Thursday, July 26, 2007

The great Iraqi bate and switch

Am I crazy or do I remember hearing General David Petraeus saying last March that by mid-summer he'd have some sort of an idea of how well the Surge was going in Iraq? Now that we're into mid-summer and well over 500 dead soldiers into it, statements from the commanders over there and W. & Co. over here, seem to be saying it's much too early to make any hasty judgments about the Surge. (My gosh, the last brigade just got there!)

A couple of days ago, on the heels of the release of an interim report-card on the Surge -- which showed absolutely no progress being made by the Iraqis to kiss and make up -- Lt. General Raymond Odierno said that -- contrary to the blue skies his boss was selling in January -- he'd need "at least until November" to figure out if things were really going well or not. He claims there's so much "significant success" going on in Iraq that he wants to make sure it's not "just a blip" and, naturally, he can't do that until November. [NYT]

Of course, the military will still be reporting to Congress on the progress of the Surge on September 15th -- Odierno says "there is no intention to push our reporting requirement beyond September" -- but the catch is, anything it says won't be worth the paper its written on (this is what happens when you allow the generals to write their own report cards).

The fact I don't see most folks getting is that the general's idea of the significance of the report is radically different from the impression they left us and the Congress with at the beginning of this whole Surge scam. I thought the idea was that by September we'd know one way or the other how this massive build up of troop strength had affected the situation in Iraq and then we'd either be moving on to Plan-B -- or moving out.

Almost a week after Odierno's November prediction, AP reported that a new "revised" military plan has US troops staying on in Iraq at present levels until the summer of 2008 and finally turning security duties over to the Iraqis some time in 2009.

That is a bit longer than Odierno said he'd need, isn't it? And didn't Ambassador Ryan Crocker tell Senator Richard Lugar last Friday that there was no planning going on in the National Security Council, State Department or Pentagon for a revised strategy in Iraq? In response to Lugar's inquiry about rumors of such plans, he said: "I am not aware of these efforts and my whole focus is involved in the implementation of Plan A." [Uh huh.]

That was last week, though, the sands of Iraq keep shifting. Am I the only one who sees a bait and switch in the making?

The writing is on the wall and it's 'murder.'

I would expect the generals to be focused on getting the job done, which is what they do so well, and perhaps they really feel they need more time, but their time has run out. Even Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell says, "I think the key time for the vast majority my members is September, and it certainly is for me."

The writing is on the wall; 65% of Americans have lost faith in the president's ability to conduct this war and there are 22 Republican Senate seats up for grabs in just over a year. You'd be hard pressed to find many Republican Senators savoring the prospect of going back to their home states next summer trying to explain why our troops are still dying in Iraq, a year and a half after the Surge began.

In my opinion, the generals are forgetting a fundamental maxim of the modern American all volunteer Army, which arose out of the ashes of Vietnam: 'Never fight a war without public support.' The other rules they've already violated, with the assistance of the skilled arm-chair generalship of Rummy and Wolfy are: 'Don't go into a conflict without overwhelming force' and 'Have an exit strategy.'

From a military standpoint, waging this war any longer is not a viable option. Public support at home has evaporated, equipment and personnel are at the breaking point, and the continuation of aggressive military action only results in digging the hole deeper, making the inevitable withdrawal that much bloodier.

The Republicans in Congress can afford to posture for their ever shrinking base and obstruct the will of the American people at the cost of many hundreds of more young Americans coming home in body bags -- and many thousands more on crutches and in wheelchairs -- but for general officers like David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, who are honor bound to protect those under their command, prosecuting this war any further is simply murder.


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