Monday, January 08, 2007

# Posted 8:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUNDAY MORNING ROUND-UP: It was the Democrats' time to shine on Sunday morning, as they celebrated their new majority in Congress. CBS won the PR battle among the major networks by scoring an interview with Nancy Pelosi. ABC also turned to the House Democrats, inviting on a panel of three incoming committee chairmen, followed by Brent Scowcroft. NBC had Joe Biden, who appears on so many Sunday talk shows that you wonder whether NBC had any other options. Alongside Biden was Lindsey Graham, who is fast becoming a fixture himself.
Pelosi: B+. For some reason, I had trouble with the CBS podcast, so I had to read the transcript of Pelosi's interview instead. She knew exactly which point to hammer on Iraq. Bush said he would listen to the generals, but now he ignores the opposition of Casey and Abizaid to a surge. Although I think a surge is the right policy, Bush clearly flip-flopped on the issue of listening to the generals. Now he has to pay the price.

Also of note, Pelosi brought into focus her total opposition to a surge by insisting repeatedly that she is against any sort of "escalation". It's a word with strong echoes of Vietnam, a word that summons up all the futility of our misguided approach to that war. Pelosi's mantra now is that "It is time to bring the war to a close." If only the Sunni and the Shi'a would be so kind as to take her advice.

The Three Chairmen: B. Charlie Rangel of New York will become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. David Obey of Wisconsin will take the helm at Appropriations. Finally, Henry Waxman of California will head up Oversight and Government Reform. Frankly, it was a pretty dull interview. The three chairmen provided a mix of feel-good boilerplate and mild criticism of the President.

Scowcroft: B. The old general and played against type by supporting the plan for a surge and insisting that those who want to withdraw just don't understand what will happen to Iraq and to the Middle East if we allow that to happen. Apparently surprised by hearing Scowcroft actually defend Bush the Younger, Stephanopoulos didn't seem to have a response ready.

Biden: B. I like Joe Biden. I'd take him as President instead of Hillary any day. I disagree with him strongly on his analysis of Iraq (the subject of my next post), but I think he's basically a good guy, even though his middle name is not 'excitment'.

Graham: B. I know, I know. It's very boring when everyone gets a 'B'. But Washington is still in the midst of a post-vacation lull. We're still having parties, not partisanship. Anyhow, this was the first time I'd seen Lindsey Graham instead of just listening to him via audio podcast. Although the Republican from South Carolina always has something thoughtful to say, I never realized what funny movements he made with his hands. It's quite a contrast to his speaking voice, which is that of a consummate Southern gentlemen.

On Iraq, Graham did a pretty good job of making the case for a surge. The one question he just couldn't answer is what we do if the surge fails. Admit that the war is over and go home? Go back to the status quo ante? McCain also has trouble with this question. Both Graham and McCain want to win in Iraq, which seems to suggest that if the surge doesn't work they will support going home. But McCain and Graham also talk about the incalculable cost of abandoning Iraq, which means we can't pull out even if the surge fails. In short, McCain and Graham are backing themselves into a rhetorical corner, where whatever position they take will seem like a contradiction or a flip-flop. And since their most important asset is their credibility, that is very dangerous.
See you in seven.
(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

Wait a minute - all those retired generals had one major complaint about the ongoing execution of the war: not enough troops. (They had criticisms of every aspect of the war, but that's the only one that could be rectified going forward.) Bush was vilified for listening to the team he had in place rather than taking the advice of the others. Well, now he's removed the team he was supposed to ignore, and he's implementing the advice of the people he's supposed to listen to. Pelosi has flip-flopped every bit as much as Bush has.
"Bush said he would listen to the generals, but now he ignores the opposition of Casey and Abizaid to a surge."

They, GEN Abizaid and GEN Casey, are nearing the end of their commmands. What do the incoming leadership, Admiral Fallon and LTG Petraeus, think of the idea of a surge?

I can almost see the Joy Joy feelings in your writing. Oh that the Dems and Rhinos would appear every weekend.
"Although I think a surge is the right policy"

First, why do you think a surge is the right policy? What, in honest, practical terms, will it accomplish?

Petraeus, who wrote the book on counterinsurgency, is dead-on accurate that the proposed force is too little, while the adequate force necessary does not exist.

When the Pentagon announced that the number of troops in Baghdad would be increased -- increased! -- to 12,000, I, a common man-on-the-street, stood with a wild surmise. By basic common sense it's ludicrous to expect 12,000 or 30,000 men to pacify a city of nearly 6 million.

So what's the goal? What can feasibly be accomplished? If the goal to be accomplished cannot feasibly be accomplished (which just about everyone other than Bush acknowledges) then what IS the purpose? (Other than a wag-the-dog maneuver to keep the Democratic hounds off the subpoena trail.)

Second, your other correspondents have noted the apparent discrepancy between whether Bush is leading the generals or vice versa, and the apparent discrepancy between all of us on the left calling for more troops and then reversing. First, neither Bush nor the generals is really calling the shots here. You and I both know that. Second, adding more troops now is the definition of "too little, too late." We on the left were terrified all this was going to happen, precisely the way it did, the moment Rumsfeld abandoned the Powell Doctrine.
If only the Sunni and the Shi'a would be so kind as to take her advice.

Which is precisely why there has to be a political solution to this, David, unless we plan to make Iraq the 51st state.

Surge all you want, unless both sides want to live together amicably, none of it will matter
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