Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What is "Success" in Iraq?

I had the Petraeus/Crocker hearings before the Senate Committee on Armed Services(of which Hillary Clinton and John McCain are members) and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations(of which Barrack Obama is a member) on in the background as I ran some data. I won't outline the whole multi-hour deal, as there are much more learned blow-by-blow accounts from the Washington Independent and Democracy Arsenal, but I do have some impressions and wanted to focus a bit on issues Obama raised.
  • JUST ASK A QUESTION! I don't watch these type of things a rule, and the nature of the discourse provides a good excuse for me to continue that practive. It seems that the vast majority of Senators would rather spend their 6 minutes giving a speech than actually ask questions that might help inform the situation. Why they do this, I have no idea, since I don't really think there is a terribly influential C-SPAN demographic clamoring for this sort of preening showboating.
  • For the above reason I found Hillary Clinton's (which you can see here) and Jim Webb's questioning to be sort of annoying, though in substance both were great.
  • Claire McCaskill and Barbra Boxer were both great in harping on why we're paying for everything when Iraq has like a 30 billion dollar surplus.
  • Joe Biden is a awesome.
Anyway, here are the two parts of Obama's questions via TPM:



I thought he did this pretty cleverly... by getting the admission that the complete elimination of AQI, an Iraqi government free from Iranian influence, and a happy prosperous multi-sectarian democratic government are frankly ludicrous benchmarks. They are benchmarks that would essentially lead to a 30 year occupation. He then goes on to ask whether the current status quo, with say 30,000 troops, would be considered a success. He didn't get an answer from Petraeus or Crocker, but it really illustrates the problems in talking about how the war is progressing. Instead of any kind of an honest assessment of endpoints, we get fear mongering about nightmare scenarios of genocide and Iranian puppet states. It certainly interesting that they are perfectly willing to speculate about that, but find it impossible to inform our long term strategy in Iraq.

Sadly it really does seem like the whole point of the Surge is just to punt the whole mess to the next administration.