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