In the Arena

Please Go Away–Redux

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The extremist spew over at the Commentary blog–It’s all over for Obama! His Worst Week Yet! Geithner’s Finished!–is occasionally punctuated by a posting of such transcendent ignorance and chutzpah that it can’t be ignored. Such is the case with Pete Wehner’s attack today on Tom Ricks. Wehner was a propagandist for the war in Iraq; Ricks actually covered that war, risking his life on multiple occasions, and producing some of the best reporting available. In fact, Ricks’ recent book, The Gamble–which Wehner clearly has not read–is a celebration of the brilliant work done in 2007 and 2008 by Generals Petraeus and Odierno, and their iconoclastic team. So what’s the problem? Petraeus is a Wehner hero, even if Pete doesn’t quite understand what the general believes or does.

The problem is that Ricks remains relatively pessimistic about Iraq. He is more pessimistic about Iraq than I am, more pessimistic than many of those who served in Iraq with Petraeus are–but then, he knows more than most of us do, so I take his worries seriously.

Right now, the signs are mixed. One very good sign was the local elections, where a coalition of nationalist Shi’ites, plus secular Shi’ites and Sunnis, won convincing victories through much of the country. A less positive sign has been the failure of the government to include the Sunni Awakening Council members into its security forces. These former insurgents, bought and turned by Petraeus, are dangerous, heavily armed men who are not getting paid.

Ricks also believes, as I do, that even if Iraq quiets down, the moral and actual costs to the US were monumental. The impact on our efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan is all too apparent, as this story in today’s New York Times attests. (By the way, this David Brooks column about Afghanistan reflects the experiences I’ve had there, too.) As the story emerges, the Bush policy in the Af/Pak region was every bit as witless as it was in Iraq–and far more dangerous in the long-term, since Pakistan has both nukes and Osama Bin Laden. (You remember him, right?)

Finally, after the lethal incompetence of the Bush Administration, the Obama team is giving Af/Pak the comprehensive strategic attention it deserves. Bush never gave comprehensive strategic attention to anything. He just attacked. He made stupid, offensive, counterproductive statements–Axis of Evil, bring ’em on. And Pete Wehner–who, if he has ever been to Iraq or Afghanistan, has spent a fraction of the time Tom Ricks has spent there–prosyletized the Bush swill as if it were the living gospel.