THE SURGE….Newsweek interviews Leon Panetta, a member of the Iraq Study Group, about the surge:
When your bipartisan panel came to the conclusion that relying on Iraqi forces and embedding U.S. advisors was the right course of action, rather than a surge, did you think that you were reflecting the consensus of the U.S. military at the time?
Yes. We sat down with military commanders there and here, and none of them said that additional troops would solve the fundamental cause of violence, which was the absence of national reconciliation. We always asked if additional troops were needed. We asked the question of [Gen. George] Casey and others, we asked it of Marine commanders in Anbar. Do you need additional troops? They all said the same thing: we don’t need additional troops at this point; we need to get the Iraqis to assume the responsibility they’re supposed to assume…
Did you interview Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who’s about to take over command of multinational forces in Iraq? What did he recommend? He is now said to be a supporter of the surge.
At that time he was talking about the need to train and embed U.S. forces in the Iraqi army. (laughs)
Basically, Panetta says that virtually no one they interviewed, including members of the Bush administration, favored a troop escalation six months ago. They just didn’t think it would work.
So what’s changed since then? Serious thinking? Or a heaping helping of cynicism?