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October 12, 2007

Overt Activities
Posted by Moira Whelan

The CIA is investigating its investigator. This may have slipped straight from the front page into the Political White Noise created by the numerous Bush failures, but it actually is extremely troubling because it’s a small part in a bigger effort to silence, well, everyone. 

IGs have served as the Official Critics of more than 57 agencies in government since their creation in 1978. IGs can only be investigated by a special panel, and can only be removed by the President.

So the fact that the CIA is investigating their own IG is, um, just not ok. But as any IG will tell you, one time is an “incident” but three is a “pattern.” Recently, Democrats have released evidence demonstrating the Republican hackery of the State Department’s latest IG, and Administration officials have sought to stop Congressional efforts to strengthen the positions of IGs after several had been removed for <<gasp>> being critical of the Bush Administration. Clearly there should be an investigation into how investigators are being handled.

I have no doubt this will be yet another path back to Dick Cheney’s desk, and as with most things he’s pulled, there’s the longer term implication. If the Bushies can get away with having critics taken out of government agencies, why would any President put them back?

Homeland Security Crashes and Burns at NASCAR
Posted by Moira Whelan

Nascar Last week, House Homeland Committee staffers were hard at work…at the NASCAR race in Talledega. But before they went, they made sure they’d be safe from a potential terrorist attack, by getting immunized for hepatitis, diphtheria, tetanus and influenza.

Full disclosure: I worked on this committee back when Jim Turner was the Ranking Member, so this sounded pretty fishy to me. Wanting to give credit where credit is due, I checked it out with a few friends, and most agree the whole thing is just plain silly.

Chairman Bennie Thompson was also clear that this is part of a larger effort looking at readiness for mass events, and will therefore “research” the World Series and the Super Bowl among others. That ought to be one heck of an amazing report and I personally will be looking for it, because I think by and large, this is all a load of crap.

But let’s assume for a moment that staff weren’t, say, getting a free ride to big ticket events, and take a look at the evidence.

Continue reading "Homeland Security Crashes and Burns at NASCAR" »

Would the Marines leave the central front in the war on terror?
Posted by Max Bergmann

The answer is of course not. The Marines want to be where the rubber meets the road and to them that is in Afghanistan, not Iraq.

Right-wingers have been trying to spin this story by claiming that the Marines are leaving Anbar because they have already “succeeded.” I am not sure what is more ridiculous - thinking that we have succeeded or thinking that it would be okay for the Marine Corps too leave Iraq if they were succeeding.

If “success” had been achieved leaving should be absolutely unacceptable. You don’t stop what’s working. As Andrew Bacevich explains, “It is one of the oldest principles of generalship: when you find an opportunity, exploit it. Where you gain success, reinforce it.” What you do not do is take your foot off the gas by decreasing troop levels or taking out the Marines. To Bacevich “this defies logic.”

While wing-nuts maybe so deluded, Secretary Gates and the leadership of the Marine Corps are not. So why would the Marine Corps abandon the President’s central front on the war on terror?

While there is clearly a basic logistics dimension argument, easing the logistical situation is likely not reason enough to make this change after four years. One plausible explanation is that the Marines read the writing on the wall – that our situation in Iraq is ultimately irrecoverable and untenable. So instead of playing second fiddle to the Army in Iraq, why not take the lead in Afghanistan. And after our inevitable departure from Iraq, the Marines will have their own theater and will be the sole ground force engaged in the “war on terror.” Or maybe they are just sick of working under a sycophant Army General.

Whatever the reason one thing is clear they aren’t leaving Anbar because the job there is done.

That Wacky, Wacky Krauthammer
Posted by Michael Cohen

It seems almost unfair to try and take apart a Charles Krauthammer editorial. Considering that they are almost always replete with misstatements, exaggerations and untruths, it really is the blogger equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. However, today's op-ed in the Washington Post merits some attention if only to offer some insight into the GOP strategy for the 2008 campaign.

First Krauthammer argues that because Hillary Clinton wants to "reassess" NAFTA, "she has no principles." That's right, she believes in nothing. But Krauthammer isn’t done and goes on to offer what has to be the winner of the 2007 Backhanded Compliment of the Year:

I could never vote for her, but I (and others of my ideological ilk) could live with her -- precisely because she is so liberated from principle. Her liberalism, like her husband's -- flexible, disciplined, calculated, triangulated -- always leaves open the possibility that she would do the right thing for the blessedly wrong (i.e., self-interested, ambition-serving, politically expedient) reason.

To be sure this is a familiar GOP slander - although usually it's done in the guise of claiming that everything Democrats do is based on political opportunism; hence they have no principles. The Bush Administration has raised this approach to an art form by deriding every single Democrat criticism of the Bush White House as politically motivated. Krauthammer has simply cut out the middle man here and just come out and said what the GOP wants every American to believe about Democrats - that, unlike the principled and resolute Republicans party, the Democrats believe in nothing except the realization of their own political ambitions. They did it to Clinton, they did it to Gore, they did it to Kerry and they’ll try do it to Hillary.

But then Krauthammer goes on to preview the next line of attack against Hillary – she’s a socialist!

Her domestic policy sees state intervention and expansion as the answer to every human ill from mortgage default to the common cold.

Is it even worth mentioning that this is not only insanely silly, but a complete bastardization of what Hillary Clinton is advocating on the campaign trail? Do I have to mention the fact that Hillary’s health care plan is not a government-run health care plan but continues to maintain a primary role for private health insurance companies? Apparently, for the Charles Krauthammer’s of the world unless a politician wants to return to the days of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, they’re Karl Marx.

These ‘socialist’ attacks on Democrats and in particular Hillary have become more and more prominent in the Republican’s political discourse. Mitt Romney actually did compare Hillary to Marx; during a recent campaign trip to New Hampshire Rudy Giuliani used the word 'socialist' more than he referenced Ronald Reagan (and that is saying something).  And in my favorite example, Senator Mike Enzi said that expanding the S-CHIP program would lay the foundation for Castro-style health care. (Click here, he really said it. I’m not making it up).

All of the other attacks on Democratic plans for 'socialized medicine' are not coincidental. They may very well suggest a type of campaign rhetoric that we're going to hear a lot more of on the presidential campaign trail. For all his faults as a columnist, Krauthammer usually provides good insight into what Republicans are thinking. Hillary Clinton is an unprincipled socialist! Ladies and Gentlemen, your Republican Party!

October 11, 2007

It's a Power Struggle, Stupid!
Posted by David Shorr

Kudos to Fred Kaplan for his Slate column yesterday. Kaplan is right that reconciliation is not within grasp, not in the cards, not really on the table in Iraq. He's also correct, largely, that the implications cut to the core of our options.

Kaplan and I had the same reaction to the same simple yet powerful idea: the political dynamic in Iraq is a zero-sum power struggle. For Kaplan, the eureka moment came in response to a Joshua Partlow piece in Monday's WaPo. For me, it was Brian Katulis and Larry Korb's Strategic Reset report from CAP (yes, this is about the fifth time I've linked to it). Here's how it boils down, the various political/sectarian/militia factions don't view the formal governmental process as a means through which they can protect their interests or amass the power they seek. This strikes at the entire premise of the surge -- and the ongoing troop presence, for that matter -- whatever 'space' US forces are 'opening up,' no political constellation of forces is going to use it to enact the benchmarks. Like we keep hearing, there is no military solution.

There's one point, however, on which Kaplan falls short in following the analysis all the way to its logical conclusion. He says the US can still play a role in pacifying the AQI element of the insurgency. The problem with this relates to the other key point about the power struggle: it is multi-sided, multi-factional, multi-directional. As the 82nd Airborne soldiers put it in the New York Times last August:

Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

The confrontation with AQI faces the same difficulty as the rest of the operation, in a war of all against all, how do we know whom we're really helping, and whom we're provoking? Katulis and Korb make an even more interesting point: once Americans pull out of Iraq, guess who becomes the main foreign occupiers?

What Democrats Need to Do on Iraq
Posted by Michael Cohen

A couple of days ago my blog-mate and fellow speechwriter, Heather Hurlburt offered a few thoughts on how Democrats could potentially change course in Iraq. In the end, she came with a sort of split the difference approach:

Get behind something Republicans could accept and make it clear that their colleagues who could cooperate and don't will be targeted extra-hard.

I think this is a good first start, but allow me to take it a step further. Democrats need to accept the fact that Senate Republicans are never going to "get behind something" on Iraq that Democrats could accept and even if they do the White House will veto it. So what's the solution - kick the political crap out of Republicans.

Now let me be clear, I am not suggesting this approach as a partisan Democrat. After all, I'm a member of the Very Serious Foreign Policy Community so of course I love compromise and bipartisanship and I have a velvet painting of David Broder on my living room wall. But it seems to me that Democrats need to understand that if they want to affect change on Iraq, it's reached the point where they're going to have to play a little hardball.

For the past nine months Democrats have tried the conciliatory approach - how has that worked out? The fact is, no matter what Democrats pass, this President will almost certainly veto it and there really is no way that Dems are going to get 67 votes on any bill that changes course in Iraq. Watered down legislation, like the toothless Alexander/Salazar bill that embraces the recommendations of the ISG study group, but doesn't actually force the White House to do anything different on Iraq is not a solution. Indeed, it's just a way for Republicans to say they are voting for a change in course that in actuality brings no real change at all. That's what we would call a lose-lose for Democrats.

Now some on the left will say 'what about defunding the war'? While I'm sympathetic to the notion, it's not clear the Dems even have the votes to pass such a bill. Moreover, defunding the troops is not only politically dangerous, but from a policy standpoint would set a bad precedent - one that future Democratic Presidents may not want to embrace. Finally, defunding the war really isn't really a policy and it's not a guideline for a safe and orderly withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. I understand the frustration of those who want to defund, but I'm not sure it makes the most political and policy sense.

No, in the end, Democrats are not going to be able to change things in Iraq - it's a sad and tragic result of a stubborn President seemingly divorced from reality and common sense. But there is no reason why Senate Republicans should be enabling this insane policy and there is even less reason for Dems to allow them to get away with it.

When a major political party is this out-of-step with the American people on the single, biggest issue in American politics, the other political party has a responsibility, even a duty, to remind the American people of this fact. Moreover, from a purely political standpoint, they have a responsibility and duty to make them pay a significant political price. If that means forcing Republicans to conduct an actual filibuster in opposing the Webb Amendment or holding weekly votes on a bill that calls for withdrawal from Iraq, with or without a timetable then so be it. In fact, I think this is exactly what Harry Reid should be doing. I want to see cots in the U.S. Capitol!

The benefits of such an approach are sixfold:

  • It will put pressure on moderate Republicans or those like Lugar, Alexander and others who have expressed queasiness with the White House approach on Iraq to make clear where they stand.
  • It could cost Republicans a bunch of Senate seats in November 2008.
  • It will sharpen the differences between the two parties on Iraq and put Congressional Republicans and even GOP Presidential candidates in the same boat with President Bush on the war.
  • It will pacify the increasingly agitated anti-war left.
  • It will show that Democrats are not a bunch of wimps and that they are willing to stand up for what they believe in.
  • It will really piss off David Broder.

Of course, as Heather suggests, "this would require some compromise and cooperation from both sides of the progressive movement." Agreed. Maybe such an approach will help demonstrate to the Cindy Sheehans and Moveon.orgs of the world that Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats are not the bad guys on Iraq.

The Dangers of Militarism
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I finally read Robert Kaplan’s rather intriguing pro-militarism piece in The Wall Street Journal, from last week. Kaplan makes what seems, at least in the first few paragraphs, a somewhat sensible argument. But, on closer inspection, it is also a dangerous one. Liberals, always looking for new ways to reaffirm their “toughness,” are at greatest risk of falling for this type of ra-ra martial posturing. Kaplan’s argument is that while we may “love” the troops, in a kind of pitying condescension, we no longer honor the troops for what they do, that we see them more as victims than heroes. He is referring to “traditional heroism, of the kind celebrated from Herodotus through World War II.” 

Kaplan is a nationalist, not in the liberal internationalist sense, but more in the Greco-Roman sense of idealizing the nation – as a territory, as a sacred ground to be defended - rather than the ideas, or ideals, the nation purports to hold. Kaplan, like many on the Right, longs for something worth fighting for. But in place of a cause (causes, after all, change and inevitably lose salience), he has resorted to honoring the fight itself, the very act of being a warrior. There is something primal about this, and one gets the sense in some of his other work that one of the few things he envies the Muslim world for is its (purported) willingness to sacrifice and die for something, anything.

The fact of the matter is that the kind of heroism Kaplan longs for is intimately tied, if not in intent then in effect, to the kind of militarism that has plagued, to great detriment, the post-9/11 American psyche. Apparently, this more than momentary lapse hasn’t been enough for Kaplan. He wants more, even though the last six years have, not surprisingly although perhaps ironically, coincided with one of the most precipitous declines in American power and influence in recent memory.

In any case, Kaplan answers his own question, saying that “feeling comfortable with heroes requires a lack of cynicism toward the cause for which they fight.” This cynicism, however, is precisely what protects us from dashing unprepared into wars of choice. We certainly could have used more cynicism in 2002-3, in the run-up to the Iraq war. And, still, we can use more of it now, in light of the recent Iran resolution passed by congress, an incredibly inane piece of legislative stupidity, which sounds to me and many others like the very dangerous declaration of intent it most certainly is and its Republican authors want it to be. If this cynicism, which in my view is the very lifeblood of democracy, translates into loving the troops rather than “honoring” them, so be it. Of course, we shouldn’t even begin to accept Kaplan’s definition and usage of the word “honor.” To honor is not to, and shouldn’t be, to suspend judgment, reason, and our willingness to criticize our own actions. In Peter Beinart’s words, “it is precisely our recognition that we are not angels that makes us exceptional.” This – the understanding that while we may be good in some abstract sense, we are not, and cannot be, inherently good – I suspect, is the major point of distinction between liberal interventionists and neo-conservatives.

October 10, 2007

Don't Be Dissing the Beatles
Posted by Michael Cohen

I have to say I've never really understood some people's obsession with Radiohead. I like the Bends and OK Computer is . . well, ok, but they've never done anything for me even after repeated lessons. Nonetheless I have many friends and ex-girlfriends who swear by them so I've basically learned to keep my mouth shut when it comes to these kinds of discussions.

But today, my blog-mate, Shadi Hamid made this statement, "Still, listening to this British band – the successor, in some ways, to the Beatles and U2, if not in accessibility, than surely in talent." 

Surely in talent? Surely you jest? This really goes too far . . . First of all, I wouldn't even put U2 in the same breath as the Beatles, but Radiohead.  No matter how good Radiohead may or may not be, on the talent meter they have to fall a few notches behind the most important and influential band in musical history. When Radiohead makes an album as good as this one or this one or maybe this one then maybe you can put on the same talent level as the Beatles, but until then . . . I would hold off on the platitudes.

If I may paraphrase Larry Holmes, Thom Yorke couldn't carry Paul McCartney's  . . . well you know.

Who Needs Radiohead
Posted by David Shorr

First of all, I only know OK Computer because of an excellent reggae version called 'Radiodread' (get it?). And that's because I'm so OLD -- there, I said it. And being old, of course I want to bring back an old chestnut from my youth (hmm, what is the generational demographic of the DA reader?) So without further ado, I give you Randy Newman, pre-Toy Story:

Political Science - Randy Newman

No one likes us-I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money-but are they grateful?
No, they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us-so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them

Continue reading "Who Needs Radiohead" »

The Political Implications of Radiohead
Posted by Shadi Hamid

The release of Radiohead's new album In Rainbows – although not strictly a political event – is a political moment. As most Radiohead releases do, it tells us about the times in which we live, about who we are, and, perhaps most frighteningly, the fears that threaten to shatter us. Listening to a Radiohead record, at least in the group’s somewhat dizzying post-OK Computer phase, is not so much entertaining as it is exhilarating. Because they, these five musicians from Oxford, are providing something new, something which aims, at least in intent, to restructure reality and to provide us an alternative. Still, listening to this British band – the successor, in some ways, to the Beatles and U2, if not in accessibility, than surely in talent – is a claustrophobic affair, and, often, draining, as listening to tracks like “Pyramid Song,” off of 2001's understated and underappreciated Amnesiac, tends to be. The only consolation is that the dirge-like “Pyramid Song,” despite, or perhaps because of, its apocalyptic meandering, is a thing of utter beauty.

I remember the excitement that surrounded the release of their last album, Hail to the Thief, in 2003. It was in the midst of the Iraq war, when it still seemed to be going well. This was a sad time in America and for America, when to oppose the war was a risky endeavor. If you were a mainstream figure in press or politics, this is not what you did. You sucked it up. Also, you sucked it up, because you thought this was the only way the Democrats could hope to win, essentially by surrendering their beliefs, and by pretending to be "tough," whatever tough means, although when I hear the word "tough," I suspect it's usually used, unwittingly, as a stand-in for "stupid." So, for alternative views, for a culture of dissent, we needed to turn to music, and, during this time, a growing number of artists seemed to moving toward a 60s-type embrace of charged records, forged in the zeitgeist of this new era. At the forefront of this new "movement," was Radiohead, and Hail to the Thief, like nothing I had seen or read prior, captured the post-9/11 moment in a way that, was at the same time, depressing and hopeful. (For a taste, listen to "Sail to the Moon" and "2 + 2 = 5").

I've started listening to "In Rainbows," and there are certainly political undertones, although in the subtle, Orwellian fashion that makes Radiohead's politics timeless. What will In Rainbows tell us about this new moment? More to come.

Radiohead: A Music Revolution?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Radiohead’s new album is out (literally, it just “came out” an hour ago), and it may very well change not only the face - and viability - of the record industry, but the very way consumers listen to music. No, you can’t find the album in stores. And, no, you don’t even technically have to pay for it. Radiohead, quite brilliantly actually, is releasing In Rainbows, their first since 2003’s masterful Hail to the Thief, as a digital download on their website. All you have to do is name your own price (there is a 45 pence credit card processing fee).  If this sounds weird, it is. It is also, however, a stroke of genius. 

This is, as far as I can tell, the first time a band as big as Radiohead has completely superceded and subverted the whole infrastructure for selling records. If Radiohead pulls this off, they’ll be sure to pocket much more profit, paving the way for other artists to follow suit. Everyone benefits: we get our music for cheaper; Radiohead gets more money; the middle man gets cut out; and the music world suddenly becomes democratic in a way it never was - or could have been - before.

So you say you want a revolution? Get on with it, then. Go right ahead and buy the new album

Presidential Campaign Advisors Are People Too
Posted by David Shorr

Let me tell you about my new policy for the current cycle: I'm now viewing all standard tactics of election-year issue advocacy as out of date. I still believe in the importance of pressing for substantive discussion of foreign policy; the last several years are nothing if not a reminder of the importance of the electoral mandate. As a career-long advocate, I have personally run many of the standard plays from the playbook: questionaires, bird-dogging, one-minute 'conversations' with candidates... Unless significantly updated though, they're not a good use of anyone's time and effort.

Here's the problem. While it's true that campaigning lays the groundwork for governing, it is not governing and to look for a straight line from campaign platform to post-election policy agenda isnt realistic. It's not duplicity I'm talking about either; made-to-be-broken promises are a separate problem. Just look, from a day-to-day practical level, at the structure of political campaigns. What do most campaign staff staff do all day? Suffice it to say that the the number of people focused on substantive issues in campaigns is a tiny fraction of what the legislature and executive have at their disposal. Is it healthy? Probably not. Will the former ever catch up to the latter? Definitely not.

More optimistically, I am really pleased with some things about the current campaign. In a post a couple of months ago, I took stock of the extensive set of major policy speeches and articles that are out there (and there have been more since). My main point here is about expectations. Advocates of any issue should be mindful of the very narrow channel of substantive policy output any campaign has. It's a supply v. demand problem. [At the risk of betraying Wonkism, I'm even becoming skeptical of whether campaigns should present positions on the full range of issues in detail (I hope they don't excommunicate me).] To explain the title of this post, one standard tactic is called "getting my materials into the hands of the key campaign adviser." This is another one I've tried personally, and on reflection, I have to say it really feels forced and inorganic.

Having said all that, let me highlight an impressive initiative of retired generals and admirals (from both parties) pressing the candidates to definitively renounce torture. This issue would certainly pass my own test of belonging on any short list of priority issues, and camping out for a couple of days in an early primary state is brilliant. [Disclosure: During the 2000 cycle, I had a year-long consultancy with Human Rights First to pull together their policy agenda publication.]

October 09, 2007

In Defense of Privatization . . . sort of
Posted by Michael Cohen

Over the past few weeks, there has been a great deal of abuse hurled not only at Blackwater but also private military contractors in general. Much of it is certainly deserved, but some of it risks going a bit overboard.

I would be the first to argue that we need more oversight of contractors and better regulatory enforcement (in fact, I've been saying it for two years), but the experience of using contractors in Iraq shouldn't cause us to throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to using non-state actors in meeting important foreign policy goals.

Case in point: Rita Katz, a freelance intelligence gatherer, whose private company, the Search for International Terrorist Entities Institute (SITE), provides some of the most up-to-date intelligence about terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda. As the Washington Post revealed today, SITE obtained a copy of last month's Osama Bin Laden video before it's public release - and before even US intelligence agencies.

SITE immediately notified the Bush Administration with the caveat that they keep it under wraps until its official release. Try to guess what happened next:

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The result was equally predictable:

This premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network

Continue reading "In Defense of Privatization . . . sort of" »

New Names for State Dep't Blog
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

I didn't think up a sufficiently snarky post on the State Department's new blog, Dipnote -- but the good folks over at Fishbowl.dc have come up with a doozy:  Top 10 Alternate Names for the Blog.

My favorite is "Condi Meant (First Post title: "Condi Fiddles while Nick Burns")."

But hey, Dipnote.  It's a big web.  Heaven knows the State Department needs all the outlets it can get.  Welcome.

Want to End the War? Start with how a bill becomes a law.
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

I haven't written much about the state of the anti-war movement in Congress, mostly because the set of debates within the progressive community make me so frustrated I could just... vote libertarian.  Or something.

David Nather on sums up the state of the problem very nicely, far more dispassionately than I ever could, and gives props to our hosts here at National Security Network and others who have made an effort to bring everybody together under one sane tent.

In sum:  you need super-majorities of various sizes in the Senate and House to force change and override a veto.  As a matter of simple arithmetic, there aren't enough Democrats in either house to accomplish this. (Note that even taking care of sick kids is looking unlikely to gather enough votes for the overriding-the-veto part.)Billpic

Therefore, anti-war legislators have two choices:  they can get behind some proposal that would garner enough Republican votes to pass and be upheld.  Or, they can focus on expanding the Democrats' majority in 2008 and accept that the President will proceed unfettered until after that.

Nather lays it out out simply:

...the groups simply have won all the Democratic votes they’re going to get. The only place to pick up more votes, at least for the next year, is on the Republican side.

And the only means for accomplishing that, it seems, is for the anti-war groups to reach out more emphatically to Republicans who have expressed doubts about the war in search of a compromise that could win their votes while keeping almost all the Democrats in the fold. “What was always missing, and continues to elude us, is the 10 to 12 Republicans who will come over to our side and help us break the logjam,” said Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, one of the sponsors of the legislation to set a timetable to withdraw troops. “If there were any missing energy” in the anti-war movement, he said, “that might be where they could apply it.”

The other option is to redirect their efforts to the 2008 election campaigns and target a group of Republicans for defeat, especially in the Senate. That approach worked well for the anti-war groups in 2006, when the voters put both houses of Congress into Democratic hands, and some in the movement have concluded that it is the only goal worth pursuing now — since Republicans aren’t changing their votes.

Actually, though, there are at least two other options.

Continue reading "Want to End the War? Start with how a bill becomes a law." »

October 08, 2007

Bacevich on Petraeus
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Andrew Bacevich has a scathing analysis of General Petraeus's testimony in the American Conservative.  Bacevich is a conservative foreign policy realist who has been opposed to the war.  He served in the military for twenty years, retiring as a Colonel. This past May his son was killed in Iraq.   So it means something a little more than usual when he writes:

Instead of obliging the president and the Congress to confront this fundamental contradiction—are we or are we not at war?—he chose instead to let them off the hook.

Of course, if he had done otherwise—if he had asked, say, to expand the surge by adding yet another 50,000 troops—he would have distressed just about everyone back in Washington. He might have paid a considerable price career-wise. Certainly, he would have angered the JCS, antiwar Democrats, and waffling Republicans who want the war to go away. Even the president, Petraeus’s number-one fan, would have been surprised and embarrassed by such a request.

Yet the anger and embarrassment would have been salutary. A great political general doesn’t tell his masters what they want to hear. He tells them what they need to hear, thereby nudging them to make decisions that must be made if the nation’s interests are to be served. In this instance, Petraeus provided cover for them to evade their responsibilities.

Politically, it qualifies as a brilliant maneuver. The general’s relationships with official Washington remain intact. Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life. He has failed his country. History will not judge him kindly.

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