Petraeus Report Won’t be Written by Petraeus

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.

Interestingly, that lede is buried on page 2 of Julian E. Barnes and Peter Spiegel‘s story in today’s LAT.

Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq’s warring sects has created some tension within the White House.

Despite Bush’s repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government. And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report’s data.

The senior administration official said the process had created “uncomfortable positions” for the White House because of debates over what constitutes “satisfactory progress.” During internal White House discussion of a July interim report, some officials urged the administration to claim progress in policy areas such as legislation to divvy up Iraq’s oil revenue, even though no final agreement had been reached. Others argued that such assertions would be disingenuous. “There were some in the drafting of the report that said, ‘Well, we can claim progress,’ ” the administration official said. “There were others who said: ‘Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it’s not credible to . . . just neglect the fact that it’s had no effect on the ground.’ “

Now, I didn’t expect the report to be an objective view of the situation totally divorced from politics. But I did figure they’d at least take reasonable steps to at least present that illusion.

Doing it this way is so mindnumbingly stupid as to defy measurement. The whole point of the September report was to 1) freeze the political debate until a set point in the future and 2) present the views of trusted experts on the ground that, while there remains a lot of work to be done, there is real progress being made and therefore 3) we need more time. If this is just the White House’s view of the situation, the first two advantages are rendered moot.

Hat tip: John Cole

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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    I’m Shocked! Shocked I tell you!

    I guess we’ll just need another 6 months to determine if we’re winning or not:

    Some officials say they expect Petraeus to push for maintaining the current force level for at least six additional months to build upon security improvements in Baghdad.

  2. Triumph says:

    The whole point of the September report was to 1) freeze the political debate until a set point in the future and 2) present the views of trusted experts on the ground that, while there remains a lot of work to be done, there is real progress being made and therefore 3) we need more time.

    Im not sure if these were the reasons for the Sept. Report. Rather, the whole escapade was simply designed to keep Congress off of Bush’s back as he runs out the clock on his presidency and the disaster he’s created in Iraq.

    Remember, this is the guy who said we were “absolutely winning” three weeks before the election last year and when the Republicans lost control of COngress, all of the sudden he fires his war architect and announces a new strategy.

    Bush is a coward whose main goal at this point is to bide his time until retirement and hope Congress doesn’t get the backbone to impeach him.

  3. It’s Getting Better All The Time…

    by matttbastard

    Holy shit, the ’surge’ really IS working!
    Intent on demonstrating progress in Iraq, the top U.S. general there is expected by Bush administration officials to recommend removing American troops soon from several areas wher…

  4. Wayne says:

    Any positive statement in the report will have to be back up by the views of people like Petraeus and Ryan Crocker. All the negatives will be accepted as true and all the positive will be scrutinized with a fine toothcomb by Dems in Congress. Of course if Petraeus is the originator of positive news, the Dems will search high and low throughout the government to find someone who disagrees with him.

    Petraeus and Ryan Crocker will have a hard time doing their jobs since they will be testifying in front of a great number of congressional committees.

  5. […] today’s LAT report, see James Joyner and John […]

  6. Ed Kedzierski says:

    Its General Petraeus please give him the respect he deserves.

  7. Anderson says:

    Petraeus and Ryan Crocker will have a hard time doing their jobs since they will be testifying in front of a great number of congressional committees.

    Boo hoo, cry me a river. Who ever heard of a top general and an important ambassador actually having to report to Congress?

    Unprecedented, surely. I guess someone else besides Petraeus will have to personally lead attack squads into al-Qaeda strongholds.

  8. Wayne says:

    I never been one much for titles. I respect the jobs people do but a person stands on their own character not their title in my book.

    Anderson
    “Boo hoo, cry me a river. Who ever heard of a top general and an important ambassador actually having to report to Congress?”

    Evidently you don’t watch C-Span much. The Iraqi Ambassador and many top Generals have testified before Congress. Your statements are asinine.

    A good General can make a great deal of difference and I have personal experience in that area.

  9. Anderson says:

    Wayne, 2:45 – Evidently you don’t watch C-Span much. The Iraqi Ambassador and many top Generals have testified before Congress. Your statements are asinine.

    Wayne, 2:00 – Petraeus and Ryan Crocker will have a hard time doing their jobs since they will be testifying in front of a great number of congressional committees.

    Wayne, meet Wayne; y’all settle this among yourselves, okay?

  10. […] James Joyner notes that the report will actually be written by the WH, which he believes will undermine the report’s credibility a great deal. Posted By: Sister Toldjah in: Iraq, Middle East | EMail This Post | Print This Post |    Trackback URI for this post: http://sistertoldjah.com/archives/2007/08/15/lat-petraeus-is-expected-to-propose-a-partial-pullback-in-his-september-briefing/trackback/ » […]

  11. Andy says:

    Petraeus can just file this report where ever it was that he misplaced the 190,000 small arms. Then he can spend 6-18 months looking for it.

  12. Wayne says:

    Anderson

    How are my two statements contradictory?

  13. Anjin-San says:

    Andy,

    Lets now forget about several billion dollars which went missing while Gen. Petaeus was responsible for it.

  14. bains says:

    Wow…

    John Cole pointing out a LATimes article favorable to his proclivities. And you think that’s important? Unlike John, and all his newly found panting puppies, I’ll wait till the report comes out before skewering assessing it.

  15. […] Petraeus may exist in name […]

  16. […] Unfortunately, it really makes General Petraeus look no-too-relevant in the grand scheme of things. James notes: Doing it this way is so mindnumbingly stupid as to defy measurement. The whole point of the […]

  17. davod says:

    Bains:

    I would add to your excellent statement – A senior administration official? A Demonrat holdover?

  18. Michael says:

    And now it seems that the Petraeus Report may not even be presented by Petraeus:

    White House officials suggested to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that Petraeus and Crocker would brief lawmakers in a closed session before the release of the report, congressional aides said. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would provide the only public testimony.

    So I guess the rest of us won’t even know what the Report says, only what the White House says the report says. And as we already know, the White House has been given the authority to interpret what the report says. Anybody still think September is going to give us any real incite into the progress and potential of the war?

  19. Andy says:

    Its General Petraeus please give him the respect he deserves.

    Heh. I wonder how much respect an enlisted man in the U.S military gets when he loses track of his rifle. I guess it’s only okay if you lose them in quantities of 10,000 or more.

  20. Wayne says:

    What about the billions of dollars unaccounted for in the U.S. and equipment lost for the last 20 years? The department of Education is one of the major offenders. Should we close them down? And this is from a country that is supposedly without internal conflict. I won’t even go into projects like the big ditch of Teddy Kennedy.

    What a bunch of hypocrites to condemn another country for not being able to do something that we ourselves can’t do. They are probably the same people who condemn Iraq for not securing its borders.