Citing evolving American military thinking, Gen. David Petraeus said, "You cannot kill or capture your way out of an industrial-strength insurgency." He was reinforcing his position that the United States military infrastructure is more than a traditional military force. It must also be a strategic, diplomatic and intelligence asset to be effective.
Petraeus is the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) commander, the functional commander in chief of all military operations in the Middle East, some parts of central Asia, and Egypt. One of six regional Unified Combatant Commands, his spans 4.6 million square miles and includes 20 countries. Despite loose geographic adhesion, the makeup of this command implies that Unified Combatant Command units are compiled both as geographic regions, but more importantly, as integrated cultural and political regions.
Step into the mess that is the Middle East wars. There are countless issues to resolve but the primary lever that controls the sentiment and goodwill of the most people in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a resolution to the Arab/Israeli conflict. Again, Petraeus: "Progress (or not) in the Mideast peace process is a factor that influences what goes on in our area."
Arabs want to defend their religious jurisdictions, and Israelis want to promote their borders. Israeli borders are narrow, and challenged. A political resolution to the Arab/Israeli conflict galvanizes the existing borders and leaves the country of 7.2 million people with a land mass fixed at about 1/10th the size of Utah. Israel needs conflict to keep its borders dynamic, and Palestinians need conflict to contest them.
Here's the bombshell. Israel, the single most influential subject impacting Middle East conflict, is not part of the CENTCOM region. Petraeus is the operational commander and military diplomatic strategist to the entire Middle East region, but doesn't have the jurisdiction to shepherd the most destabilizing Middle East issue to a close.
Instead, Israel is part of EUCOM; that's right, the United States European Command. According to the U.S. Defense Department, Israel is more "... militarily and culturally aligned with Europe."
Enter James Stavridis. He's an admiral in the United States Navy and the EUCOM commander. But he's not the CENTCOM commander, he's not Petraeus. The Arab/Israeli conflict isn't a destabilizing force in Europe. It's a destabilizing force in the CENTCOM regions. After the recent disputes over settlement approvals in Jerusalem, Vice President Joe Biden reportedly told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, "This is starting to get dangerous for us... What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace."
He was referring to the Middle East, not Europe. This is a stark departure from the Defense Department's assumption that Israel is better fitted to European issues.
If keeping Israeli borders fluid is the objective, the Defense Department is accomplishing this by buffering Israel from the threat of peace. But Petraeus needs the Arab/Israeli conflict to show real progress toward peace if he has any hope of bringing peace to the Middle East.
Petraeus also said, "... there's a question; should we ask to have Israel and the Palestinian territories included, because what goes on there, obviously, is of enormous interest to the rest of the Central Command area, which is the bulk of the Arab world." Lebanon and Syria were added to CENTCOM from EUCOM in March 2004 for that very reason.
The Obama administration must also include Israel in the CENTCOM region so Petraeus and the military leaders affected by the Arab/Israeli conflict also have the power to influence what is impacting them the most.
is a private equity investments manager for a venture capital firm in Salt Lake City.