In the Arena

General Casey Suggests

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I was airborne this morning and missed the first part of General George Casey’s testimony before the Armed Services Committee, but apparently John McCain gave Casey a tough time.

I know there’s belated sympathy for Casey. He’s obviously uncomfortable with Bush’s new strategy in Iraq. But that doesn’t mean Casey wasn’t an utter failure when it came to (a) standing up to Rumsfeld on Iraq and (b) securing Baghdad. His, and General Abizaid’s, strategy of trying to “clear” Baghdad neighborhoods with troops that were not based in those communities was doomed to failure from the start. And his recent statements about pulling troops out of Baghdad as soon as August betray a fundamental lack of knowledge about counterinsurgency tactics (or worse–they may be a pissy attempt to undermine Petraeus’s mission).
Worse, as I watch the hearings, Casey now seems to be doing the same old thing: insisting that things are turning for the better in Anbar, that the Iraqis have turned a new leaf.

“I have watched prime minister Maliki grow over the last eight months…”

Oh please. The reason why the surge probably won’t work now is that we don’t have a reliable Iraqi government–and Maliki remains a Shi’ite partisan, very much in the thrall of the militias. The use of classic counterinsurgency tactics in Baghdad might have worked if Casey had adopted them when he arrived in 2004–but that would have required more troops, more risk to those troops and a U.S. emphasis on order rather than the awkward, hollow, if vaguely noble attempt to bring democracy to Iraq.

Senator Jack Reed, perhaps the best-informed Democrat when it comes to national security matters, is doing some very effective questioning RIGHT NOW.

Update: Reed was raising the crucial question of what the Iraqi response to the surge would be. Won’t the Shi’ite militias hunker down, wait us out and then sprout again when U.S. troops are drawn down? Weren’t the Sunni insurgents more likely to keep on bombing in Baghdad? Casey agreed sort of…and then repeated that we’d know by August if Baghdad were calming down, but made a significant modification in his earlier statements about pulling troops out. He said withdrawals would be up to Petraeus.

Reed put his finger on the problem: the Shi’ites–who will ultimately rule Iraq–are content to wait us out before they resume their ethnic cleansing and/or genocide of the remaining Sunnis in Baghdad.

And it should always be remembered: None of this would be happening if Bush hadn’t made the hasty and historically idiotic decision to invade Iraq in the first place.

Meanwhile, this from a reader:

“I was airborne this morning”
To much Meth, vodka, and poppers last night?

Wouldn’t you like to know.