ONE FRIEDMAN FROM NOW….Gen. David Petraeus’s gaffe (later retracted) that he didn’t know if the Iraq war is making us safer got a lot of press yesterday, but I think Fred Kaplan nails a couple of exchanges that might have been more important:
The Democratic chairman, Sen. Joseph Biden, asked Petraeus whether he would recommend a continuation of the strategy — with 130,000 to 160,000 U.S. troops shooting and dying in Iraq — if the situation next March were the same as it is now.
Petraeus replied, “That’s a really big hypothetical.” Biden said, “I don’t think it’s a hypothetical.” So Petraeus stepped up and answered the question. He said, “I’d be very hard-pressed to recommend that, at that point.”
….Sen. Barack Obama asked Crocker a related question: “At what point do we say, ‘Enough’?”….The level of violence, he said, needs to go down and stay down. Iraqi insurgents need to display the same sort of political cooperation that Sunni tribes are now displaying in Anbar province. Linkage needs to be developed between the central government in Baghdad and provinces where this sort of progress is taking place. And the Baghdad government needs to combat Shiite, as well as Sunni, militias.
….When Petraeus and Crocker return to Congress in March 2008, these words will no doubt be read back to them.
No doubt. The question is, will it matter?