Meanwhile, let us consider one of the most bizarre spectacles of revisionism in the annals of not just Petraeus but anybody: an op-ed in the Sunday Review section of the Sunday New York Times, “A Phony Hero for a Phony War,” by Lucian K. Truscott IV. …

From the first line (“Fastidiousness is never a good sign in a general officer”), the piece is, at best, a head-scratcher. Truscott chortles over the “beribboned finery” of Petraeus’ uniform and likens him to such “strutting military peacocks” as Douglas MacArthur and William Westmoreland—fun stuff at first glance, though on reflection, Petraeus (whatever else might be said of him) is the opposite of those other two generals in every way imaginable. …

He writes, “Those generals, in my humble opinion, were nearly psychotic in their drive to kill enemy soldiers and subjugate enemy nations.” It’s unclear: Is that a good thing? Apparently not, for the next sentence reads: “Thankfully, we will probably never have cause to go back to those blood-soaked ways.” But then he denounces Petraeus for insufficient blood-soaking. “The generals who won World War II,” he writes, “were the kind of men who, as it was said at the time, chewed nails for breakfast, spit tacks at lunch, and picked their teeth with their pistol barrels.” By contrast, he goes on, “General Petraeus probably flosses.”

First of all, this nail-chewing business is the stuff of pulp fiction. The stereotype might fit MacArthur, George Patton, and Truscott’s grandfather (who, as Tom Ricks notes, was as preening as they come)—but not remotely the likes of George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, James Gavin, or many others. Second, he seems to suggest that it’s bad—a sign of preciousness, maybe effeminacy—that Petraeus “probably flosses.” Is Truscott suggesting here, in a reversal of his earlier remarks, that MacArthur and Patton are admirable in their “psychotic” ravages?