I just watched Jon Stewart’s recent interview with David Petraeus, ex-head of the CIA and lead general of the Iraq/Afghanistan forces. I was intrigued by this combination, for between them I think there was the possibility of a new understanding for Americans about who they are, and where they’re going, and, for those of us outside the USA, about where America is going to take us in this darkening future.
But I was disappointed – not much of that happened, though it was an interesting discussion. If you didn’t see it (there’s YouTube link below), in a nutshell it went like this:
- Jon came in with a set of critical statements about the American military that he was determined to get out – like (I’m paraphrasing a bit) “We lost 20 years in Afghanistan and Iraq, then the pentagon got a raise.”
- Petraeus came in somewhat innocently, admitting that he’d tried to prepare for this, even consulting his notes on camera. But he wasn’t ready for the direct anti-militarist challenge that he should have been ready for.
- Most of the time they talked past each other, each presenting already existing views, not listening closely to each other.
First of all, Petraeus didn’t defend the military the way he could have. He could have pointed out that the decisions to go into Afghanistan and Iraq, and Vietnam, were not military decisions, they were political. In each case the decision to leave was political too.
At one point, discussing the departure from Afghanistan, Petraeus looked like he was about to say that, had it been up to him, they would have stayed in Afghanistan. That it was not a hopeless case. That much had been accomplished there.
But Stewart was right to ask Petraeus what was the purpose of the military is now.
Petraeus then talked about providing security for America and Americans outside the USA, the old excuse for intervention. His point that the military needs more money because of the return of hostility with the Russians and Chinese is valid – at the same time as Biden is criticized for not giving the Ukraine more weapons and ammunition, he’s criticized for increasing the military budget.
More importantly though, Petraeus talked about the need for the military to maintain international stability. This is a subject that doesn’t get enough attention.
Think of this. The USA spends more on the military than the rest of the world’s 195 nations put together. They’re said to have about 750 military overseas bases in 80 nations, and the US navy is present in every ocean.
The world-wide trade that has allowed the economic boom of the last 60-70 years wouldn’t have happened without a world police force. The British provided it in the nineteenth century, bankrupted themselves doing it, and now America looks like it’s bankrupting itself the same way.
What we’ve needed since World War II is a real world government, funded by the world’s people, not just the USA. As Einstein insisted, that will come one day, with a World War III first, or without it.
But back to Jon and David.
You know, if Jon Stewart ran for president in 2024, and if I was an American citizen, I would vote for him. How could a TV satirist be the leader of a country? Well, what about Zelensky, who surprised the world with his courage and skilful leadership? Comedians/satirists are serious people. Humor is a school of psychology
But Jon Stewart would have a struggle being president. Despite his keen intelligence, broad knowledge, and the two aces up his sleeve – that sense of humor and his fame – he’d have a lot of trouble operating within the US political system.
If David Petraeus ran for president in 2024 (I sense that he’s probably being urged to try), I would vote for him too, whether he did it as a democrat or a republican. A poll done in the USA not so long ago found that the only institution in the USA that Americans still trust is the military.
Petraeus, by the way, has a good sense of humor, one of the reasons I suspect he consented to this interview. Unfortunately he didn’t get a chance to show it. Anyway, here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wwHXsP4Ha0
(PS – for some reason WordPress is not completing the link at the moment – if you put it into a search, you’ll get it)
But something was lost there. I wish Jon and David would try it again.
2 thoughts on “Rescuing the Future | Jon Stewart and David Petraeus and the future of the world”
I haven’t seen the video you refer to, but I wonder if Petraeus spoke in that weird jargon-filled way that so many US military (and police) do. That said, I respect Petraeus as a very wise man. I often read his regular Ukraine war updates on LinkedIn.
As for Stewart, he has his flaws but I generally agrees with his views and the US could do a lot worse than have him in charge.
Petraeus spoke pretty directly, as he does in his Ukraine analyses. I think they just got off on the wrong foot. I like both of them too, which is why it was disappointing.
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