By Freedom Newspapers
Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect much more, but given the buildup, Monday’s report on Iraq was a little disappointing.
However, it is true that Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had little to talk about.
Perhaps it is to their credit they did not try to inflate the modest progress they see in Iraq into more than it is.
Gen. Petraeus was able to report notable success in Anbar province, where Sunni tribal leaders who were resisting U.S. occupation forces a year ago decided that the foreign-led al-Qaida in Iraq are worse customers and have allied with the U.S.
He also noted modestly reduced levels of violence in Baghdad and said repeatedly that more Iraqi troops are being trained and are taking more responsibility.
He didn’t stress that the tribal decisions in Anbar were made independently of the U.S. military surge, or that there is less violence in Baghdad because there are almost no Sunni-Shia mixed neighborhoods anymore.
Crocker’s job was more difficult, because there has been almost none of the political progress the military “surge” was supposed to facilitate. So he talked about the past, stressing how difficult it made the present political situation in Iraq, and about a few meetings that may have set the stage for future progress.
More notable were the key questions not answered.
Has the ongoing commitment in Iraq helped or hurt the global struggle against jihadist terrorists?
How seriously has the U.S. military been degraded?
What will be the long-term impact on ready reserves and the National Guard?
Could the U.S. respond to an unexpected event elsewhere?
Is there a chance the Iraqi government will get it together without a credible threat of U.S. withdrawal?
What threat would an Iraq embroiled in civil war present to the United States itself?
Is there a definition of success in Iraq that is more than star-spangled rhetoric?
The recommendation Gen. Petraeus made, that the number of U.S. military personnel in place in Iraq be reduced back to 130,000 by next summer, would have had to be done whether or not there was evidence of success.
We’ll see whether these desultory presentations firm up support for staying the course or push some wavering Republicans into the early-withdrawal camp.