Nerds and young men big on Call of Duty, not so much on the real thing

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, War On Terror at 2:49 pm by George Smith

The twisted, ludicrous nature of American life can’t be exaggerated.

From the wire:

An animated version of the fallen US spymaster [David Petraeus] has a part in what is expected to be the top selling video game of the year – freshly-launched military espionage action title Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

Petraeus is promoted to US Secretary of Defence in the game, set in a fictional near-future, serving under a woman president who resembles Hillary Clinton …

Players following the game’s main storyline will come upon Petraeus taking custody of a terrorist prisoner on a virtual aircraft carrier called the USS Barack Obama …

From a Philly newspaper, on two of America’s most famous generals, both in worthless drag on war, then and now:

Aside from the strategic implications, the Petraeus myth has inflicted a serious human cost. Since the former general’s flawed strategy was applied in Afghanistan, tens of thousands of American service members have paid for it with their lives, limbs, and emotional well-being.

It’s worth noting that when Gen. William Westmoreland told Congress how well the Vietnam War was going in April 1967, he was hailed as a hero and interrupted by applause 19 times. But years later, when an honest evaluation of his performance was made and the truth was laid bare, his name became a byword for military failure.

Before too many more get carried away lauding Petraeus with such superlatives as “one of the great American battlefield commanders,” let’s look at what actually happened in Afghanistan …

Hat tip to Pine View Farm.

There is a very salient difference between Westmoreland and Petraeus. Westmoreland was brought down by the Tet Offensive. The latter was brought down by his penis and a jealous lover.

Which says more about how bad things have turned in this country, along with the annoying fact that more of the country’s citizens play a silly game about special operations in the war on terror than fight in it.

Also, thanks to Frank, a pointer to another column in the same vein:

It couldn’t be clearer now that, from the shirtless FBI agent to the “embedded??? biographer and the “other other woman,??? the “fall??? of David Petraeus is playing out as farce of the first order. What’s less obvious is that Petraeus, America’s military golden boy and Caesar of celebrity, was always smoke and mirrors, always the farce, even if the denizens of Washington didn’t know it.

Until recently, here was the open secret of Petraeus’s life: he may not have understood Iraqis or Afghans, but no military man in generations more intuitively grasped how to flatter and charm American reporters, pundits, and politicians into praising him. This was, after all, the general who got his first Newsweek cover (“Can This Man Save Iraq????) in 2004 while he was making a mess of a training program for Iraqi security forces, and two more before that magazine, too, took the fall. In 2007, he was a runner-up to Vladimir Putin for TIME’s “Person of the Year.??? And long before Paula Broadwell’s aptly named biography, All In, was published to hosannas from the usual elite crew, that was par for the course.

In 2007, on the old blog, I collected some of the Petraeus hagiography from daily newspapers. It’s a remarkable collection:

Petraeus, the physical fitness freak

“A physical fitness buff, Petraeus was accidentally shot in the chest at the firing range in Fort Campbell in 1991. His surgeon was Bill Frist . . . –Clarksville Leaf Chronicle

“He’s a fitness fanatic, a PhD in international relations from Princeton, an expert on counterinsurgency tactics and known for his ambition …” –Toronto Globe and Mail

“Petraeus, a counterinsurgency expert and an intensely competitive fitness nut …” –Slate

Lickspittle and bootlicking

“IT WAS A different war back in November 2003 … Petraeus’s office was 100 percent USA, with its military issue desk, topography maps, and his battle gear — a vest, helmet, and boots — mounted on a wooden cross and standing at the ready. His running shoes — Petraeus is a marathon runner — were neatly placed in a corner.

“And in the months that followed the invasion, Petraeus, armed with his Princeton doctorate and his reputation as a ‘warrior scholar,’ was credited with finding perhaps the best balance of hard and soft power in Iraq … Petraeus found a way to use his new assignment — and his intellect — to influence events on the ground despite being stationed in Kansas. –Charles M. Sennott, the Boston Globe

Compared to T.E. Lawrence, Robert E. Lee, Obi Wan Kenobi and Steven Jobs.

“[Petraeus] looks more like the real Colonel T. E. Lawrence, not the too-beautiful version played by Peter O’Toole in the movies. Like Lawrence, Petraeus is a little bit on the plain side, and he’s short like Lawrence, with the slightly stooped posture of a hardcore long-distance runner who simply can’t give it up despite his fifty-three years… A Washington Post article in November 2005 described Petraeus’s recall from Iraq as akin to Jefferson Davis deciding to pull General Robert E. Lee from the field of battle early in the Civil War…[Petraeus presided] over the Jedi Knights, which is the nickname given to the students of the college’s elite School of Advanced Military Studies—sort of the Army’s version of Top Gun. These are the guys whom the generals turn to when they want to take down some Death Star.” –Esquire

“By naming Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus as the top American military commander in Iraq, President Bush has done roughly what Apple Computer’s board of directors did when they brought back Steve Jobs in 1996: turned to a popular figure with a reputation for brilliant innovation to solve seemingly intractable problems.” –San Francisco Chronicle

PowerPoint slides of wisdom

“And so Petraeus also has his own version of [T.E. Lawrence’s] Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which in his case number thirteen. It’s a simple PowerPoint package of thirteen slides of lessons learned in the war.” –Esquire, again

A brilliant scholar. Did we say brilliant enough times? Well, he’s brilliant!

“Petraeus is regarded as an incisive leader and a ‘warrior-scholar.’ The 1974 West Point graduate also has a doctorate from Princeton University.” –CNN

“You see, David Petraeus is one of a rare breed of senior scholar-soldiers who knows—and can convince others, drawing on extensive historical facts…” –Family Security Matters

“Petraeus is a Warrior/Scholar in the classic tradition…” –typical random dimwit at a newspaper, the name of which I forgot to jot down

“There is no question that General Petraeus, your new military commander in Iraq, is a brilliant scholar and military mind … ” –Westwood Press

“David Petraeus. This man is probably the most brilliant person in uniform, genius IQ and Ph.D. from Princeton.” –Bloomington Pantagraph

“Members of his staff, that I know, say that he is the most brilliant man they know…” –The American Thinker

“Petraeus truly is a brilliant talent…” –The One Republic

“A guy like Petraeus is so ferociously creative and brilliant, sometimes that makes the buttoned-down senior military leadership nervous…” –The Guardian

“He’s a brilliant general who has already spent years in Iraq.” –Robertson County Times

“His cordial relations with the media, and the Newsweek cover story that depicted him as a potential savior for the Bush administration, rankled some of his superiors in the Pentagon…” Eudora News, Kansas, originally from the WaPost.

The hometown newspaper, overjoyed that someone, now a big deal, who lived there a long time ago will go to Iraq

” ‘David was always well groomed, one of the guys who had the right personality …’He was always on time, always had his homework done, always had a smile.'”

“…[A] flip through the general’s high school yearbook reads like a U.S. Military Academy admissions brochure: President of the ski club; striker on the 1969 championship soccer team; National Honor Society scholar; actor; linguist.

“In his West Point yearbook four years later, Petraeus was remembered as ‘always going for it in sports, academics, leadership, and even his social life.’ The accolades have continued. These days, Petraeus is seen as one of the Army’s premier intellectuals, with a doctorate from Princeton to bookend his West Point education. His drive and physical toughness — he’s an obsessive athlete and survived an accidental M-16 round to his chest…At 5 feet 9 and 155 pounds, the general has been compared to ‘an intensely compacted hank of steel wire.'” –The Cornwall Record

Hey, here’s a bit of wisdom from Shakespeare’s Henry V. Your horse would trot as well were some of the brags dismounted.

Rude, and it totally rules. The Echoplex effect is particularly cool.


  1. Mike Ozanne said,

    November 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    As far as I can tell, the principle achievment of the Petraeus strategy in Iraq, was deferring the civil war until US forces had left. Buying anti al qaida action from anti-government forces is not establishing the legitimate rule of law and government.

    Likewise without a political and social settlement that will solidfy an anti-Taliban position, more troops to hold the same ground isn’t really an improvement. It leaves Kharzai as the mayor of Kabul until the drawdown of western forces leaves him too vulnerable to survive.

    “Fixing” Afghanistan is a twenty year job, it would involve building an entire generation of military, police and civil administration free from the graft, corruption, criminality and enemy infiltration that is present today. Winning ww2 was simple by comparison, smack the German Army, burn their cities, and starve them to collapse……

  2. George Smith said,

    November 20, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    That pretty much nails it. Everything else is just soaking up casualties and search & destroy.

  3. Bonze Anne Rose Blayk said,

    November 21, 2012 at 4:44 am


    If I may complain, cavil, carp, do once again that thing i do!

    I would sooner have young men absorbed in the distractions of SPECIAL OPS! where their exploits are enacted within the simulated stage of some dumb computer game than actually executing, you know, iike, people?

    Etc. etc.


    PS: I glanced briefly at the encomia. I gave up on the whole thing: the incipient nausea was unbearable.

  4. George Smith said,

    November 21, 2012 at 7:38 am

    The US military used to be red hot — perhaps still is — on computer war gaming to attract and ready the potential soldier.

    From this, back in 2006:


    The first question that comes to mind on reading Ed Halter’s From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games is: How did a military that’s so handily made a mess of its real war make one of the best computer war games for kids ever? The title of the 2002 game was America’s Army, downloaded from GoArmy.com a whopping 2.5 million times in its first two months of availability. Intended as a recruiting aid, it’s been a failure. While it seemed to be a fun digital war experience, the army’s limp tally sheet indicates the game didn’t persuade a legion of young people desperate to get out of town after graduation to sign up. (One concedes America’s Army is a better enticement to volunteer than the free “boonie hat” offered in army commercials this year.) Nevertheless, Halter (a Voice contributor) describes how America’s Army was an online blockbuster, a thrilling experience for its makers and gamers, unattached to the reality of the war on terror.

    Computer gaming is touted as something akin to a Swiss Army knife by its creators. It can do all things: Multiply force because the soldier trained thusly is a better war fighter, simulate equipment, or provide a mechanism by which the boots can be indoctrinated into the culture of the military by moving training into off hours as fun. But the working proof is paper thin.

    But its evangelizers and cheerleaders are eloquent. Halter includes a fatuous quote from one knob at Salon who, when writing on America’s Army, breaks into patriotic song over its potential for building an instrument of “dedicated young men and women, their weapons merged into an information network that enables them to cut out with surgical precision the cancer that threatens us all—heat-packing humanitarians who leave the innocent unscathed, and full of renewed hope. In their wake, democracy . . . “

    Fail. I think you’ll agree that quote deserves a special exhibit in the Fools Hall of Fame. It’s difficult to know how seriously the leadership actually takes such stuff. I would suspect plenty of skeptics and clost superciliousness. But there was a project, at USC I think, that by mid decade was in the newspapers a couple times a year touting the development of first person shooters as military training aids.

    Point being, cognitive dissonance. Fan bois of games starring the stars of the war, no national recognition of it by the populace except the usual guilt-tripping that exhibits on military-themed holidays.

    A couple weeks ago Tom Ricks, one of the old war correspondents, wrote about the lack of good American generals, commenting they are now essentially careerists with tenure. They can’t get fired for anything, except of course magazine or news scandal which cannot be ignored. McChrystal, in Afghanistan, was dispensed with after he and his lieutenants drunkenly shot off their mouths about Obama in front of a Rolling Stone reporter.

    Ricks recommended reinstating the draft and he wasn’t being facetious.