General Petraeus: Harbinger of a Neocon Renaissance? Maybe Not…

When Gen. David Petraeus walks into a room, I can’t imagine he has trouble standing out. He certianly stood out a few weeks ago at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, among Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, and the usual platoon of armchair warhawks. But though his speech was titled “Institutionalizing Change: Transformation in the US Army 2005-2007,” the architect of the Iraq surge also made a concerted and broad effort to sell himself and his “four step plan” for all sorts of institutional change.

Accepting an award in honor of the late Irving Kristol, Petraeus proclaimed the neocon godfather’s “influence will be felt for generations.” But this clear attempt to woo GOP power players doesn’t necessarily mean Petraeus hews to their worldview.

Obviously, the hawkish, interventionist general is  no libertarian, but he does hold some admirably contrarian positions. Petraeus has called for a shutting down of the Guantanomo Bay prison. He also publicly rejected the Bush-Cheney position on torture in a February appearance on Meet The Press. Most controversially, he testified before the Senate Armed Services committee that the perception of US favoritism of Israel has fomented anti-Americanism.

This charge was dismissed as “dangerous” by the ADL’s creepy Abe Foxman. Cultural conservatives would say the same about Petraeus’ position on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Before the very same committee, Petraeus said “The Time has come” to consider repealing the controversial law.

Some speculate the ambitious Petraeus will take a shot at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2012. To win the GOP nomination, he’d have to stamp out any independent streak, especially on issues of war and peace. But while few question the four-star General’s ability to dutifully follow orders, perhaps he’s too strong-minded a man to be seduced into abandoning all of his principles by Team Kristol.

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