He was asked two simple questions: who is the enemy and what is the U.S. fighting for? He didn’t answer the second one at all (here is a partial answer) and he identified the enemy as “extremism.”
“Extremism.” What kind of extremism, General? Just any extremism at all? An extreme attachment to spinach, or volleyball, or truth and justice? Christian extremism? Buddhist extremism?
Of course, when he identifies Sunni and Shi’ite extremists, we get a clearer picture of what he means, but the fact that he doesn’t dare say it plainly doesn’t bode well for any hope of isolating what exactly it is about this “extremism” that he objects to, and combatting those elements on other fronts. Nor does he help us locate the good, benign, non-extreme form of this extreme thing we’re fighting.
“Petraeus: Increased U.S. Troops Yielding Results,” from NPR (thanks to Looney Tunes):
A simple question that many in America are now wrestling with: Who is the enemy and what is the U.S. fighting for?
The enemy is extremism, we think, and it is extremism that comes in various forms. Al-Qaida-in-Iraq is a very significant target to us. We see it as the most important near-term threat, because it is the source of the most horrific casualty-producing attacks in Iraq, the attacks that are intended to reignite the horrific sectarian violence that ripped the fabric of society in Baghdad and Iraq in late 2006 through 2007 and still is at play, certainly. There are also, certainly, Sunni extremists beyond al-Qaida, and then there are certainly Shia extremist elements “” the most worrisome [being] those associated with Iranian-sponsored groups that sprung from the Sadr militia movement.