30 April 2007

Senator Reid's Comments on General Petraeus

I’m a pretty big fan of listening to what people say and believing them. On 23 April, in what has become a pretty popular quote, Senator Reid had the following exchange (transcript here – Bash is the interviewer – emphasis is mine):
BASH: You talked several times about General Petraeus. You know that he is here in town. He was at the White House today, sitting with the president in the Oval Office and the president said that he wants to make it clear that Washington should not be telling him, General Petraeus, a commander on the ground in Iraq, what to do, particularly, the president was talking about Democrats in Congress.

He also said that General Petraeus is going to come to the Hill and make it clear to you that there is progress going on in Iraq, that the so-called surge is working. Will you believe him when he says that?

REID: No, I don't believe him, because it's not happening. All you have to do is look at the facts. The factors are this has been going on for three months. American deaths are at the highest they've been in two years. We have -- it's like a balloon.
Senator Reid doesn’t go on to explain his balloon analogy, which I would really like to hear – especially as I don’t think he could pull it off. Putting that aside, why won’t Senator Reid believe what General Petraeus has to say about Iraq and the effect of the latest (and belated) change of US tactics? Is three months too long to allow a strategy to work? Senator Reid would prefer, I suppose, that we don’t find out, as he considers it a failure already – and, in all honesty, considered it a failure before it was even suggested.

Senator Reid also does a fantastic job of playing pick-a-quote here. Surely what is going on in Iraq and the American response can be summed up in one of two phrases: the “surge” is working or the “surge” is not working.

Much in the same vein, here’s another exchange (emphasis mine):

REID: General Petraeus has said that only 20 percent of the war can be won militarily. He's the man on the ground there now. He said 80 percent of the war has to be won diplomatically, economically and politically. I agree with General Petraeus. Now, that is clear and I certainly believe that.

BASH: But, sir, General Petraeus has not said the war is lost. I just want to ask you again...

REID: General -- General Petraeus has said the war cannot be won militarily. He said that. And President Bush is doing nothing economically. He is doing nothing diplomatically. He is not doing even the minimal requested by the Iraq Study Group.

So, Senator Reid, which is it? Is there a military component to defeating of the insurgency in Iraq – 20% as you stated, or can the war not be won militarily? Again, I think that Senator Reid is trying to over-simplify what is a wildly complex situation. And to show his disinterest in the complexity of the situation, he only chooses to use the statements of General Petraeus when it (somewhat) fits his preconceived notion of being unable to win in Iraq. Perhaps it would do for Senator Reid to listen to and to consider honestly everything that General Petraeus has to say about Iraq. After all, the Senate confirmed his placement in Iraq (without a single dissenting vote) and General Petraeus wrote the book on counter-insurgency…literally.

One thing I would like to note here is that I’ve used Senator in front of Mr. Reid’s name on purpose. He is an elected official. And what’s more, he holds a senior position in the legislative branch. What he says carries weight. Perhaps he should be a little more careful when claiming defeat and disbelieving others. It matters a great deal to us and to our enemies.

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