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The Collective
Friday, July 13, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Writes Ed Morrissey at Heading Right today is a post entitled “Betraying Petraeus”:

The US Senate sent General David Petraeus to Iraq in January in full understanding of his intent to implement a new counterinsurgency strategy as a means to control the violence in Iraq. After 108 days of stalling on funding these operations, Congress finally cut the check less than two months ago.

There are two major problems with these assertions. First, the Senate didn’t “send” Petraeus to Iraq in January, the President did and the Senate simply ratified the appointment. Second, while it is true that the Congress hemmed and hawed over funding, it isn’t as if they cut off funding for 108 days and then decided to pony up the cash. No, the money was flowing during the debate.

Beyond those specific points, the way Ed frames the discussion it is as if Petraeus is executing the Congress’ plan and not the President’s. However, this is far from the case .Indeed, if the Senate was, in fact, sending commanders into the field I suspect that Ed would be rather upset with the legislative branch usurping the President’s constitutional role as commander-in-chief.

While one can make the argument that The Surge only reached full strength last month, and therefore cannot yet be fully evaluated, there are reasons to be concerned that the policy isn’t going to work given the continuing inability of the Iraqi government to make any strides towards actual governance. Everything happens in context, The Surge included.

All of this in the context of the Krauthammer column I noted this morning.

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Filed under: Iraq, US Politics | |

5 Comments

  1. Yes, but the Senate’s ratification was nearly unanimous. It’s hard to believe that nearly 100% of our Senators thought Patraeus and his strategy were good choices, but paying for it was not. Or, at least, that they would rather pay for a different strategy.

    Comment by Max Lybbert — Saturday, July 14, 2007 @ 12:49 am

  2. I agree that Ed M. framed the issues badly, but there is a point to the Petraeus thing (that is only tangental to his column). The Senate ratified his appointment knowing that he advocated the surge, but it was something like less than 2 weeks later when the same group started harping about the strategy — before a single additional troop had even gotten there.

    The funding thing appears a non-issue, except to point out that the criticisms of the strategy started almost immediately after the ratification, and not after trying to gauge the results.

    Comment by Steven L. — Saturday, July 14, 2007 @ 9:08 am

  3. The problem with that reasoning is that it assumes that every time Senate approves a nomination for a slot that they somehow endorse what that person will do once in office. If we are going to start using that standard then are going to see the confirmation process take on an even more political and confrontational tone.

    Another rather major problem is to assume that the Iraq war in general can be summed up now by Petraeus and The Surge. Evaluating what to do next isn’t just about Petraeus and never has been.

    And, really, it isn’t as if the issue is whether to fire Petraeus of not-if it was, then perhaps the Senate confirmation vote would have more sway as an argument.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Saturday, July 14, 2007 @ 9:11 am

  4. I would counter that Democrats in the Senate were for pulling out even before Petraeus was named as the successor to Casey. As such, any subsequent criticisms were hardly a surprise.

    My point is that we essentially expect the Senate to endorse the President’s choices in matter such as this unless there is an egregious problem with the candidate. There is no denying that Petraeus was (and is) qualified. To use the ratification of his nomination as key evidence of full support of The Surge, or anything else in the war strikes me is simply off the mark.

    I will certainly allow a lot of petty politics are involved here-and, for that matter, I am not trying to defend the Democrats, per se.

    What I am annoyed about, however, is this notion that having Petraeus in the position he is currently in equals victory if we just let him do his job. I see no evidence that that is the fact and attachment to Petraeus himself doesn’t really make logical or empirical sense. If anything it is the reductionism of the argument to being about Petraeus that I don’t understand beyond the fact that is obviously gives proponents of the policy somewhere to hang their hats.

    I suppose that to me it isn’t about who said what or when they said it or who is in what position, but rather what the actual problems are on the ground and what needs to be done next. I fear that we cannot simply stay the course and hope any longer.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Saturday, July 14, 2007 @ 9:35 am

  5. IIRC, Patreaus’s confirmation hearings were dominated by question about the upcoming surge. Which is exactly why it was surprising to see his nomination ratified with a nearly unanimous vote.

    “To use the ratification of his nomination as key evidence of full support of The Surge, or anything else in the war strikes me is simply off the mark.”

    I never considered it proof of support for the surge. Rather, I took it as proof that Senate leadership is gutless, and knows how to make noise, but doesn’t know how — or care enough — to make a difference.

    However, people much smarter than me have pointed out that failure in Iraq is such a terrible prospect that the Democrats will do everything they can to distance themselves from Iraq (by harping on All Bush All the Time) while letting Bush take the blame for what they see as impending failure.

    Joe Lieberman and Blue dog Democrats are the only secret weapon bush has at this point.

    Comment by Max Lybbert — Saturday, July 14, 2007 @ 11:37 pm

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