When in doubt, launch a character assassination attack.
That has been the trend in recent months since the surge has begun to show results. Faced with growing empirical evidence showing falling Iraqi casualties, growing Iraqi discontent with al Qaeda, 41 dead al Qaeda today alone, and even some progress among Iraq's fractured political and ethnic groups, "progressive" politicians and bloggers have launched a counter-offensive.
One of the signature tactics has been an attack on General Petraeus' character, honesty and competence. (Oh, and they attacked Joint Chiefs Chairman Pace, too). It began perhaps in June with Harry Reid, and has continued through today with The CarpetBagger Report: Petraeus ’softened’ the NIE?:
Last week, a declassified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq said there has been “measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation,” in the midst of what was otherwise a gloomy and depressing report. Indeed, the NIE added that, despite some security improvements, severe violence in Iraq was likely to continue over the next six to 12 months.
As it turns out, the NIE may have intended to go further, but Gen. Petraeus gave the report a little touch-up:
"The NIE, requested by the White House Iraq coordinator, Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, in preparation for the testimony, met with resistance from U.S. military officials in Baghdad, according to a senior U.S. military intelligence officer there. Presented with a draft of the conclusions, Petraeus succeeded in having the security judgments softened to reflect improvements in recent months, the official said."
In other words, intelligence agencies were poised to paint an even bleaker picture of Iraqi’s security situation, but Petraeus apparently lobbied for wording such as “measurable but uneven improvements.”
If I'm reading this right, the charge is that Petraeus himself convinced the NIE to whitewash the report? Clearly, the man is an omnipotent force to be reckoned with. CarpetBagger wants its readers to believe Petraeus is an "errand boy" for the White House, rather than a responsible General risking his life for his country.
The way I read the Washington Post story, Petraeus asked the NIE to include recent realities on the ground, and the NIE complied.
Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly takes a more subtle approach. In a "surge report card," he lists a series of bullets points and links giving an assessment of the surge. To his credit, Drum allows:
Petraeus seems to be doing a good job on the counterinsurgency front
But of course, the caveat:
(though it's frankly hard to say how much of this is good PR based on a limited number of success stories and how much is genuine widespread progress).
Among Drum's brief analysis of the surge, he concludes that:
1) Anbar is a success (Of course, this has been reported for months now), but not due to the surge...
2) If the Sheiks can "finish off" AQI in Anbar (with out help), what does that say about the conventional liberal wisdom that America is creating more Jihadi's than it's killing?
2) Drum is a huge fan of the word "anecdotal," whatever that means,
3) military advice to stay in Iraq for a decade is somehow undermining the war effort, and
4) the British are leaving Southern Iraq (Just as Brown Refuses To Set Iraq Withdrawal Timetable)
5) Drum cites the Brookings Iraq Index (the same Brookings of the now hated O'Hanlon and Pollack).
The conventional wisdom this summer, after a steady round of dog-and-pony shows from the military, says that although political progress in Iraq is nil (or even in reverse), at least we're finally making some tactical progress on the security front. And maybe we are. But I'm trying to be as honest as I can be here, and it looks to me like the balance of the evidence suggests that this is more hype than reality. As near as I can tell, we're not making much progress on either front.
How long can Drum contradict the evidence, state the accepted "conventional wisdom," and then contradict that as well?
Also note the "dog-and-pony shows" remark. Hmm... what other liberal anti-war activist is known for that phrase? Oh yes, the "young, good looking" Jon Soltz.
Now, these liberal critiques are to say nothing of recent exaggerated claims by clueless liberal writers, such as Robert Naiman at the Huffington Post, who claims that over 1 million Iraqis have been killed so far during the Iraq war.
Nor does it match the incredulity of the claims by Senator Harry Reid that president Bush is to blame for Congress' 18% approval rating.
But attacking the man leading the troops at war is attacking the troops.
Update: More Petraeus bashing. (H/T Instapundit)
Update: Quite the contrary from Matt Sanchez: I am afraid General Petraeus will downplay the positive effect for fear of appearing too partisan. (H/T PJM)
Update: Mudville has more about the Petraeus hysteria.