As Henry James once said, we see what we bring.
Many staunch critics of the Iraq War were absolutely convinced that Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker would come to Washington ready to do what was variously described as a “hard sell,” a “snow job,” and a “con,” as the Daily Kos put it.
I heard about half the two days of testimony on radio, watched almost an hour of the duo with Jim Lehrer, and read the newspaper stories. All I can say is, if they wanted to talk Americans into feeling more optimistic about the prospects in Iraq, they sure failed at the task. With optimists like these, we don’t really need pessimists.
“Snow job”? “Hard sell”? If you tuned in on radio, sometimes you couldn’t tell whether it was Petraeus, Crocker, or some harsh Dem critic talking. I didn’t hear anything I could describe as blue-sky, gung ho optimism. If these guys were used car salesmen, the dialogue would have gone like this:
Buyer: Uh, do you think this car will continue to run pretty well for a year or so?
General: That contingency is certainly within the scope of what we hope the car will achieve during the mission over the next year. I do have to add that a number of factors remain uncertain, such as road conditions and unforeseen shortages of maintenance personnel. These issues make long-term projections exceedingly difficult.
Buyer: Oh. Well, the engine mounts seem pretty loose. You don’t think the engine will fall out during the next 100 miles, do you?
Crocker: Again, we’re assuming that the horrible road conditions of 2006 don’t recreate themselves, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure that they don’t. I would point out, sir, with all due respect, that a year ago only one of the four motor mounts securing the engine was actually operative; today, we have two mounts holding the engine in place, and while one of those mounts is heavily corroded with rust, we do believe that this constitutes some degree of progress and gives reason for cautious optimism in our projections about engine stability.
I don’t know what Bush will say tonight, but if these are the chief salesmen for the strategy, I’d say the window of possibility for success is narrow indeed. I think they’re telling the truth as they see it, not gilding it much at all.
Squint hard, they seem to say, and you may see a candle flickering at the end of the tunnel. Or it may be a burning Humvee struck by an IED.
On another sad note, two of the soldiers who wrote the New York Times op-ed expressing doubts about our prospects in Iraq were killed in a Baghdad crash this week.