After all the foreplay, the Petraeus hearings were anti-climactic. They reminded me of the Sherlock Holmes mystery, “The Dog that Didn’t Bark.” Political expectations had been put on hold for months waiting for the briefings by the great general, Petraeus Maximus, as Bill Maher refers to him, and Ambassador Crocker. Well, the hearings came and went, and it seems we are still waiting.
My criticism is not of General Petraeus. We need generals, and by all accounts he is one of the best. Other attributes aside, having a general with a Ph. D. in charge in these days makes me feel a little more secure. I mean to be critical of us, and the media, for playing into the game of killing valuable time (pun intended), and of the administration, which knows no limits in using the military for its political ends.
The intense focus on the general’s report suggested that our future actions depend on the “surge” and the general’s comments about it. That never made sense. Iraq’s future, and our own, it seems, depend on strategic developments far deeper than the success of 30,000 additional U.S. troops, quieting a few areas of the country and trying to undo the tragic results of our government’s arrogance and mismanagement.
The stated strategic objective of the surge, creating a climate where political reconciliation could take place, was not nearly achieved by all accounts, including General Petraeus himself before his visit. Not surprising. Political results require political strategies. And this administration doesn’t seem to have any, except regarding domestic politics.
The administration’s main political objective seems to be turning this quagmire over to the next administration and avoiding blame for the inevitable fallout. This one may well be achieved with our gracious help. Even the loyal general went so far as suggesting a very modest troop reduction.
It seems the American troop increase has increased security in a few targeted areas. That success confirms the rather obvious notion that overwhelming numbers of American troops can create relatively secure sanctuaries, even if in part by chasing the bad guys elsewhere. Perhaps this could be a strategy for the whole country. Rumor has it that a secret report from General Shinseki, from his retirement, estimates the same result can be achieved in all of Iraq with only three million American troops. He probably has it right again.
Meanwhile, administration supporters’ public relations efforts have reached a new low with ads showing wounded American Iraq War veterans questioning the value of their sacrifice if we pull out of Iraq. Ugh! This is a new record in heat over light – invoking the pain of our many killed and injured to support an argument for continued suffering.
Of all possible reasons to continue this fiasco, doing so to justify the costs of past fighting seems least compelling – like hanging onto a moribund stock, not to accept the error of purchasing it in the first place. It’s emotionally tempting, I know – usually called “denial”. It could have been an argument for staying in Vietnam until now. The president once suggested something similar. We had 50,000 KIA’s to justify in that case. That’s a lot of justifying.
It would be more honest and useful for the wounded soldier in the ad to say something like, “I stand here as evidence of the cost of decisions based on ideology and fantasy, rather than compassion and analysis. I hope my suffering, and that of others, leaves behind an important lesson, that makes our leaders think long and hard before inflicting war on our innocently trusting people. I will rest better knowing that is the result of my painful experience.”
The real news is that the president can look us in the eye, Texas-style, and sound as if he really has this all under control. I’m not sure which would worry me more, that he is consciously conning us, or that he actually believes what he says.
It seems so depressing. But wait! The president is mentioning a new way forward. He says right after the effects of the surge have taken hold, we can withdraw a small number of troops and move many others into a support role behind Iraqi troops, who would be doing the major part of the fighting. Now there’s an idea. I knew there was indeed hope. I’m glad he didn’t say anything about our standing down as the Iraqis stand up. I guess those old speech cards were misplaced.
© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.