James Fallows argues that Gen. David Petraeaus is the New Jesus:
As has been widely noted, Gen. David Petraeus is getting the full New Jesus treatment. It’s underway to an extent I can barely remember happening before. OK, maybe one exception: When Coach Joe Gibbs was brought back to “save” the Washington Redskins three years ago, under their lamentable owner, Dan Snyder. The subsequent travails of Coach Gibbs illustrate the standard New Jesus cycle.
Petraeus is a serious man, but the expectations being heaped on him are simply laughable, and it’s worth noting the proportions this phenomenon has taken on.
At his press conference last week, President Bush essentially answered every question about Iraq with the word “Petraeus.” Actually, the word the President used was “David” — before recovering himself and remembering to give his last name or say “General Petraeus.”
Petraeus appears to be at least reasonably competent and intelligent — unlike, say, President Bush — but a superteam of Napoleon Bonaparte, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Genghis Khan, and Alexander the Great couldn’t get Baghdad stabilized.
Robert Farley thinks this is just a piece of Republican Great Man Syndrome — the belief that one singular man (always a man, except for Margaret Thatcher) can change everything for the better. I think that’s part of it for some, but I think for others, it’s more cynical.
Petraeus isn’t going to fix Iraq, but he’s a convenient stand-in for actual discussions of reality. Sure, Iraq has fallen apart, even by the Bush administration’s most rosy projections, but David Petraeus is going to testify in September and what if he says it isn’t? Won’t you feel dumb then?
Petraeus is an excuse to punt the issue another month or two down the line. In September, doubtless he’ll come back and say that the surge could work in another Friedman or two. Sane people will say that this is the same thing we’ve heard for the past nine Friedmans; Joe Lieberman and the Funky Bunch will say this is proof that we should stay the course and hope everything works out. And really, it only takes four or five months for the line to become, “Well, we shouldn’t decide this in the midst of a campaign. We should let President Obama or President Romney deal with this.” And thus does the GOP succeed in their ultimate objective: ensuring that Bush alone doesn’t take the fall for this.
At any rate, the idea that David Petraeus and his willpower can fix Iraq is ludicrous. Indeed, the idea that Jesus himself could fix Iraq is ludicrous. But when you’re arguing for staying the course in Iraq, you’re going to be making a ludicrous argument no matter what you say.