Friday, September 07, 2007

Why Petraeus is Not to be Trusted
At least not by Philadelphia baseball fans. Here's the General:

And here's former Phillies General Manager Ed Wade:

Wade ran the Phillies for eight years, with no playoff berths to show for it. Eventually he spent more and more money, at grievous opportunity cost, yet the team never got closer to its objective. Sound familiar?

But for those who don't have an irrational detestation of Ed Wade, there are other reasons not to trust the general either. Paul Krugman sums them up:

Gen. Petraeus has a history of making wildly overoptimistic assessments of progress in Iraq that happen to be convenient for his political masters.

I’ve written before about the op-ed article Gen. Petraeus published six weeks before the 2004 election, claiming “tangible progress” in Iraq. Specifically, he declared that “Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt,” that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward” and that “there has been progress in the effort to enable Iraqis to shoulder more of the load for their own security.” A year later, he declared that “there has been enormous progress with the Iraqi security forces.”

But now two more years have passed, and the independent commission of retired military officers appointed by Congress to assess Iraqi security forces has recommended that the national police force, which is riddled with corruption and sectarian influence, be disbanded, while Iraqi military forces “will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently over the next 12-18 months.”

Krugman also cites this powerful piece of reporting from the Washington Post on Thursday, by Karen DeYoung. She found that the statistical gains championed by defenders of "the surge" are very, very dubious. The statistics "selectively ignor[e]" certain trends (such as escalating violence between different Shi'ite militias) in making assessments, and generally stacking the deck in favor of the wished-for conclusions. (Again, sound familiar?) One number the defenders don't cite is the civilian death count for August: 1,809, the highest monthly total this year.

Like Krugman, however, I fear that Congress will make a political decision to sustain "the surge" and generally defer to the White House. In part, this is because the sight of an Army uniform clouds their judgment; in part, I think, it's because somehow in our society, when we have a choice between "more war" and "less war," the structural factors pointing toward "more war" are almost irresistible. But that might be another discussion for another time.

For now, just don't trust the guy who looks lilke Wade.


Feral said...

Interestingly, Petraeus was shot in the chest in the early 90s during a training exercise and was successfully operated on by none other than a young Bill Frist (who quickly declared him "not somebody in a persistent vegetative state", I'm sure). I wouldn't wanna owe my life to that douche...

David said...

Bill Frist was never young.