Paul Krugman didn't hold out much hope that the Democrats will do anything about the war in Iraq. But there are people telling them what they should do anyway. Fred Kaplan has some advice.
Stephen Biddle, a military analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a key proponent of the patchwork-quilt strategy. But even he emphasizes that the idea would be a political nonstarter if it resulted in a lot more American deaths. The American public, he said in a phone interview, will support overseas deployments of troops—even for many years—as long as not many get killed. For instance, 64,000 U.S. troops are still in Germany, 60 years after the end of World War II and 16 years after the end of the Cold War. American soldiers have been keeping the peace in Bosnia now for more than a decade since the defeat of Slobodan Milosevic. In both operations, virtually no American soldiers have died as a result of hostile fire. (Biddle is a member of Petraeus' advisory panel, but he emphasized that his views here are entirely his own.)Steve Soto thinks it's time for Karl Levin to grow a pair and has some advice.
Biddle also said (again, expressing his personal view) that the strategy in Iraq would require the presence of roughly 100,000 American troops for 20 years—and that, even so, it would be a "long-shot gamble."
Do Petraeus and Crocker agree with this assessment? Do they agree with each other? Petraeus is a military strategist; Crocker is an Arabist diplomat; they might calculate the risks and prospects differently.
These are some of the questions Congress should ask them next week. If we're going to stay in Iraq for months and years to come—at a cost of hundreds of billions of additional dollars and hundreds, if not thousands, of additional lives—we at least ought to know why.
But we also find out this morning that Petraeus now won't be presenting an actual report next week. ThinkProgress and the Washington Times note that Petraeus plans an opening statement and some charts and graphs of his discredited statistics, but that's it. This is consistent with the legislation passed by Congress and signed by Bush, which actually requires Bush to make a second report to Congress by September 15th. Carl Levin needs to find out immediately from Petraeus at the outset of the testimony if the president will be meeting the deadline for a report to Congress by the 15th. If there is no report, after being told for months to wait for the report, then Levin needs to:Wouldn't it be nice if any of this happened? I'm not going to hold my breath!
1. Cut Petraeus off and demand to know why the testimony should continue;
2. Ask Petraeus why the White House isn't complying with what it committed to and what Congress expected;
3. Ask Petraeus why the White House isn't coming forward at this late date with a comprehensive plan as Cordesman recommended, (and Levin should look directly at McCain as he is asking this question);
4. Ask Petraeus why he approved statistical analyses that knowingly undercount Iraqi violence;
5. Tell Petraeus that there is no way Congress can be expected to shovel another $50 billion in supplemental funds to Iraq if the White House can't back it up with a comprehensive plan and strategy; and
6. If there is no report, tell General Petraeus that he and the president have misled Congress since the surge began, while Americans have died under false pretenses and while Osama Bin Laden gets to make new videos.
This is not a time for weak-kneed committee chairmen. If Levin cannot confront Petraeus next week, then he should go. It's that simple.
John Cole explains what will really happen.