those bits of metal and color may be nothing more than ostentatious show, but to members of the military, those decorations are a career roadmap, telling fellow service members what training one has had, where they have employed it and how well, over what period of time and whether or not their service has been exceptional, particularly in the case of medals for valor in combat. With a quick look at a military uniform, someone knowledgeable of the system can learn a great deal about the person inside. Believe me, it saves a lot of time when you want to know who you're dealing with in a first-time situation.

Lastly, you are right that the name tag is required by regulations and is grounded in the common sense notion that in very large organizations where you are giving orders and getting orders on a regular basis to and from folks who are all dressed alike, sometimes under very spontaneous and chaotic conditions, it is helpful to have a prominently displayed name tag to make it clearer to everyone in the process, who gives what orders to whom. No, General Petraeus wouldn't get dinged if he didn't wear his name tag, but he does it as a common courtesy to his troops and to show he observes the regulations just as they must.

Besides, to some privates, all generals look alike. Wine-sipping, sissy effetes like Matthew DeBord should stick to critiquing waiters' and sommeliers' uniforms.

Russ Vaughn

Former Staff Sergeant E-6

101st and 82d Airborne Divisions 1959-1967

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