In the Arena

Chris Matthews Show Kerfuffle

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Lots of speculation in the ether about my disagreement with Andrea Mitchell over what David Petraeus told the Republican Caucus about the surge. She claimed that Petraeus told Republican Senators the surge would show results by September. I said that couldn’t possibly be true…and was about to say more, but stopped when I realized that the specific thing I was about to say I’d learned on an off-the-record basis. So let me make a few points:

1. There’s nothing wrong with Petraeus meeting with Republicans, as some blogger-types have suggested. He also briefed Democrats extensively. I’m not sure that he went to the full Democratic caucus (I’m also not sure that he went to the full GOP caucus). I am sure that he is scrupulous about treating both sides exactly the same.

2. Petraeus and his staff are serious about counterinsurgecy tactics. I am absolutely positive that they are fully aware of the foolishness of setting a timetable for a process that normally takes years to implement. One counterinsurgency expert who served at Fort Leavenworth with Petraeus told me it would be “ten years” before we knew whether tactics were succeeding in Baghdad. He was smiling, but he wasn’t kidding. The Bush people I’ve seen talking about September results were Condi Rice and Robert Gates, who are not familiar with how counterinsurgency works….and also General George Casey, who was setting that unreasonable time-line–I believe–because he didn’t like being replaced and was getting in a little dig at his successor. I haven’t seen or heard Petraeus or any of his staff making any such predictions.

3. As I’ve written before, I disagree with Petraeus. I don’t think the surge will work for three reasons…all of which I learned from Petraeus and his team at Ft. Leavenworth last summer: we need more troops (especially more Arabic-speaking Iraqis–i.e. not Kurds), we need more time and, most important, we need a solid, dependable and sympathetic government to work with in Iraq. That’s why Petraeus keeps saying the war can’t be won militarily. And that’s why these sort of statements from McCain are nonsense: McCain, who knows better, should know that quieter neighborhoods in Baghdad are as significant as quieter neighborhoods were in Tal Afar a year ago…

4. I wrote this when Petraeus was assigned his post in January. I see no reason to change my opinion. The best course of action in Iraq is for us to leave, slowly and carefully, limiting the damage that this historic blunder has caused.

Having said all that, I continue to hope that I’m wrong and Petraeus can bring order to Baghdad. I know the General and his team will give it their all.

Update: It was inevitable that assorted commentator-geniuses would find something just terribly wrong about the fact that I choose to protect my sources. If it weren’t for some very courageous sources in the uniformed military and intelligence communities, I wouldn’t be able to write pieces like this one…and you, dear readers, wouldn’t be finding out things the Bush administration doesn’t want you to find out about. So cut the nonsense. Your disdain for the msm is occasionally apt, but this isn’t one of those occasions.