August 25, 2007

August Recess Creating Space For Petraeus

The Politico notes that the Congressional recess in August, which Democrats hoped to use to create momentum for withdrawal legislation, has instead brought an inertia to action for its members. Once at home with the constituents, the progress of the surge has Democrats hesitating on pulling the plug, and Republicans hesitant about extending the mission:

August is a time ripe for political conversions.

Members of Congress are away from Washington during a month-long recess. They’re talking to their constituents, reflecting on their political careers, jetting off on fact-finding trips to Iraq and other far-flung places and sometimes enduring vicious ad campaigns designed to sway their votes when they return in September.

So perhaps it wasn’t a surprise when Rep. Brian Baird, a low-key Democrat from Washington State who has spent a career toiling away on local issues, suddenly came out in support of President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq. ... And Baird wasn’t the only one. Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) came back from Iraq and told his local newspaper that the surge “has really made a difference and really has gotten al Qaeda on their heels.”

These August conversions, though, have not been limited to the Democrats. The waters are muddied for both parties. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a bigger fish than either Mahoney or Baird, urged the president on Thursday to begin pulling troops out of Iraq by Christmas.

In a way, the hiatus may give the middle more strength to push back against leadership of both parties. Once out of the heated isolation of the Beltway, politicians have to answer to their constituents, who tend towards the pragmatic rather than the ideological. Few Americans want to leave behind a genocidal anarchy in Iraq after so much effort, but they want to see progress now and a clear path forward. And who can blame them?

This makes the report of General David Petraeus even more important. Those same constituents trust Petraeus far more than Congress or the President, as polls consistently show, and they want to hear his view of the status and prognosis for the mission. America respects a fighting man who fights (and who is allowed to fight), and Petraeus' opinion will carry plenty of weight. The electorate wants their representatives to wait for that report as well, which makes both sides nervous.

The shifting reports from Baird and Mahoney have surprised many who thought the situation intractable. If Iraq can be salvaged, most Americans will understand the strategic necessity for the mission. If not, most will refuse to support a lost cause. At least now, most seem willing to actually listen to the commanders on the ground to determine which is true.


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Comments (34)

Posted by FedUp | August 25, 2007 9:17 AM

We need to stay the course - there is no question that the tenuous stability in the Middle East depends on it. The worls was created in 6 days, but anything man-made takes a bit longer.

It's time to reflect that we need to go in and get the job done, and not let the politicians muddy the waters. Gen. Petraeus is the best person we have on the ground. Congress should remember that when they meddle, we get Viet-Nam, Desert Storm... This is not the time to play to the audience, it is time to do what is right!

Posted by tgharris | August 25, 2007 10:08 AM

Although a lot of Americans have grown tired of what they see as the misuse of our military in Iraq, I DO NOT believe the majority of Americans are interested in subsidizing defeat.

With the change in strategy, the country is starting to see our military as having a fighting chance to succeed. This bodes better for both Iraq and the United States than it does for those politicians who are invested in the strategy of defeatism.

Posted by filistro | August 25, 2007 10:44 AM

What's really scary? The fact that American foreign policy is in the hands of people who believe the world was created in 6 days.

Posted by vet66 | August 25, 2007 11:43 AM

Any dicussion of the war in Iraq must necessarily include the threat of war on Iran. Whether President Bush attacks Iran or not, the pereception in Iran is that he will because he is a lame duck President and Commander-In-Chief with nothing to lose. This tension is having an effect on Iranian behavior. As our troops are dealing effectively with the chaos created by Iranian hegemony and al qaeda stupidity, negotiations continue behind the scenes.

General Petraeus will state that military operations are succeeding and we are gaining in the hearts and minds part of the battle. He will probably refrain from saying too much about the government, diplomacy, and negotiations. Iran is being isolated as are the naysayers in the U.S. congress.

Filistro; That is not what is scary! What is scary is that our foreign policy is being hijacked by leftists in the State Department, intelligence services, and Congress who sacrifice American and Iraqi lives to get elected on a socialism ticket. Their silence of late is testament to their perfidy.

Posted by Publius Hamilton | August 25, 2007 12:43 PM

Discussions of the war in Iraq must not only include Iran, but also Syria. It's absurd that we do not have the will to admit that Iranian and Syrian support for our enemies are acts of war and needs to be dealt with accordingly. Why do we sit back and let them get away this? They have the blood of American and British troops on their hands and we just try to talk with them, to no avail. Perhaps taking Damascus International Airport offline for a few weeks might send a message. Or, the sinking of an Iranian submarine or two. (Now that's what I call quiet diplomacy!)

Something must be done in regard to this outrageous situation. As a nation, we have the right and obligation to defend our troops. To do otherwise is not only absurd, but dishonorable.

Posted by Bennett | August 25, 2007 12:45 PM

I've given this a great deal of thought (well, as much as I'm capable of) and I've decided that the General is not really going to report anything new and that in many ways this will be what we've known all along. The United States military succeeds, everyone else fails or muddles along or does a half-baked job.

The best and brightest we have are all wearing the uniform. That leaves the mostly mediocre and the barely adequate to handle everything else.

So the General's report is going to remind me, I think, of all the military briefings after we invaded with the quick march to Baghdad, the complete toppling of Saddam's government in record time. Because when it comes to war fighting, the US military has no peer. And all the questions that the General can't answer, all the problems he has no solution for, well those are supposed to be on someone else's watch anyway.

Posted by unclesmrgol | August 25, 2007 1:26 PM


The point is that Petraeus will comment upon matters within his sphere of operation, and will, the public believes, comment upon them truthfully.

And I wouldn't say that the best and brightest we have are all wearing the uniform. Doesn't Condi Rice count for something?

And if that statement is a truism, it must also be true that the dumbest and dumberest of us also wear the uniform -- isn't that true of those guys in Yousifiya the LA Times chose to quote? The Times takes the traditional disgruntlement of the foot soldier for his officers and turns it into theater. Think of what those soldiers told the Times -- we are tired, we want to go home, we aren't doing anything here but being killed. Translated into alQaeda, we have "we have the infidels in Yousifiya on the ropes, we just have to kill a few more and they will break and run." If these dim-witted soldiers realized they were complaining to alQaeda wearing the face of a social-engineering LA Times reporter, I'm sure they would have been far more circumspect in their speech.

Posted by Okonkolo | August 25, 2007 1:28 PM

If the White House is writing this report, then it aint the General's report. For the umpteenth time, the surge has made some security gains, but the political goals it was supposed to engender have not materialized, and may not materialize for many years, even decades. Things are getting so much worse politically; two govenors blown up, not by al qaida but by other Shites; heck, the majority of attacks on troops have been coming from the Shites lately, and the guy we installed to run this mess is now suffering from a pretty strong whisper campaign that he must go. Politically, Iraq is a disaster, and sheer numbers mean we will have to draw down troops a bit in early 08 no matter what. Does anyone believe things will really be different in six months? This "new plan" doesn't mean squat if we can't put humpty back together again.

Posted by Conrad | August 25, 2007 1:46 PM

It seems to me that since this war with Itaq is not about librtating the people there, this is why it is a difficult one to win. We are told by news reports that we are fighting armed militias and that their members are infiltrating into the national police force. What does this tell me? It tells me that the people do not support our troops. Just like if we would have sent troops into japan to finish the war with them, we would have had to face a resistant population. So - we chose a way where less people actually got killed. But we carried a big stick and made a big impression.

I think it is important that we win this war - not for the iraqi people but for our Country's standing in the world.

It seems to me that the psychic of most of the Iraqi population is caught up in the turmoil of war and cannot reason properly until the war is ended. And it should be a quick end.

I think we should consider giving the people a demonstration of what we are capable of. I think most people want survival over death. Suicide bombers are pale considering what we can do.

Areas of the world run by war loads for thousands of years are not going to give up their power willingly for a democracy to take over. This also goes for the religious leaders that have sway over the people.

I do not beleive this war can be won politically. In fact I think we are in the mess we are in because of politics.

So what do I think we lose if we leave Iraq? I think we lose face with the world - and that lack of face would materialize as the dollar retreats and the euro becomes the leading currancy. I think that is what the lefties want.

What do I think we gain if we win decisively in Iraq? I think we would win respect in the civilized world.

Posted by Carol Herman | August 25, 2007 1:55 PM

In my book, this is another example of the Internet, in action.

News travels fast, here.

And, the congress-critters who are home; need to get up and get out every morning. Where they look to be visible enough to be seen. What would life be like if NO ONE WANTED TO SHAKE THEIR HANDS? If no one came over, at a passing parade, to make the congress-critter feel like "an important person."

Given the size of the USA; and the staffs back in DC, the only time these critters get to really see what's happening, is when people mouth off in their directions. Or refuse to shake their hands. It's humbling, I tell ya.

And, the Internet's made it all possible.

Even to pointing out to people, how Vietnam, for instance, was totally mismanaged by Lyndon Baines Johnson's "best and brightest." Between 1963 and 1968. Nixon, on the other hand, changed to General Craighton. And, we began winning on the ground.

The LIBS lost it! Turned Vietnam, when we left, into a backward nation. With killing fields. And, per-capita income below all its neighbors for well on 30-years.

Personal incomes don't mean much to the idiots in Congress.

And, they are also confronted with reality; not the hoax's they're trying to pass off.

While, the "new thing" is to go after Maliki.

Well, just like they tried with Olmert. They were sure they were going to see some world leader kicked out of office. But, heck, even in Lebanon, Siniora still stands.

I guess for "change" they have to look at Sarkozy. Up against a real dolly. Royale, mom to 4 kids, has a figure to die for. But she lost.

Seems where it counts the libs don't have much to show for all their energies they expend on trying to turn the tides of politics. But that's just me.

I keep watching what's going on as if it's a giant traffic accident. Noises coming out of the heap, continuously. While others just blithly forget to reduce speed; as they bang into it.

Hmm. Should make insuring these things a tat bit risky? No?

Posted by Bennett | August 25, 2007 1:57 PM

"And I wouldn't say that the best and brightest we have are all wearing the uniform. Doesn't Condi Rice count for something?"

Condi Rice? geesh, surely you can come up with a better example than that. Find someone outside of government and I might grant your point. Certainly we have amazing people in business and science and academia, other areas of endeavor. But someone in politics or serving in our civilian government on either side of the aisle? Presumably your premise is grounded in resume and not on results.

The General may wish to comment only on matters in his "sphere of operations" but he is going to be questioned about matters that are not, or shouldn't be within, his sphere of operations. He is not the viceroy of Iraq, he is not answerable for the central government or whether or not the lights are on in Baghdad or food is getting through to Baquba. But he will be asked about all of these things because that's where the problems are.

I don't understand your objection to the statements quoted in the article you mention. I don't know the context but assume the soldiers were answering questions truthfully based upon their own conclusions at the time. How does that make you dumb? Or is your point that all soldiers are supposed to be propagandists, lying when it is expedient to do so because the truth might affect someone's spin?

Hmmm...interesting take, I suppose. But then one wonders why you have concluded that the public believes the General will comment on matters truthfully if doing so may be reckless and inadvisable. Or is he simply a more disciplined apparatchik than the common foot soldiers you mention?

Posted by MarkJ | August 25, 2007 1:57 PM

Dear filistro,

What's really scary? The fact that American foreign policy is in the hands of people who believe the world was created in 6 days.

Really? No sh**? So name one of these "people."


We're waiting.

Posted by Teresa | August 25, 2007 1:59 PM

Conrad -- Are you suggesting we drop an atomic bomb on Iraq the way we did on Japan? You might want to check and see if you skipped your meds today.

Posted by Carol Herman | August 25, 2007 2:15 PM

Irak has potential.

Unlike Saudi Arabia, that is our enemy; we'd learn from history. Going back to 1928. Nobody directed the Saud's to behave in ways that accommodated the West. AND, THEY STILL DON'T! While millions flow at them each minute. And, starting in 1974,with OPEC, they discovered just how much they can do and they keep getting away with it!

The other thing I notice is that iran went to hell, when Jimmuh Carter didn't think it was worth defending. People in iran, then? Well, they bought the whole burka deal. I guess they thought their religious folk were beyond the temptations of the mighty dollar. Only to discover, decades later, than they've been HAD!

I know lot of Americans "choose" who they want to see in leadership roles. If they could? They'd only choose saints. But saints are never available.

And, all the media jabs, what has it really done? Except disgusted a wide swath of the American public? People who are definitely not on board the affirmative action train. Following the elites to "nowhere."

By the way, Teresa, it's not up to Conrad, or you, on who "gets bombed next." YOU'RE NOT IN THE LOOP!

The Iraqi people VOTED. Sure, the left has no respect for that at all.

But then, did they kick Olmert out of his prime minister's chair? No, I don't think so.

While in france, Sarkozy, who got the worst french press, really beat out a good looking doll. Is it possible? Politics and good looks don't mix?

Well, I guess so. Even though I think Abraham Lincoln was both tall AND GORGEOUS. In his own time, he wasn't considered good looking. But height and stature were always his. (In spite of the bad press he got.)

Maybe, bad press isn't all that it's cracked up to be?

You want Maliki, by the way to be supported by 99% of the people? You mean, like Chavez, in Venezuela? That's so despotic. Every leader in a democratic country is lucky to get into office on a "popularity" that sits on one or two percentage points above 50%. Those are the rules.

Now, if the terrorists actually laid hands on a working nuke, they'd use it.

Posted by filistro | August 25, 2007 2:44 PM

Quick, call the FBI... MarkJ is TICKING!!!!

We're all gonna DIE!!!!!!

Sorry, Mark, where was I?

Oh yes... creationists in the White House. Well, let's start with George W. Bush, who said publicly on August 2, 2005 that creationism should be taught in public schools so American students could "hear both sides of the debate."

(Actually he said "Intelligent Design" which has been designated by Kansas scientists, no less, as "creationism in a cheap tuxedo." I do like that one :-)

Posted by Teresa | August 25, 2007 3:14 PM

Carol -- I know I'm not in "the loop" for who gets bombed next, but Conrad was comparing Iraq to Japan in WWII and suggesting that dropping an atomic weapon on Nagaski saved lives in the end and we should do something similar in Iraq. That has to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard. For one thing, US troops are actually IN Bagdad unlike Japan. Do you think an atomic weapon is selective in who it kills? Should we wipe out a good part of our armed services in order to "win"?

Posted by Ray | August 25, 2007 3:49 PM

Posted by filistro | August 25, 2007 10:44 AM
"What's really scary? The fact that American foreign policy is in the hands of people who believe the world was created in 6 days."

You seem to be stating that anyone who believes in God should be prevented from positions of power, that would exclude every candidate running for President. The majority of Americans, as well as the rest of the world's population, believes in a God in one form or another and this is reflected in the beliefs of our elected representatives, like the President. Who are you to ridicule that belief? Are you a god? Do you have ultimate knowledge and can state with absolute assurance that no god exists? Of course not, as no one has definitively determined how the world was created. Until you have absolute proof of how the word, and the universe, was created you have nothing but a belief and you shouldn't ridicule others for their beliefs simply because you don't agree with them.

Oh yes... creationists in the White House. Well, let's start with George W. Bush, who said publicly on August 2, 2005 that creationism should be taught in public schools so American students could "hear both sides of the debate."

What's wrong with people hearing both sides of a complex issue like the theories concerning the creation of the universe? How can children be hurt by the notion that the world may have been created by an intelligent force as opposed to creation by the random accumulation of matter? Ether way, it's still a form of creation and no matter what some scientist in Kansas thinks, no one knows for sure how the world was created. Since both theories are based on beliefs (ether a "scientific" belief in the random accumulation of matter or a "religious" belief in the intentional creation of the world by God), what's wrong with people be presented with multiple beliefs and then deciding for themselves which belief they think is closer to the truth? That's what education is suppose to provide us, access to multiple ideas, theories, and beliefs and the ability to make our own determinations as to the relevance of each.

Posted by mike d. | August 25, 2007 4:59 PM

Cap'n -

in keeping with the "get-out-of-the-beltway" concept, maybe should Gen Petraeus take his report on the road to cities and towns across the country?

my guess is that all we will hear from the Beltway media is negativity, so why not take the report on the road and bypass the MSM as much as possible, and explain why it's being done: because the MSM has shown itself again and again and again idoelogically incapable of or unwilling to correctly contextualize this war and the broader issues it involves.

i would not like to see the General out of theater for too long doing a p.r. excercise, albeit a vitally important one. but surely there are communicatively smart officers who have local ties who can participate at the local level.

thots, people?

Posted by filistro | August 25, 2007 5:25 PM

Well, Ray... that's all fine and dandy if it's YOUR religion that the president is proposing to teach in schools. You might be a tad less comfortable if it were a religion other than your own.

And bringing this back to the various ramifications of the coming Petraeus report... I think there is a small but influential cadre within the president's inner circle that is privately not all that concerned about the rising turmoil in the Middle East, because they believe this conflagration is a necessary prelude to the Rapture and the Second Coming. I even have reason to think the president shares this view.

The mere possibility is deeply unsettling.

Posted by FedUp | August 25, 2007 5:43 PM

filistro, I happen to be one of those 'scary' people who believe in creationism. If you don't choose to believe then that is your choice, but you are denigrating my belief as being some sort of craziness. Just one question for you... what happens if we are right and you are wrong? THAT's scary!

Posted by filistro | August 25, 2007 5:49 PM

Fed Up, I don't care if you believe in Satan, Sappho or Secret Squirrel. More power to you if you do. It's good for people to believe in something.

I just think private, personal religious beliefs of public figures should not influence foreign or domestic policy.

Why is that so hard for so-called "conservatives" to understand nowadays?

Posted by reddog | August 25, 2007 5:51 PM

Yes, of course. The Congress, now that they are back home, will be brought to their senses by their constituents, who all, of course support our efforts in the Middle East and idolize GWB.

They will come back in the Fall and present Petreaus with the Laurels and funding he deserves, offer up their children to the military and apologize to GWB for ever doubting him. They will privatize Social Security and Medicare. They will abolish the graduated income tax, the EPA, and outlaw abortion. They will ship all the illegal aliens home.

God will smile on this, his chosen country.

Posted by Bennett | August 25, 2007 6:11 PM

"...because they believe this conflagration is a necessary prelude to the Rapture and the Second Coming."

Or the return of the 13th Imam.

This is America, we treat all messianic beliefs equally.

Posted by filistro | August 25, 2007 6:20 PM

Bennett, you are consistently one of the wittiest, wisest and most thoughtful commenters at this site. I used to have that "recent posts" button at the side of the page to make sure I didn't miss anything you said. Now I have to scroll through everything looking for you, which takes a lot of time.... but you're worth it.

As they say up here in Canada... "Thanks, eh?" :-)

Posted by Bennett | August 25, 2007 6:35 PM

Thank you for the kind words Filistro but my Christian evangelical friends would not look kindly on my equating the Second Coming with the Shi'a belief in the 13th Imam, even as a joke. And for this, I express my regrets at a poor attempt at humor.

While it is true that there are some who believe certain cataclysmic events are upon us (as foretold by prophecy, whether it be Christian or Muslim), I don't profess to have any special insight in this area.

As to the specifics of your post, I don't believe that the President's policies are intended to create the circumstances necessary for any foretold events to occur. If anything, he seems to believe that life here on earth right now can actually be made better through the efforts of mankind. And I don't think that's consistent with Christian eschatology.

Posted by filistro | August 25, 2007 7:09 PM

Yes, Bennett, I know... and it certainly wasn't my intention to tar you with my tainted brush. I should have added a disclaimer: My endorsement of your posting is in no way an implication that you share any of my decidely unpopular views.

I do, as I say, have good reason to suspect the president is more interested in the eschatological than we are generally led to believe. A supsicion which leads me, I fear, perilously near the scatological, so I will sign off the thread now.


Posted by docjim505 | August 25, 2007 7:50 PM

Josephine Hearn, The Politico: These August conversions, though, have not been limited to the Democrats. The waters are muddied for both parties. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a bigger fish than either Mahoney or Baird, urged the president on Thursday to begin pulling troops out of Iraq by Christmas.

Notice how it's always the same handful of Republicans who are cited as "opposing" the president? There are over 200 Republicans in the Congress; what about the rest of them? Yes, Warner is a big fish (and a big idiot on this subject), but why is he presented as speaking for many of his fellow GOP? It seems to me that the MSM seizes upon such statements to give cover for their dem masters: "See! See! The dems aren't the only ones who want to surrender in Iraq!"

Posted by Conrad | August 25, 2007 8:37 PM

It is amazing how comments on subject matter can lose focus.

Teresa, I did not suggest dropping an atomic bomb on Iraq, but rather, you came to that conclusion because i made a comparison. My intent is to open up discussion to find solutions - because so far we don't seem to have one with Iraq.

And Carol is right - we the people are not in the loop - because we are so busy with our petty concerns. Duh! Doesn't anybody know we are in a war? Does anybody making comments here know what it is like to be in a war? Do they have family that experienced war?

Again, my intent in this discussion is to find solutions. To me this means exploring ideas from others without criticism.

We need to think out of the box and not be afraid to think the unthinkable. Alexander the Great did not make his great conquests because he had simpathy for the people he was conquering while he was conquering them

We have nearly 4000 soldiers dead, 24,000 maimed, and countless others coming home with mental trama. I have a son that served in this war, and another son that can be called up if it comes to a draft - so I have an interest in seeing this war come to an end soon.

So I am looking close at the scooples of who is running for president right now - and also the one presently in the white House.

I do not have the solution to this war but I think the person with the solution is an ex-military man named Colin Powell. Good luck to get him to run.

Posted by poodlemom | August 25, 2007 8:49 PM

Warner is soooo past his expiration date!

Posted by poodlemom | August 25, 2007 8:52 PM

Warner is soooo past his expiration date!

Posted by Ray | August 25, 2007 9:30 PM

"Well, Ray... that's all fine and dandy if it's YOUR religion that the president is proposing to teach in schools. You might be a tad less comfortable if it were a religion other than your own."

That's just an assumption on your part and I have no problem with students being exposed to any religious beliefs as long as that exposure doesn't include activities that are illegal, like animal sacrifices. It doesn't matter what the religion or science is or what the current theories are, it only matters that people are exposed to different, and even contrasting, ideas and that they are given the necessary tools and training in which to make their own choices. Anything else is not teaching, it's indoctrination.

Posted by The Yell | August 26, 2007 4:04 AM

"I just think private, personal religious beliefs of public figures should not influence foreign or domestic policy."

So we shouldn't be spending $1 trillion a year to uphold "That what you do for the least of my brothers, you do unto Me?"

Posted by Ray | August 26, 2007 5:54 PM

"Do they have family that experienced war?"

I have a nephew who's been to Iraq twice and he thinks we should stay the course. He's seen the effects of what the military has accomplished in Iraq and what their continuing contributions are bringing the Iraqi people, like access to things Saddam never allowed them (a free press, call phones, satellite tv, access to health care, freedom of political expression, etc.) He tells me that a lot of the Iraqi people appreciate everything we're doing for them and that they are afraid of the consequences if we pull out before the Iraq has a chance to stabilize and for the people to recover socially and emotionally from decades of tyrannical rule.

Posted by Conrad | August 27, 2007 2:03 AM

"I have a nephew who's been to Iraq twice and he thinks we should stay the course."

This is positive feedback. My son's military job when in Iraq was boarding ships in the Persian Gulf looking for smuggled cargo and taking prisoners - that got sent to guantanamo. His work was the same as the British sailers and marines that got caught by the Iranians.

My mother was a war bride from WW2. Her side of our family was caught in the middle of the war. They lost all their possessions. They experienced the heat of the war first hand like the Iraqi civilians.

The American public has been shielded from the graphic images, and the real stories of this war by the media, so we do not have a feel for it except by our sons and relatives that have experienced it and can tell us their experiences.

I feel that our country's first priority is getting this war in Iraq settled. I am not interested in any politician that is not making this his first priority.

Many people that I know want us to pull out of Iraq as soon as possible. But to me this is unrealistic. I am not in the loop so I do not know all the facts about the real situation in Iraq.

I do know, or I want to know that we invaded Iraq for a just cause. I hear differently from the left as they are called.

And this is the point: We need to be united as a country with full support behind our government in this time of WAR.

If there are criminal activites behind the cause of this war from our political leaders we can settle this after the war is settled. But all these people calling for a pull out from the war with Iraq at this juncture, should have opened their mouth in the beginning and put their foot down then. They were cowards then and they are cowards now when the heat is on.

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