Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

WaPo on the surge and dissent within the administration

As I noted yesterday, if we thought that there would be no reports of bad news out of the surge, and everything would be hunky dory, we were fools. Of course, Marcie and I weren't because we understood that the surge was a gamble of such high political capital that if it backfired, the president would be serving the rest of his term in "lame-duck" status. Today, the WaPo grabs a hold of a story and paints a picture that many were unaware of, or simply ignored. The point? President Bush's strategy had it's dissenters and supporters within the ranks of the administration:

For two hours, President Bush listened to contrasting visions of the U.S. future in Iraq. Gen. David H. Petraeus dominated the conversation by video link from Baghdad, making the case to keep as many troops as long as possible to cement any security progress. Adm. William J. Fallon, his superior, argued instead for accepting more risks in Iraq, officials said, in order to have enough forces available to confront other potential threats in the region.

The polite discussion in the
White House Situation Room a week ago masked a sharper clash over the U.S. venture in Iraq, one that has been building since Fallon, chief of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations, sent a rear admiral to Baghdad this summer to gather information. Soon afterward, officials said, Fallon began developing plans to redefine the U.S. mission and radically draw down troops.

One of those plans, according to a Centcom officer, involved slashing U.S. combat forces in Iraq by three-quarters by 2010. In an interview, Fallon disputed that description but declined to offer details. Nonetheless, his efforts offended Petraeus's team, which saw them as unwelcome intrusion on their own long-term planning. The profoundly different views of the U.S. role in Iraq only exacerbated the schism between the two men.

"Bad relations?" said a senior civilian official with a laugh. "That's the understatement of the century. . . . If you think Armageddon was a riot, that's one way of looking at it."

For Bush, the eight months since announcing his "new way forward" in Iraq have been about not just organizing a major force deployment but also managing a remarkable conflict within his administration, mounting a rear-guard action against Congress and navigating a dysfunctional relationship with an Iraqi leadership that has proved incapable of delivering what he needs. ...

... Amid the uncertainty, the overriding imperative for Bush these past eight months has been to buy time -- time for the surge to work, time for the Iraqis to get their act together, time to produce progress. In Washington's efforts to come to grips with the war it unleashed, the story of these months is one of trying to control the uncontrollable. And now as a result of a casual idea by Petraeus that hardened into an unwelcome deadline, the administration finds itself at a pivotal moment.

"All the outreach and consultations did not reset as much time on the Washington clock as we had hoped," said Peter D. Feaver, who was a National Security Council strategic adviser until July. "Rather than buying us more time, the D.C. clock seemed to accelerate after the president's speech."

Those in favor of the surge and those against didn't lay aside their differences and give it a chance to work. On the contrary, they dug in and started work on ways to make the surge work and on ways to de-fang the US military in Iraq. Congress has busied itself in trying to find a way to end the operations in Iraq with a steady march of legislation tot he president's desk; resolutions that he has easily vetoed due to the lack of the Democrat majority that they touted after the midterm elections last year.

So, we have stayed. And we have watched as General Petreus has put together a strategy that is working much better than could have been hoped for. One need only look at the success the surge has brought to understand this. We have quelled, for the most part, the Sunni insurgency as they have turned away from AQI. The ISF has performed admirably, and while there are a few units that still need some advanced training and shakedown time, both General Petreus and Prime Minister al-Maliki have been impressed with the results. The government at the local level has been working well dealing with the local issues that civilians have raised concerns about.

We knew there would be those that were against the plan, and even today we see that in the internecine fight between Petreus and Fallon. What is key to this is that the two need to work together because the president isn't withdrawing squat until he feels the job is either completed or it's failed and we are left with no choice but to leave. (I sincerely doubt that the surge is going to fail, and if it did it would come from internal failures, not from the troops on the ground.)

We'll see what happens when their testimony is brought before Congress. Just remember that there will be good news and bad news, and both sides are going to "cherry-pick" what they want from the testimony. But one thing can't be disputed, and even the Democrats are forced to admit this: The security situation in Iraq is much better than what it was last year and in years past. The soldiers are doing their job. Ultimately, we have to let them finish what they started. At the very least Congress should (and likely will, albeit grudgingly) allow the surge to continue through the end of this year. True success will show after a couple more months of their efforts. To idly toss aside the surge after only two months of operations at full strength is foolhardy.

Publius II


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