Petreaus to cite progress in Iraq before Congress
Another dog and pony show in Congress today as General David Petreaus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will appear before the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees today to update lawmakers on Iraq.
The politicians are taking extra special care to make sure their hair is combed and shoes polished for the TV cameras while practicing making stern faces in a mirror - this being their big moment on national television.
Meanwhile, Petreaus will, in his calm manner, reveal that progress has been made in Iraq and that he needs more time to make it stick - a message that will fall on deaf ears of the Democrats and worried ears of the Republicans.
Demcrats could care less about progress in Iraq because they reject the notion outright. The very idea that things are getting better is an anathema to their narrative of Iraq. No doubt we will hear complaints about the Iraqi Army's performance in Basra as proof that it's a waste of time, money, and men being there.
Republicans meanwhile are worried that progress is not occurring rapidly enough. They have a clock in their heads that is ticking down toward November and the elections and feel that without some dramatic breakthrough (or big reduction in troops), that the GOP is doomed at the polls.
They are likely to get neither by November. And Petreaus will, in fact, ask that troops that had been scheduled to leave Iraq be kept there for the time being in order to maintain the fragile gains of the past year:
Gen. David Petraeus planned to testify Tuesday on the war for the first time in seven months. He was expected to tell two Senate committees that last year's influx of 30,000 troops in Iraq had helped calm some of the sectarian violence but that to prevent a backslide in security, troops would likely be needed in large numbers through the end of the year.Reed is correct - if he were talking in a vacuum. Any idiot wants the Iraqis to "stand up" so that we can "stand down." The question is how we get there from here. And it is likely that Petreaus will not have much in the way of hopeful news that it will happen anytime soon.
Under his proposal, as many as 140,000 troops could be in Iraq when voters head to the polls this fall. Democrats contend that this approach guarantees an open-ended commitment to a $10-billion-a-month war as the economy at home is faltering. They say the lack of political progress made in Iraq, as well as the recent spike in violence in Basra, indicates the U.S. troop buildup has failed.
"We need a strategy that will clearly shift the burden to the Iraqis, that'll begin to take the pressure off our forces, begin to allow us to respond to other challenges in the region and worldwide," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a member of the Armed Services Committee.
All three presidential candidates will get their turn to ask questions. Since they're only given 5 minutes to query Petreaus, expect 4 1/2 minute speeches on their part while asking Petreaus some rhetorical question he cannot possibly answer (Clinton and Obama) or some softball question that he can hit out of the park (McCain).
The whole exercise is ridiculous and not befitting the seriousness of the moment. But the reality is that this is a campaign season where silliness trumps seriousness every time.