Saturday, April 12, 2008

Staying in Iraq Forever, Continued

One other noteworthy moment from the latest round of Petraeus Testimony Theatre...

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) asked the General the following question (video)-
"On January 21 of 2009, if you report to a Commander-in-Chief that says that they want a plan for the withdrawal of troops in the next 60 days, what will you advise them?"

Gen. Petraeus' response was very vague and noncommittal. He said that "I would try to back up, and ask what the mission is, what's the desired endstate..." Rep. Tauscher then said the goal would be to keep the security gains of the surge, fix the readiness problems of the military and cut U.S. costs in Iraq, and safely withdraw. Petraeus responded that "My response would be dialogue on what the risks would be. And, again, this is about risk."

Yes, no one defending the war wants to discuss/debate hypotheticals at all (I doubt Petraeus or anyone else debated with Bush on the risks of his escalation plan last year, or the current risks of mediating gang wars from Basra to Baghdad)... unless, of course, it's about planning for a withdrawal from Iraq, in which case they assure us with 110% certainty that it'll be the biggest fucking mistake in the history of the universe.

But there is something more important in this answer. If the next President is a Democrat, they will more likely than not ask the military to come up with some sort of plan to make withdrawal from Iraq-- over a timeline to be determined then-- possible. Gen. Petraeus seems to be indicating that he would not obey this order directly (but clarifies that he does respect the civilian control of the military... phew!), and would instead work to get said President to accept the status quo, because anything else would be too "risky".

The military as a whole--with some noteworthy exceptions-- has refused to stand up to President Bush on many immoral policies (escalating the war, torture, lack of planning, etc), but mention a hypothetical request from a hypothetical Democratic President, and Petraeus is his own man again. Fair enough, but I am reminded that President Truman fired Gen. MacArthur for less than that, though obviously nothing like that would happen here.

Furthermore, keep in mind that the hypothetical here isn't a President Obama ordering his generals to "withdraw us from Iraq by yesterday!!". It's simply the President saying "I want a plan to begin a withdrawal... get together with your people and work out a plan to make that happen safely and successfully." It's frankly something the military should already be thinking about it-- it's called having an exit strategy-- whether or not it's official policy right now.

President Bush's partisan Republican politicization of every aspect of government (see, for instance, this ad accompanying the testimony video) will be the biggest hurdle for the next President to overcome... yes, even in terms of getting the Generals to implement the policy said President was elected to implement, because all the independent and honest ones were fired or have resigned. What a mess.

[Stonewall Petraeus: Testifying before the Senate, the general sticks to the script. (Slate)]


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