In a 17 September The Atlantic Dispatch article (Will the Petraeus Strategy Be the Last?) I offer a view from Iraq's restive Anbar province on Congress's recent Iraq hearings.
... We learned from the hearings that Petraeus has established a new model that hinges on local police control, a goal that I advocated several months ago in The Atlantic. This approach has been bringing security to the Sunni areas. To prevent a flare-up of sectarian killings in Baghdad, though, the rogue JAM elements that have burrowed into the social fabric of the majority-Shiite areas must be removed.
The Democrats don't have the votes to force a rapid withdrawal. That the Iraqi politicians will have reached reconciliation agreements by March, mollifying the Democrats, seems highly unlikely. Yet when Petraeus testifies in March, if progress on the military front has continued and he recommends further withdrawals, the Democrats will be hard pressed to urge an even faster pullout. It seems likely that the presidential debate about Iraq will then focus on past mistakes, not on an immediate drawdown.
The intent of the hearings was to drive a wedge between the military and the administration. "We trust the military to tell the truth, but not the administration," was the message of the Democratic leadership. Apparently not understanding that, some questioners proceeded to challenge the veracity and independence of the witnesses. Many of the "questions" during the hearings were rants, with the questioners coming across as self-absorbed whiners who diminished their political cause.
President Bush was also opportunistic. In his television address on September 13, he advanced his policies as if they'd been designed by General Petraeus. While President Bush has the virtue of wanting to prevail, spare us from politicians of both parties who seek partisan advantage by wrapping themselves in the flag.
Insisting that a professional soldier—and a professional diplomat—testify, and then attacking the policies they did not create but were duty bound to carry out, sets a terrible precedent. This hearing, with its querulous, self-pitying tone, was a bad idea badly executed. It should not be repeated in March. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is the proper official to defend administration policy.
Our military should be kept separate from political debate.
Read the entire article at The Atlantic.
Related link (Update): Eating Soup with a Spoon - LTC Gian Gentile, Armed Forces Journal