The big A’s got a fee-vah and the only prescription is … well, an iPhone and about 16 hours of sleep. But since neither of those are in the offing, the only prescription is more Petraeus! Sound off here if you’re watching. There’s no shortage of things for Brit Hume to ask him: today’s hearings didn’t tell us jack about the key issue Petraeus was supposed to resolve, namely, whether he expects we’ll be positioned for a broader withdrawal next summer after the surge brigades are rotated out. His answer? Ask me in six months:
Lefty Fred Kaplan calls the hearings a “disgrace”, which is ironic considering that most lefties (and righties, of course) had their minds made up before Petraeus sat down. While we wait for Hume and co., here are three of the charts from his presentation this afternoon. The good, which is self-explanatory:
The bad, showing virtually no progress in expanding Iraqi security forces except among the greenest recruits:
And the useless. Some of the lefty bloggers are giving him flack for this and I can’t say I blame him. Follow along and you’ll see that he wants five brigades — the surge troops — out by July ’08 and then everything fades into the mist after that. It’s Kaplan’s lament in graphic form:
As for the quotes of the day, the first comes from Petraeus’s testimony. The whole debate reduced to three sentences — and minus, of course, any particulars.
And the other quote, which comes from Crocker. He flies under the radar but he’s eloquent about the Iraqi predicament on those few occasions that I’ve read him quoted at length:
As I say, sound off below. We’ll probably have a highlight or two. In the meantime, ponder the mystery of why, with all the complaints about Petraeus cooking the books for Bush, he’d agree to an exclusive interview with Fox News and thereby feed into the Fox-haters’ paranoia. By all means talk to Brit, but talk to Blitzer and CNN, too.
But it’s questionable whether even the smoothest-talking salesman could appease public opinion—or Petraeus’s Pentagon detractors—at this point. NEWSWEEK has learned that a separate internal report being prepared by a Pentagon working group will “differ substantially” from Petraeus’s recommendations, according to an official who is privy to the ongoing discussions but would speak about them only on condition of anonymity. An early version of the report, which is currently being drafted and is expected to be completed by the beginning of next year, will “recommend a very rapid reduction in American forces: as much as two-thirds of the existing force very quickly, while keeping the remainder there.” The strategy will involve unwinding the still large U.S. presence in big forward operation bases and putting smaller teams in outposts. “There is interest at senior levels [of the Pentagon] in getting alternative views” to Petraeus, the official said. Among others, Centcom commander Admiral William Fallon is known to want to draw down faster than Petraeus.
Update: A few highlights. The buzzworthy segment is the middle stretch where Petraeus talks about Iranian influence inside the country and Brit pointedly asks whether we need to bring the war home to Tehran — a nudge we’ll doubtless be hearing about tomorrow from the Fox haters. Petraeus dodges the question. They both have praise for Maliki, which rings false; Lantos did a good job bringing out his duplicity in the opening statement this morning. The segment ends with the two of them giving their assessments of what they hope to achieve by winning the war. Interestingly, they’re not quite on the same page although they’re both thinking big picture. The most important part, though, is probably the very beginning when Crocker talks about our chances at victory. We can win, he says, if we’re ready to buckle down and commit long term. Read the polls and you’ll see that most of the public isn’t. So much for Iraq.