This Yaakov Katz piece is an opus of misunderstanding and presumed conclusion. You can’t exactly say Katz’s characterization of Gen. Petraeus’ Israel/Mideast testimony is “wrong,” because it’s a characterization and therefore not something one can strictly be “wrong” about, the idea that Petraeus “dropped his bombshell about Israel” is clue number one that we’re in for one tendentious column.

Sure enough, Katz proceeds down a spiral staircase of hysteria. What’s to be worried about? “First and foremost is the possibility that Petraeus’s comments indicate a shift among US military thinkers.” You’ll notice that there isn’t even an effort to report out such a possibility — something that’s almost intellectually honest, given that Katz is beginning from a dubious premise. He just states that such a possibility exists. Then Katz says Petraeus is trying — or may be trying! Why pick up the phone? — to craft a diabolical explanation for his own failings as a military commander!

As the officer in charge of both those ongoing conflicts, Petraeus will be the one blamed or credited with their outcome. By saying that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict undermines America’s interests in the region, he is laying the groundwork for a defense should the area destabilize when the US pulls out.

If that happens, Petraeus or his successor will be able to refer back to his testimony last week before the Senate’s Armed Services Committee and say, “We told you so already back then.”

So many conditionals. So much wild speculation. So little effort at tethering this column to reality. Its final decision to cast away the moorings and sail away into the moonlit waters of insanity comes during a confusingly passive-aggressive kicker where Katz suggests that any West Bank security-force failings “will not reflect well on overall US military operations in the region” because Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton of the Army trains them. It’s almost like Katz is saying, Well, if that’s how you Americans want it… But it’s not! It’s not how any of us want it! And no one — not Petraeus or anyone else — said we did!

Thanks to star commenter FNord for pointing this one out to me.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman