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September 10, 2007

Petraeus' Performance Iraq  Politics

Watching Petraeus' performance, you get the impression that great strides are being made in Iraq. But note what he actually said: by mid-July of next year, if all goes well, the US should be able to go back to the same number of troops it had before the surge. I.e., the withdrawal he's talking about is withdrawal of the surge. Back to where we were before. That's all. Nearly a year from now. And after that — who knows. Petraeus:

Force reductions will continue beyond the pre-surge levels of brigade combat teams that we will reach by mid-July 2008. However, in my professional judgment, it would be premature to make recommendations on the pace of such reductions at this time.

Petraeus comes across as smart, competent, straight-forward, on top of things. No wonder, given how much prep and practice he's had. Still, you listen to him and you think, wow, that's encouraging.

But Iraqis beg to differ. BBC:

Coming at a crucial moment, a new BBC/ABC News opinion poll suggests ordinary Iraqis have a damning verdict on the US surge.

The poll, conducted in August, also indicates that Iraqi opinion is at its gloomiest since the BBC/ABC News polls began in February 2004.

According to this latest poll, in key areas - security and the conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development - between 67 and 70% of Iraqis, or more than two-thirds, say the surge has made things worse. [...]

Since the last BBC/ABC News poll in February, the number of Iraqis who think that US-led coalition forces should leave immediately has risen sharply, from 35 to 47%, although that does mean that a small majority - 53% - still says the forces should stay until security has improved.

But 85% of Iraqis say they have little or no confidence in US and UK forces. [...]

In terms of quality of life, 80% of Iraqis say the availability of jobs is bad or very bad, 93% say the same about electricity supplies, 75% for clean water, 92% for fuel.

And 77% of Iraqis say the ability to live where they want, without persecution, is bad or very bad. [...]

There are some more encouraging results.

Sixty-two per cent of Iraqis still say Iraq should have a unified central government, and 98% say it would be a bad thing for the country to separate along sectarian lines. [...]

This is the fourth BBC/ABC News poll since the US-led invasion. And the polling reveals two great divides.

The first is between the relative optimism recorded in November 2005, and the gloom reflected in the two polls conducted this year. [...]

The other great divide is that revealed between the Sunni and Shia communities.

Eighty-eight per cent of Sunnis say things are going badly in their lives.

Fifty-four per cent of Shias think they are going well.

Also, strikingly, 93% of Sunnis say attacks on coalition forces are acceptable, compared with 50% of Shia (the overall total is 57%). [...]

But both communities think equally overwhelmingly (by 98%) that sectarian separation is a bad thing. Iraqis are also somewhat suspicious of their neighbours.

Seventy-nine per cent of them think that Iran is actively encouraging sectarian violence in their country, 66% think the same of Syria and 65% think likewise about Saudi Arabia. [Emphasis added]

It's helpful, too, to know that people close to Petraeus call him "a walking mass of ambition" and "the most competitive person I have ever known — ever," a man who will not just beat you but "make a point of it." And he probably wants to be President. So take his performance with a heaping helping of salt.

And there's this. Military leaders are not supposed to be the ones to sell a policy. That's supposed to be a job for civilians. The White House is hiding behind the general, using the general to cow Congress, which is not how a democracy is supposed to work.

Posted by Jonathan at September 10, 2007 06:24 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb