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More troops? "We do need more troops - and the troops we need are Iraqis."
Less troops? "Under the current circumstances I would not recommend troop withdrawals."
Both comments delivered to the Senate this week by CENTCOM commander General John Abizaid.
Want a glimpse of the future? Watch the video of General Abizaid's appearance (via CSPAN) before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week (real player). The media has made much of Gen Abizaid's comments at this meeting - and they are of obvious importance. But what really matters here are what the Senators asked, and how they responded to his answers.
You probably don't have 4 1/2 hours to watch the whole thing. Some highlights:
Skip forward to 1:15:45. Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida starts with this statement, "I trust you... You have been - to me - the most forthcoming witness as you have appeared before this committee."
During the exchange, the General makes the quote at the top of this post, and also describes the details of what a "withdraw" from Iraq would entail.
Then watch Senator McCain's section immediately after. Excerpt:
Sen McCain: Would it make sense to say it might be well to get both Baghdad and al Anbar province under control...?
Gen Abizaid: ...You can't have a "main effort" everywhere... the preponderance of military activity needs to go into the Baghdad area.
Sen McCain: I don't understand that tactic, General.
Later, the Senator attempts to conclude: ...I regret deeply that you seem to think the status quo and the rate of progress we're making is acceptable, I think most Americans do not.
But the General robbed him of his sound bite: Well Senator I agree with you. The status quo is not acceptable. And I don't believe what I'm saying here today is the status quo. I am saying we must significantly increase our ability to help the Iraqi army by putting more American troops with Iraqi units in military transition teams - to speed the amount of training that is done, to speed the amount of heavy weapons that get there, and to speed the ability of Iraqi troops to deploy. It's a very difficult thing to do. Senator I believe in my heart of hearts that the Iraqis must win this battle - with our help."
McCain - arguing for an increase in US combat troops in Iraq, refused to yield the last word: "You and I have significant disagreement." (In support of his "more troops is better" campaign the Senator also invokes comments from some other generals we've discussed here recently - they may not be gone after all.)
After that - if you've time to spare - you can watch Senator Dayton explain why he has no business in the room, as he quotes recent bestsellers to the General and demands he clarify whether quotes others therein allege he made are accurate.
The first two exchanges I've highlighted above may well shape the serious "Iraq debate" in the coming months. Don't believe what you read in the papers - watch for yourself.
Update: Thanks to Soldier's Dad for the link to the transcript.
Early in which Senator Warner announces a schedule:
...we as Congress, and particularly the Senate, through our Committee on Armed Services, have to consider at least five developments between today and late in December.Looks like most of the details of the next year in Iraq might be ironed out before January. That should give the new congress time to deal with other issues before turning back to this one. I think the elected Democrats will be okay with that - some of their supporters may be disappointed. (Sound bites and occassional Kos/HuffPo rants will be provided for their benefit.)
First, this very important hearing today. This is a most appropriate and timely way to perform the committee's first step in our thorough review of this situation.
Secondly, our committee, as the White House forwards the nomination of Robert Gates to the Senate, will provide Dr. Gates with an opportunity to share his views on the future strategies in Iraq.
Thirdly the Baker-Hamilton Study Group will submit their report. Depending on the timing of their report, Senator Levin and I will renew our invitation to members of that group to come before our committee and to give us a briefing.
Fourth, General Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has undertaken an independent study among his own military analysts. Likewise, I've spoken to him desiring that he and such colleagues as he wish come before the committee and provide us with the advice that he'll be giving to the president.
Finally, the committee will benefit from the overall dialogue between the government of Iraq, our coalition partners, other nations, as the Security Council resolution progresses. That is the revised one.
By the way, want to guess the number of times "Afghanistan" was mentioned by a Senator during that 4.5-hour discussion? No need - the answer is "2".
Senator McCain has many fine qualities, but his judgment on military matters has been questionable before. (Certainly his perception of and prior face saving cover he gave to John Kerry was a preipheral example.)
He's outmatched by GEN Abizaid. I woulkd think Baghdad will be enough of a challenge, and as Baghdad goes, so goes the Nation. If it fractures, so does the rest of Iraq.
Main effort, if we still seek victory.
The only thing McCain can't understand is how come one of the best, brightest, and respected of military generals doesn't agree with him and give him fawning attention.
This man will be trouble. He's stabbed his party in the back before, I'm quite sure he'll do it again. Bush tried to run right, McCain will run left. (If only because George went the OTHER way.)Posted by dadmanly at November 17, 2006 01:46 PM
"You probably don't have 4 1/2 hours to watch the whole thing."
Transcript here...Soldier's Dad at November 17, 2006 03:06 PM
"Bush tried to run right, McCain will run left. (If only because George went the OTHER way.)"
That is my major problem with McCain, and the reason he is the darling of the MSM. McCain typically sees himself as a voice of reason when many of us see him as a contrarian. McCain has one true love and that is John McCain.
In behavior therapy, we reward small increases in the behavior we want to see. By providing him attention and ink when he shifts a bit towards the contrarian (read left) you can almost see him brighten and shift a tad bit more to the left. He is so easily manipulated by attention, he thinks they (the MSM) are following him, not leading him. And that, my friends, is precisely why he would make a dangerous president.Posted by GM Roper at November 18, 2006 02:00 PM
Yes, GM, clearly McCain is led to his decisions on the basis of his calculated media coverage. Sadly, there are few doing otherwise.Posted by Mr. Snitch! at November 18, 2006 02:07 PM
I particularly liked his exchange with Senator Hillary, the '08 Dem Prez hopeful.
Hillary: "Hope is not a strategy, General."
Abizaid: "Despair is not a method, Senator."Posted by Salamantis at November 18, 2006 02:40 PM
John McCain is an empty suit. He is not very bright. He looked good once upon a time and had a rich wife. His reputation comes from his losing campaign when he had nothing to loose and courted reporters who were bored (and stuck on his bus).
McCain does not/cannot thing a subject all the way through before opening his mouth. Watch him, what he says and does. This man is being poised to take on (and lose) to Hillary. Either way he is a disaster.
The Emperor is not wearing any clothes.Posted by AndyJ at November 18, 2006 03:01 PM
Our two biggest (maybe insurmountable, depending upon events) impediments to victory in Iraq and the larger war on militant Islamic Facsism are the lack of political amongst our political class and the population at large.
Impatience and faltering will are our enemy's best ally.Posted by Tim at November 18, 2006 03:41 PM
It is for this sort of thing that Washington lobbied hard to vest the CinC with sole authority of Command. War by committee tends to get you to the point of lots of people around a table trying to figure out where to actually *fight*... and then astonished that the enemy has taken over the place where the meeting was being held.
The Armed Forces of the US have performed a miracle or 10 and now these folks want more from Iraqis than we demand of ourselves? When one of these wonderful Congresscritters can tell me how long they think it will take to stand up a competent and trustworthy Iraqi NCO Corps, then I might listen to them. Until then they are talking to hear themselves speak, and doing no good with that.Posted by ajacksonian at November 18, 2006 04:55 PM
I think some clarification may be in order.
McCain is advocating for more combat troops in Iraq - those who will go toe-to-toe with the insurgents. This position probably won't endear him to "the Left" - or even the center.
General Abizaid is calling for more troops too - but he wants more troops assigned to Iraqi units to act as advisors - not more combat batallions.
Senator Nelson - a Florida Democrat - is making good on a campaign promise from many Democrats to "listen to the Generals". For the record, here's Senator Nelson's position on Iraq, from his Senate home page: "...we cannot leave Iraq until the Iraqi security forces are fully trained and the Iraqi government is both stable and representative."
Meanwhile, over in the House, next year's majority leader (elected by his Democrat colleagues in a landslide over John Murtha) is being excoriated by Left Wing extremists for comments like this: "I believe that a precipitous withdrawal of American forces in Iraq could lead to disaster, spawning a civil war, fostering a haven for terrorists and damaging our nation's security and credibility."
For my part, here's something from an earlier entry in this series:
This fits in with another aspect of that "media invasion" - divide and conquer America. Sap the will of half the people, and the other half will not be able to confront a (seemingly) distant enemy while being obstructed on the home front. Until now that split has been defined by political party affiliation. But any upcoming "compromise" will likely have the interesting impact of alienating half of Republican voters and half of the Democrats -each for different reasons, of course, but this promises a potentially interesting variation from the pre-election partisan separation.
...as individuals shift their positions on Iraq (centrist Dems, Repubs, and Independents seek common ground while extremists and "party uber alles" types on both sides move to the fringes) I predict the media will pander to the minority - those extremists, who will make great headlines.
You'll be able to identify the extremes - one side will call for "troops home now" while on the other side "don't listen to Democrats - they want the troops home now!" will rally the faithful.
The rest of us will work to "fix" Iraq.
How does any of this differ from what Rumsfeld said or did?Posted by edh at November 18, 2006 05:18 PM
edh: shhhhhhhh... they'll hear you...Posted by Greyhawk at November 18, 2006 06:18 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(11) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)