Dissenting View on Petraeus Testimony

Interestingly, Col. Pat Lang, a staunch opponent of this war for as long as I can remember, offers one of the most generous assessments I’ve seen of General Petraeus’ testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. Contrary to the prevailing notion — mine included — that nothing new has come out, he found Petraeus deflecting credit that has been given to him on some key points and fighting against some of the conventional wisdom of the GOP hawks.

Beyond that, there’s no way to excerpt or summarize without simply pasting the whole post here. Just go read it instead.

Perhaps the problem is that the hype that presaged these hearings built up expectations to ridiculous levels. As Phil Carter puts it, “we basically thought Moses himself was bringing down the word of God on a set of tablets.” Perhaps disappointment was inevitable.

Phil’s right here, too:

Instead, we got a very workmanlike report from two men who remain incredibly, almost impossibly optimistic about the situation. I think their optimism is natural; a commander must project such confidence to his troops if he hopes to inspire them and lead them into harm’s way.

The idea that Petraeus and Crocker are lying administration shills is silly; optimism is just in their job description. But wishing doesn’t make things so, either.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    If you are looking for new things. Petraeus also stated that the White House in no way interfered with his report, which is counter to your speculation running up to the report.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Petraeus also stated that the White House in no way interfered with his report

    I think he said that his testimony was not run through the White House.

  3. Hal says:

    I’m reminded of DSquared’s One Minute MBA, or “Avoiding Projects Pursued By Morons 101”.

    Fibbers’ forecasts are worthless. Case after miserable case after bloody case we went through, I tell you, all of which had this moral. Not only that people who want a project will tend to make inaccurate projections about the possible outcomes of that project, but about the futility of attempts to “shade” downward a fundamentally dishonest set of predictions. If you have doubts about the integrity of a forecaster, you can’t use their forecasts at all. Not even as a “starting point”. By the way, I would just love to get hold of a few of the quantitative numbers from documents prepared to support the war and give them a quick run through Benford’s Law.

  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I really wonder who to believe. The General in charge of the operation or people who have no idea what Iraq looks like and have a vested interest in failure. Seems most of America believes the Genreal. Go figure.

  5. yetanotherjohn says:


    I admit to not remembering the exact language, but here is what you wrote.

    The long-touted September progress report wherein counterinsurgency guru David Petraeus will tell us how the Surge is going won’t actually be written by Petraeus. And, no, it’s not just that he’s going to staff it out like he did the COIN manual he “wrote.” No, it’ll be written in the White House.

    So whether is wasn’t “run throught the White House” or “Was without White House interference”, your earlier speculation that it will be ‘written in the White House’ doesn’t seem to hold water. You can count that as something new you learned.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Here’s what Petraeus said:

    “I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by nor shared with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or the Congress.” [emphasis mine]

    He doesn’t claim to have authored the report, merely his testimony on it.