Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rush to Failure

One remarkable statement in the testimony of Gen. Petraeus missed getting media attention even though it would make the perfect title for a book about the entire Iraq policy of President Bush.

He said we should not be "rushing to failure" as we face the "imperative of transitioning responsibilities to Iraqi institutions and Iraqi forces as quickly as possible" (emphasis added).

Although common in news reports, it is pretty hard to find much commentary that even mentions this phrase. Michelle Malkin heard it and blogged the sound bite "rush to failure", but did not analyze it as a warning from the General to the Bush administration to alter its long running, and failed, "surge and run" policy in Iraq. I'm kind of surprised that Democrats did not pick up on the razor's edge between destroying the Army and failing in Iraq that Petraeus clearly was walking down as he reported to Congress.

He also runs the risk of telling participants in the Iraqi Civil War that they only need to lie low between now and next November to achieve their goals. Lighten up a little bit and watch our troops leave, then attack. In particular, I would not be surprised to see a huge rise in violence during the last few months of the Bush administration, after Bush has cut troops along the lines mentioned in this week's testimony. Petraeus told the "enemy" (I put this in quotes because Petraeus made it abundantly clear that he did not view our opponents in Iraq as a threat to the US) it would be all theirs if they play along, just as he told them that we cannot keep this up even if they don't play along.

I have not seen much mention of his seeing a quick drawdown of the surge as an imperative, even though his prepared testimony was quite clear on the point. Indeed, he saw it as a strategic necessity for "long-term US force viability". He clearly knows that the Army is seriously threatened by the policies being followed in Iraq; he has probably been told by the JCS that we cannot sustain a force in excess of 150,000 for more than a year without Bush leaving the Army in a state similar to it was after Nixon was done with it. That may be why he stated that "Force levels will continue beyond the pre-surge levels of brigade combat teams that we will reach by mid-July 2008" (underlining emphasis in the original). It also may be the case that even this will not be enough to prevent long-term damage to the US Army.

Now I just hope that he does not cut and run before the mission is complete. We have not had a General see this war through in the way that Eisenhower did in WW II, or Westmoreland for most of Vietnam. And we certainly have not seen one get called back out of retirement for a second tour of duty in Iraq in a "stop loss" order like the troops have experienced.

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