We're admittedly a bit far afield from the usual turf here, but in all the commentary on President Obama's decision to replace General McChrystal with General Petraeus, a point I haven't yet seen made involves General Petraeus's political future.
If President Obama is really worried about Petraeus emerging as a Republican politician (or, less probably, as a Democrat or Independent challenger in 2012), what better way to handle it than by saddling General Petraeus with a mission that President Obama believes has little chance of success, in a configuration of authority in which Petraeus now doesn't even have a subordinate to blame?
It's a win-win for Mr. Obama -- either America succeeds in Afghanistan, and Mr. Obama can claim credit himself, or, the scenario that Mr. Obama probably thinks is more likely, he fails in Afghanistan, and can at least eliminate a potential political rival, General Petraeus, by making him the scapegoat. It's the old, "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer," approach.
I suppose there's a third scenario in which Afghanistan neither succeeds nor fails in any clear way but just kind of muddles along. That doesn't set General Petraeus up for a bright political future but it doesn't kill it, either.