Two of America’s finest career public servants, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, appeared before House and Senate committees this week to deliver their much anticipated independent reports to Congress and the American public on the current situation in Iraq. They offered realistic and cautiously optimistic war assessments, and impressed everyone other than those heavily invested in its failure. Furthermore their presentations have changed overall Iraq war debate dynamics and now have left many Democrats and their left-wing supporters struggling to regain their anti-war footing.
A little background on why President Bush selected Petraeus and Crocker early in 2007 to serve as America’s top commander and diplomat in Iraq. A West Point graduate, Petraeus has served in the U.S. Army for 33 years, has Master’s and Doctoral degrees from Princeton University, and authored the U.S. counter-insurgency manual. He is also the architect of the surge. Crocker’s distinguished Foreign Service career spans 36 years. His resume includes diplomatic postings in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran and Qatar and ambassadorships in Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan and Iraq. He’s an unparalleled expert in understanding Muslim World geopolitical realities.
The prime tasks handed to these extraordinary Americans are to curb terrorist, insurgent and sectarian-bred violence which has plagued the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s terrorist regime in 2003 — and to provide Iraq’s fragile government time to reconcile complex political differences between Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis.
In words reverberating throughout Congress and the nation, Petraeus testified “the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met.” And Crocker added “a secure, stable democratic Iraq at peace with its neighbors is attainable.”
Petraeus cited the blows delivered to al Qaeda in Iraq by Coalition and Iraqi security forces, the tribal rejection of al Qaeda in Anbar and other provinces, the disruption of Shiite militias and Iranian agent operations, and the decline in ethno-sectarian violence in Baghdad and throughout the country as some of the positive security achievements. Crocker noted the development of local governments in Anbar and elsewhere, oil revenue sharing agreements between national and provincial leaders, and the integration of former Sunni insurgents into Iraqi security forces as some of the promising signs that haven’t been captured by political “benchmarks.”
Each man provided Congress and the American public an unclassified glimpse of what would happen if U.S. troops left Iraq before the job is finished — as currently demanded by Democratic Senate and House leaders, most members of their caucuses, and a few others on the other side of the aisle.
Petraeus said a premature drawdown of our forces would likely have devastating consequences including a high risk of disintegration of Iraqi security forces, a rejuvenation of al Qaeda, and marked sectarian violence and displacement. Crocker expressed certainty that abandoning or drastically curtailing efforts will bring failure resulting in chaos and civil war well beyond what has already occurred within Iraq’s borders with the likelihood of Iran’s terrorist state filling the vacuum.
Anticipating Gen. Petraeus would bring some good news to the American public, Congressional Democratic war critics and their supporters launched strikes to besmirch his reputation by suggesting he was a liar and a puppet of an unpopular president. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said, “By carefully manipulating the statistics, the Bush-Petraeus report will try to persuade us that violence in Iraq is decreasing.” Presidential aspirant Sen. Hillary Clinton said the report, “intentionally exaggerates the surge’s success.” Rep. Rahm Emanuel said, “We don’t need a report that wins the Nobel Prize for creative statistics or the Pulitzer for fiction.” And MoveOn.org published a full page ad in the New York Times stating, “General Petraeus is likely to become General Betray Us.” It’s notable not one congressional Democrat repudiated the ad.
However, the greatest fear of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others who are invested in America’s defeat was expressed several months ago by Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn who sagely noted that “there’s a problem for Democrats if the surge works.”
By attempting to demonize a man of Gen. Patraeus’s character and aggressively pursuing a policy of failure Democrats may be engaging in an act of political suicide. A September 8, 2007 CBS/NY Times reported that the American public, by a 68 percent to 21 percent margin, trusts military commanders more than it trusts Congress to successfully resolve the Iraq war.
All Americans owe Petraeus and Crocker a debt of gratitude for their work in Iraq and long and dedicated service to our country. Their reports provide a sober and factual overview of circumstances in Iraq and their recommendations offer a pathway for success, rather than failure, in that country. The future course of action in Iraq, including troop withdrawals, should be predicated on the judgments of career professionals like them, rather than the judgments of some members of Congress who place partisan politics above America’s vital national security interests.
In reality, the U.S. mission in Iraq is a noble and necessary endeavor and retreating from the country will not deter radical Islamist terrorists from launching further attacks on Americans. And that’s why it’s vitally important to deliver security, freedom, liberty and peace to 27 million Iraqis currently living in that long-oppressed and war-ravaged country. Such a development would send shockwaves through the ranks of al Qaeda, terror masters in Iran and Syria, and others who do not want the U.S. or the new Iraqi government to succeed. Petraeus and Crocker offer a successful way forward. Americans, including their detractors, would be wise to listen to what they’ve said.