Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Men at Work, Children at Play

Frederick Kagan and William Kristol:
"This week, America heard about Iraq from two serious men, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. They understand Iraq in all its complexity. They have an astonishing mastery of the details of what's going on in almost every part of the country and an amazing grasp of virtually every aspect of a complex war, a multilayered society, and a new and fluid polity. They have clearly thought about the policy options before us with a seriousness appropriate to individuals who, every day, exercise considerable authority and bear great responsibilities. Last week, they were able, despite the comparative shallowness and guile of their questioners, to explain the choices we face with clarity and honesty at a critical moment in our nation's history.

The congressional critics provided quite a contrast with Petraeus and Crocker. If the general and the ambassador were men at work, the congressmen and senators were--with a few notable exceptions--children at play. They spoke almost entirely in generalizations--often months, sometimes years, out of date. They used selective quotations and cherry-picked facts to play "gotcha." They offered no meaningful proposals of their own. Petraeus and Crocker live and breathe Iraq, dealing with life-and-death problems seven days a week. Congress bloviates Tuesday through Thursday. That's one of the reasons to listen to the general and the ambassador rather than the congressional pontificators."

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