General Petraeus used the term 'calculus' several times in his testimony yesterday to describe the situation in Iraq. Based on my own nightmares with that subject in college it seems apropos in relation to our current predicament.
Not surprisingly we're seeing the left in a frenzy to spin the testimony or find the gotcha moments proving their superior judgment and intellectual acumen while the right scrambles around trying to defend all the accusations. Same ole childish same old.
Perhaps the most anticipated session was Barack Obama's, so let's go to the video tape:
Apparently Crooks and Liars missed Obama's confusion over Iraq and Iran (see how silly this game can be?) but as to substance, he focused on the minutiae of departure points. In other words, there will always be some influence from these anti-US groups but at what point is some not enough to justify our continued long-term presence? Good question, hard answer.
Obama's final statement focused on finite US resources being the determining factor of our tenure, ie, we can't stay for 20 more years under the current status quo. Aside from the fact that such a statement borders on the irresponsible in open testimony since it can telegraph weakness to the enemy, the question needing an answer is not how much will cost if we stay, but how much it will cost if we leave then are forced to return should things go south after our departure. Or whether Obama would return at all.
Let's do a derivative here (ouch). If America pulls out and the region flares into a full-scale war we couldn't simply turn a blind eye--after all, we helped to start it. Ignoring such a thing in the face of skyrocketing oil prices and a direct threat to our allies, not only in Israel but in Jordan, Turkey and the Emirates, would be grossly irresponsible and certainly as costly, if not more. And just think what it would do to our reputation around the world.
How about an integral (groan). If the recent 'bombshell' from the Jerusalem Post regarding the contents stored at that curious little facility in eastern Syria blown up by the Israelis last fall is correct then it certainly makes things more serious. It goes toward the original move made by going into Iraq in the first place--oil and democracy yes, but to stop a madman from passing off his WMDs or knowledge to others. Some will say it didn't work (the same folks who say he never had them) but had we not taken him out, he'd still have the capability. If we leave and his knowledge or material resides in the Bekaa Valley or elsewhere how does that make us safer?
In sum, nobody disputes the fact that remaining in Iraq is expensive. We can certainly walk out like we did in 1983, 1991 and 1993 and save some cash but if history is our judge it will embolden the enemy to an even greater level and threaten the safety of Americans and our allies, the current benchmark for using military forces. Actually, both forks in the road might lead to eventual disaster yet only one is being dissected at the moment since it's under ownership of the GOP. The alternative is owned by the Democrats therefore it remains a fuzzy hypothetical.
It would have been nice if the testimony could lead to an impartial study of both forks to reach a Congressional consensus but we all know it was really about shifting blame before the presidential elections. We've gotten ourselves into a situation where the long-term future of both political parties rests squarely on success/failure in Iraq, which naturally causes both sides to focus on themselves and not America in general. Will any future leader be able to bring the sides together?