Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Max Boot talks about Petraeus's testimony

Congress has had it's fun and games. Now it falls to us to explain a few things to the nutters that could only sit, postulate, and give soap-box dissertations. Now it's our turn, and Max Boot kicks us off:

(HT: Hugh Hewitt)

There were no real surprises on Capitol Hill when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker showed up yesterday to present their reports. This was due, in large part, to the success that Petraeus had in laying the groundwork for their much-anticipated visit. He is an unusually open military commander who is not suspicious of journalists or legislators or scholars intruding in his “battlespace.” In fact he does everything possible to facilitate such visits. (I am one of many who is grateful to him for his hospitality.)

That marks a sharp a contrast with the previous senior U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, who tended to view public relations as a second-order concern. Petraeus realizes that no modern commander can have the luxury of ignoring public opinion, either at home or around the world, so he has been careful to “shape” the public opinion climate prior to his Washington appearance.

This does not mean, I hasten to add, that he is engaging in lying or spinning, as charged by some irresponsible critics. He is not peddling propaganda. He realizes that any lie would be exposed quickly and that the best interests of the mission dictate that he get the whole truth out to the public. Thus, he has been as open and accommodating to skeptics of the “surge”—e.g., Anthony Cordesmen and Ken Pollack—as he has been to supporters of the surge, such as Fred Kagan and me. And he has taken steps to improve the access of the news media to the battlefield, knowing that reporters will deliver a more nuanced and accurate picture from the frontlines.

So, when the surge started making progress this summer, the American public didn’t have to rely on what the White House said to figure out what was going on. There were a larger number of independent observers who have traveled the battlefield extensively to provide an unbiased picture of what’s gone right, as well as what’s still going wrong.

Whatever the final outcome, officers in the future would be well advised to study Petraeus’s approach as a textbook example of 21st century “information operations.”

Mr. Boot is correct in his assessment that nothing surprising came out of General Petraeus's testimony. (Well, I'm sure that Lindsey Graham is still baffled by the good general but he'll get over it.) We knew he was going to be bringing news that the surge is working militarily, and that as long as the security situation continues to improve, we can begin a draw down of troops starting with the Marine EU, without replacement, and the steady draw down of BCTs over the course of the next few months -- starting in December, and following a review every forty-five days or so -- bringing the troops back to pre-surge levels by next summer, but only if the situation on ground dictates it.

Many people pick up on Mr. Boot's second point about the public appearance of things going on in Iraq. Indeed, General Casey was the sort of commander that didn't worry much about the PR angle. What General Casey (and I'm showing no disrespect with this observation) misses is that the "propaganda" side of the war applies to both sides. We have to use our success in Iraq to continue to demoralize al Qaeda, and we need to show that success to America to stymie the antiwar forces here.

We saw with the antics of Code Pink that these people are serious about stopping the war in Iraq. These people have yet to reach the stage of the radical group The Weathermen which started out as an antiwar group. They slowly morphed into a domestic terror group, but there are enough nuts in the antiwar movement now that it wouldn't surprise us if we saw some of these people committing acts of terrorism as some twisted form of "expressing" their outrage at the war. (Imagine that? Peaceniks resorting to violence, which only boggles the mind the logic and reason involved in such a decision.)

So the information war that comes with any war is an important aspect. General Petraeus understands this, and that's why the man made himself, his commanders, and his soldiers available to the press and the embeds. They're the ones that got the news out. I appreciate the general showing a level of confidence in the press, but if we had any confidence int he media, we wouldn't be bloggers. They're not getting the whole message out to the people. Granted enough has been presented to the American people to move the polls back towards favorable numbers for the war effort.

Mr. Boot brings up the point that there have been a number of experts, journalists, and independents that traveled to Iraq, and they reported what they saw. The Brookings Institute is hardly "right-wing" and both Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack wrote a piece that explained the surge and it's initial success. John Burns is the New York Times Baghdad bureau, and he's probably the only intellectually-honest person at the Times when he says that the war isn't lost, and the surge is succeeding in reducing the sectarian conflicts, and in rolling al Qaeda up in Iraq. In doing this, many in the press have faced severe criticism from their colleagues who refuse to see what is reality on the ground in Iraq. So, again, the information war is important to beat back those that continually pound the drums of retreat.

In closing, I'd also like to point out to readers that I believe General Petraeus. He's not cooking the books. He's not spinning anything. In my opinion, if anyone spins this, (other than the Democrats in the House and Senate who decided to attack him rather than listen and question him honestly) it might be elements of the White House. See, the Left is claiming that the White House will make things up in their report to be given tomorrow night, I believe. I contend that they won't. They will use the same information that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have provided. We can use their testimony as the benchmark for the White House's statement.

What we can't trust is the Democrats spin they're putting on the testimony they've just listened to. To the Democrats, this war is "Vietnam." We "don't have enough national guard at home should a disaster occur." We're "asking too much" of our troops abroad. One representative in the House (Sanchez) kept bring up that stupid ABC/BBC poll to "correct" ambassador Crocker. What in God's name does a poll have to do with the reality on the ground? A poll is a set of stated opinions, and has little to do with reality. It is a group's idea of the perception of reality, and it may be grounded in fact, but it's still not a reflection of reality. I'm sick of the Democrats spinning, whining and making excuses. Shut up already, and either support the troops, or maintain silence. They'll be the people who end up losing this war for us if we let them, and to be complicit in such an act is disgusting. The consequences of failure will be disastrous for this nation, and the region we are currently fighting in.

Publius II


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