Gen. David Petraeus will recommend delaying any decision on major troop withdrawals from Iraq for six months or more, military officials said yesterday. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, begins a much-anticipated report to Congress today.
Petraeus has told President Bush that it would be possible to bring home one of the 20 U.S. combat brigades in Iraq starting in mid-December. Further reductions through next summer would bring the number down to 15 brigades—about 130,000 soldiers, or roughly the number the U.S. had in Iraq before Bush sent a surge of reinforements early this year.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what Petraeus says this week, said Ralph Peters in the New York Post. Anti-war types have “already made up” their minds. “Politically terrified by positive developments in Iraq,” Democrats have been “preemptively” trying to explain away everything Petraeus will say about the signs that the “surge” is working.
The attacks on Petraeus have been “disgusting,” said Pete Hegseth in The Daily Standard. MoveOn.org has taken out a full-page ad in The New York Times accusing Petraeus of betraying America by fudging statistics to show that violence is on the wane. “To attack as a traitor an American general commanding forces in war because his 'on the ground' experience does not align with MoveOn.org's political objectives is utterly shameful.”
There’s no denying Iraq is making progress, said Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post (free registration required). It’s just not going where the Bush administration wants it to go. No doubt Petraeus will say that the Shiite-led government has failed to reach certain benchmarks in the effort to establish the power-sharing necessary for a strong national government. “What's really happening is that Iraqis are slowly moving toward” their natural state—a loose confederation where Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds each call the shots in their own self-governing regions.
The hawks are addicted to playing the victim, said James Carroll in The Boston Globe (free registration required). But one thing will remain abundantly clear as we approach tomorrow’s sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks—no matter what Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker tell Congress. “The Bush administration took a compliant America to war in Iraq for no rational purpose, but out of a welter of emotions, not least of which was an unfocused impulse toward revenge.”
At the very least, said the San Diego Union-Tribune in an editorial, Petraeus’ report should “kick-start” the debate over where we go from here. We can’t leave 150,000 troops in harm’s way to protect a “failed government” forever. It’s time to “begin defining our Iraq end game.”