Yesterday, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee to report on the state of affairs in Iraq. In eight hours of testimony, questions, political pontification and posturing, the net of the conversation is this: We've made substantial but fragile progress. Some political progress has been made along with the diminution of violence that has occurred in the last year. The General reported that violence had significantly subsided since the surge began and they were seeing positive results since the last report to Congress in September of 2007.
OK, on its face, this is good news. Anytime violence is down is good news. Anytime political progress is made it is good news. What's troubling in the General and Ambassador's testimony is the revelation that the progress is so fragile that we must pause troop withdrawals. According to the testimony, General Petraeus believes that we must maintain the current levels in Iraq or face an increase in violence and a loss of some of the progress that has been achieved. The Armed Services Committee was not pleased with this and many members, republicans and democrats alike voiced their displeasure.
I believe, based on why I've seen and what I've read that both General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are decent, competent and honorable men. There is little denying that progress has indeed been made. The frustration I feel about this isn't directed at them, they are doing their jobs and by all accounts doing them pretty well. The frustration I feel is directed at the president, republican presidential candidate John McCain, Senator Joe Lieberman, and the rest of the pro-occupation/pro-war crowd that this is now normalcy. We've all heard Senator McCain say they it would be OK with him if troops were in Iraq for 100 years. While some people believe this is OK, citing the Japanese, Korean and German models as evidence of US troops in other sovereign nations as being a "good thing", I find it just about bat-shit crazy.
Military alliances are one thing. I believe in them. They make us more secure. I do not believe in permanent military presence in foreign countries. This is fertilizer for resentment, bad behavior and breeds violent actions such as the current situation in the middle east. We've been kicked out of the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, and we saw massive protests in the 1980's at our military bases in Europe and the United Kingdom. The value of having forward military installations has waned since the fall of the Soviet Union. George Kennard's policy of containment worked with the Russians, it will not with Islamic theocracies.
Who knows how long this circle jerk will continue? Meanwhile, there are over 4,000 US soldiers dead and countless Iraqis dead or homeless. It is time to end this tired, old song.
Tell me what you think,