Move-on.com’s recent full page ad calling General David Patraeus “General Betray Us” has been condemned and praised and has unfortunately confused the conversation about the surge status. The General is certainly not a supporter of the Insurgents, and he is doing his best to improve the US military position in Iraq. But the point of the ad is quite different. The General is not a neutral observer and his message bears too close a resemblence to the Bush Administration spin to be viewed entirely independent.
However, accepting that point, General Patraeus’ testimony was beside the most important point. What is or should be the US strategy in Iraq. The original surge words were “to provide some breathing room for the Iraqi government”. For what?
- to enjoy the Iraqi parliament summer vacations?
- to work out deals on splitting oil revenues cutting out Iraqi citizens?
- to enable American oil interests to gain favorable positions?
- to run out the clock on the Bush Administration?
- to enable secret negotiations with Iraq’a neighbors?
- to seek a grand solution for Middle East peace?
Each of these possibilities has some feel of an underlying US strategy. They are listed in order of most likely to less likely. The first four are completely operable but something the General could not say. The last two, however, strike at the only legitimate justification for continued military action. The General was silent on both of them.
Wait, you say! The General spoke a lot about eliminating Al Qaeda in Iraq (and George Bush is quick to connect 9/11 to them). John McWho also speaks to anyone who will listen that troop reductions will lead to chaos and a steady line of terrorist marching down main street USA. Certainly the General is doing his duty to protect us from that.
1. The Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds will squash Al Qaeda in Iraq if we simply get out of the way. There is no interest in cutting anyone else in on the oil revenues.
2. Leaving Iraq with a Government that is sympathetic to the US interests is an understandable goal. But winning the lottery is also. Iraq is a country that has not had a reoresentative Government in modern history is simply not likely to produce one in short order.
3. Maintaining a visable presence in Iraq and waiting for the “right” Government to emerge will be thankless and indeterminent task. The General did not testify to this either.
The problem as always with Bush and Iraq is that he has no policy and therefore no strategy. The General should only be testifying to what military strategies (and how they are working) that he is using to achieve the political policies that reflect the US goals in Iraq.
1. To the extent that Patraeus was not clear that he was succeeding against the US political goals as he understood them is unfortunate. Congress should have dismissed him and pressed Ambassador Crocker, or better yet Secretary of State Condi Rice, what was the US policy.
2. When Crocker or Rice then regurgitated the pap “to make Iraq safe” or “to root out the insurgents”, Congress could press to find out why these goals were important and then return to Patraeus and ask for evidence of progress.
The actual way the testimony proceeded begged the question of what policy or goals the US was pursuing. Questioning the General’s data, while easy to spot inconsistancies, was a useless exercise since it was qualitatively suggestive of progress but not knowing the US goals, one can not be sure whether Patraeus was taking a step forward or side ways. Cynically, that may have been the administration’s purpose and if General Patraeus suspected that, then he did betray us.