Here's what I thought you'd like to hear about today:
- The Petraeus Show
The Petraeus Show
Those not living under a rock know that General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified on capitol hill this week to cheer leading Republicans and skeptical Democrats. I listened to most of the House and Senate testimony over the past few days. There were few really surprising moments after the introductory remarks from both witnesses. The rest of the 16 or so hours was taken up by speechification exercises of both parties, interspersed with restatements of the opening remarks by the witnesses. I'm going to play a few short excerpts from the Senate hearings. First, I'll play the questions, if they could be called that, of Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California. She spoke so long that there was no time left for any response from the witnesses, supposedly brought in to provide a punching back for the great Ms Boxer. This is classic spin by the Senator, taking every opportunity to twist the General's words until they bore no resemblance to what he had ever said in the past. This segment starts with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Joe Biden, having the nerve to ask the General to shorten his answers so that the Senators get more time to bloviate. Amazing. Thanks to the Pentagon Channel for this and all the other clips by Petraeus and Crocker in this podcast.
So at the end of her speech there is no time for an answer. Why do they bother bringing these guys all the way back from Iraq, away from where they are succeeding, just so self important Senators can lecture them about their own personal ideas? Her recommendation that we pull back to large heavily fortified bases and out of the neighborhoods the way the Brits did in Basra shows how out of touch she is with what's happening in Iraq. Chaos is quickly taking over in Basra ever since they pulled back. That same chaos will take over the country if we follow her advice. The best counterweight to this set of arguments was made by Senator Graham later in the day. Here's his back and forth on the subjects.
Graham is a skilled litigator; he gets his witness to do the talking. How refreshing.
Some of the best of the week's Petraeus and Crocker show was in their appearance at the National Press Club. The reporters had the good sense to ask questions and get out of the way for the responses. Here is some of the exchange concerning the difference between the ability of the Iraqi army to work on their own, contrasted with the benchmarks that measure their readiness by a set of clip levels. His point is that the benchmarks can be a misleading indicator of how effective the Iraqi army actually is in action, as opposed to paper evaluations.
Later on Petraeus was asked about how he handles the personal attacks by outside groups like Move-on.org. His answer is enlightening.
I had heard that the General looked for inspiration to the famous Rudyard Kipling poem "If". He said so on the Fox News interview with Brit Hume earlier in the week. I went to the Librivox web site and found this terrific reading of the poem by one "Chip in Tampa". Listen to the master.
One of the criticisms of the Petraeus plan to draw down brigade combat teams roughly at the same pace that they arrived, is that it so closely resembles the troop rotations required to maintain the 15 months on, 12 months at home schedule that Secretary Gates promised to the troops at the beginning of the surge. It appears to some, and Petraeus went out of his way to claim otherwise, that the only reason he is reducing troop levels is to meet the demands of the rotation schedule. It's a fair criticism. Why are we so short on troops that we have to reduce our force in Iraq? The man formerly in Petraeus' position in Iraq, now Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, spoke with writers at a forum sponsored by Government Executive Magazine, in Washington, DC. on September 6. Casey gave some background on why we don't seem to have enough troops any more.
Gee, you think the reduction in the U.S. Army from 780,000 to 480,000 had any effect on our ability to respond to the conflicts of the future? Maybe.
That's it for now podcatchers. I'm Charlie Quidnunc reporting from the Boise airport waiting for the last flight home to Seattle on a Friday night.