Petraeus-Crocker crock continues—on all sides.
Clinton mourned that “the longer we stay in Iraq, the more we divert resources not only from Afghanistan, but other international challenges, as well.”
She’d like to deficit spend elsewhere in the world: pursue a better “mission” or “war.”
So Clinton weighing the opportunity costs vis-à-vis Iraq is a dubious thing at best. I did like that she raised the hidden costs, or rather, the costs the general won’t speak of—the same general who by now must be seen as a partisan who supports the administration’s policy, not merely the mission with which he’s been entrusted. Petraeus has crossed over into the political realm.
Some of the hidden costs: “Among combat troops sent to Iraq for the third or fourth time, more than one in four show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress…”
A good constitutional point Clinton raised, and to which the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker responded feebly, was this: the government of Iraq intends to vote on whether to provide the legal authority for U.S. troops to continue to conduct operations in Iraq.
Why in bloody blue blazes doesn’t the United States Congress get to vote on that???
Crocker, predictably, consigned decisions to be rightfully made by “We the People” to the “appropriate” realm under the Bush Administration’s constitutional scheme: the executive branch.
Petraeus had Princeton smarts with which to retort. But he too fell flat with a lot of bafflegab about equations, this or the other co-efficient, “battlefield geometry,” and “non-linear” political progress.”
Update 1: SHIITE FROM SHINOLA. It won’t concern the war harpies readying themselves to can-can for McCain, and sock it to those “Ayrabs,” but I thought the more thoughtful among you ought to know that McCain still can’t tell Shiite from Shinola:
McCain: There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq. Do you still view Al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?
Petraeus: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago.
McCain: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites overall?
Al Qaida is Sunni.
Update 2: Watch the way Petraeus, each time he seems about to make a policy recommendation, skillfully pulls back from this unconstitutional abyss. This is not an affirmative action appointee. It goes without saying that Petraeus is defending a pie-in-the-sky policy much more than a viable military mission. The former is beyond his purview. But, then, constitutional overreach is the name of the game for politicians and their pet generals.
Update 3: I note that Barack Obama “repeated his view that the US invasion was a ‘massive strategic blunder.’” Is that all it was? Was the war not also a massive moral blunder? For how else does one describe the willful attack on a Third World nation, whose military prowess was a fifth of what it was when hobbled during the gulf war, had no navy or air force, and was no threat to American national security?
Well, at least someone—Barack—said something bad about the war.
Correctly Obama also noted that “What we have not seen is the Iraqi government using the space that was created not only by our troops but by the stand down of the militias in places like Basra, to use that to move forward on a political agenda that could actually bring stability.”
Obama was on target again by pointing out that the US “should be talking to Iran as we cannot stabilize the situation without them.”
He also tried to thread the needle, so to speak, by cleverly cajoling the Petraeus-Crocker team into conceding that perhaps the parameters used to gauge the appropriate length of the stay in Iraq are unrealistic. Perhaps Iraq today is as good as it’ll ever get. I agree; a democratic peaceful Iraq would necessitate dissolving the people and electing another, to paraphrase Bertold Brecht.
There is no doubt that Obama has the best grip on the war among the unholy trinity. Maybe his dedicated socialism and closeted Afrocentrism are look-away issues given his good sense on the war. What do you think?
Let’s see whether the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr, lives up to Ron Paul on foreign policy and the warfare state.
Update 4 (April 9): “THE WAR IS NOT A CAMPAIGN EVENT.” Michael Ware’s word. Ware, as I’ve long held, is the best war-time correspondent. He happens to work for CNN. Here’s a snippet from his take on the “unreality” of the “made-for-television show” we’ve just been watching:
“Look, in terms of the military and diplomatic picture that was painted by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, by and large, subject to, you know, certain detail and — and different conclusions, it’s a fairly accurate broad brushstroke.
Are they glossing over a lot of things? Yes. Are they failing to admit certain glaring realities? Of course. But this is the nature of warfare. What struck me, sitting in these — in these hearing rooms today, is, if — A, what surprised me was the lack of probing questions, really, from the members of the panel.
And in terms of the three presidential candidates, as they stand right now, I mean, obviously, today was more about their campaigns than actually about the war itself. Now, I have come almost directly from the war. I mean, some people are living this thing. It is not a campaign event.
So, to hear people and see the way people are actually using this, it really does create discomfort in me. And I don’t know how the ambassador and the general feel. I mean, this is the reality of war. War is an extension of politics by any other means. But it still hits home.”