Thursday, March 22, 2007

Is Petraeus Being Played? 
Pat Lasswell lifts and drops the question on your plate.

At a late night meeting with senior political players in Iraq, concerns were raised about General Petraeus' ability to distinguish friend from foe in Baghdad. The heart of the problem lies with the importance of the former Ba'ath party members and their involvement in the Islamic Party of Iraq. My sources claim to hold documents from April 2003 from Saddam's Headquarters directing Ba'ath loyalists to join the Islamic Party and gain control of it. They are also very experienced in the brutal political realities of Iraq. Of significant concern to my hosts was the movement from Mosul to Baghdad of the leader of the Islamic Party that Petraeus worked with when he was in command of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). My hosts also worked with General Petraeus during that time and had met him repeatedly. They assessed him as very smart and quite well organized and had nothing disparaging to say about his character or leadership, however, his political savvy in tumultuous Iraq was questioned.

I don't think any American alive can fully grasp the tribal and internecine politics of Iraq as well as an educated and experienced native. Knowing whom to trust is one of those intangible qualities that requires as much luck and skill. And even the best can pick a bad horse to ride - Chalabi being a case in point.

It may also be true that no Iraqi alive can be entirely trustworthy to the U.S., at least at the higher echelons of power - and expect to retain the structural integrity of his neck - much less his position of authority.

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of the ascendance of Democrats to power in Congress and the political and cultural successes of the antiwar movement more generally is that as Bush's term in office draws near a close, continued American commitment to victory must come under question.

Any rational Iraqi actor will then begin to hedge his bets - and that extends to all levels of Iraqi politics.

The sheikhs are vaguely aware of how American politics works. Some of them speak English, and some have even lived in the United States and Great Britain. When Americans waver, they will become more willing to deal with bad actors, even terrorists, whose commitment does not waver.

This is the risk calculus upon which American success depends, and is very much a contest of will as well as perception. Expectation of victory, in this sense, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; as does, alas, a resignation to defeat.

Splash, out


With the Democrats having problems with their anti-war agenda, the Vietnam era veterans becoming more vocal as our Gathering of Eagles in D.C. last weekend demonstrates, and the slow realization by the media that they might be on the wrong side of the issue, gives me hope that the perceptions about progress in the Iraqi front in the War against Islamicfascism might be changing. Now if only the newscasts, the headlines and the Democrats’ public statements will start reflecting this so that the enemy sees and hears it.
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