Monday, August 13, 2007

The "Petraeus/Crocker" Report: Handicapping the Winners and the Losers

Oh, this much anticipated report. What will they say? Will progress be the word of the day? Or, more of the same? If I were a gambling man (and I am), I'd lay some odds that some folks will come out of next month's report on progress in Iraq as winners, and some will come out losers. Here are the odds of various outcomes and what could be at stake:

David Petraeus: Winner. No matter what his report actually says, this man comes out looking like a shoo in for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. At age 56, he's even a likely candidate for 2012 if he wants a shot at the Big Chair. The "scholar-warrior" has done a remarkable job of soldiering and politicking in an environment that has become something of a graveyard for those who sport more than two stars on their resume. 10-to-1 Winner.

Ryan Crocker: Tossup. While Crocker has done a generally good job of working the Washington-to-Baghdad connection, the sense is that he has not done quite the job of fostering reconciliation among Iraq's sectarian divides. But frankly, he's been given a more difficult job than Petraeus. While Petraeus need only conduct a counterinsurgency as a military leader, Crocker has had the difficult task of attempting to help forge political reconciliation at a national level, something that few have ever asked of an Ambassador. 7-to-6 Winner.

Nouri al-Maliki: Loser. Make no mistake about it--this man is just a placeholder. When the last U.S. combat troops leave Iraq, Maliki is unlikely to be the Prime Minister. Sunni Arabs see him as a deeply biased sectarian leader. The Kurds tolerate him, but just barely. He has shown favoritism to Shi'a sects in ways that have still not been published. He's an honestly brave man, as his life and the lives of his family are on the line daily. But he is just not suited for the tasks he's been given, and rather than letting a true unity government coalesce around him, he has managed to alienate everyone. He told the American press that the surge stopped the Iraqi civil war. That civil war was one he would have been complicit in allowing. He is no statesman. He is just a placeholder and even a glowing report by Petraeus cannot save him. 8-to-3 Loser.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: Loser. "This war is lost." pfff. Not even close. 12-to-1 Loser.

Nancy Pelosi: Loser. Standing side-by-side with Harry Reid was one thing. Traveling to Syria to meet with an unrepentant human rights abuser was another. Holding vote after vote to let left wing Democrats show their moonbattiness was almost too much. Scratch that. It was too much. 10-to-1 Loser.

President George W. Bush: Winner. Steadfast in his support of underlings, even to a fault. Bush will keep trying to find the right people for the right job no matter how withering criticism of his previous choices, some of which have been somewhat embarrassing. Sanchez and Abu Ghraib. Casey and the refusal to fight a counterinsurgency with counterinsurgents. Bush has always trusted the men who worked for him to tell him the truth, and finally he has found one who tells the real truth: That Iraq is a dangerous place and calls for a serious effort to address the real issues. Grant saved Lincoln. Will Petraeus' appointment save Bush? Sometimes you swing at two pitches before making resonant contact. Regardless of how Petraeus comes out of next month's testimony, Bush appears to be a good bet to come out looking better than anyone expected. If Iraq actually emerges from this as a stable democracy, some coins will be minted with his likeness. 5-to-1 Winner.

Hillary Clinton: Slight Loser. She has so far deflected criticism of her initial support of the war. But the onslaught of the left against it has cost her dearly. As a result, she's flip-flopped worse than a green ling on a center console in the Gulf of Mexico. Her "I will end the war" canard during late 2006 and early 2007 and anti-surge rhetoric has cast her as someone who can't be trusted to do anything more than stick her finger in the wind to test the breeze. 7-to-5 Loser.

Barack Obama: Loser. As someone who has never waivered from his anti-war stance, having such a respected General come to the Senate and explain how well things are going in Iraq--and just how wrong Obama has been--is an unmitigated disaster. He has already shown considerable naivete in his statements on a willingness to meet anyone, anywhere, anytime and then coming this close to threatening an ally who is hanging onto power by a thread. Even if Petraeus' report is a middling thing, Obama comes out on life support. 8-to-1 Loser.

John Edwards: Loser. Ok, the $400 haircut joke aside, the man was for it, then against it, and then for it again, then against it again. He's a trial lawyer so no one expects the truth out of him to begin with. But his comments about the Global War on Terror being a bumper sticker slogan resonated with exactly 20% of the electorate. He can't come out of anything other than a disastrous report looking good. He just can't. 10-to-1 Loser.

Blue Dog Democrats: Slight Winner. While nominally moderate but generally supporting the military, this group of middle roaders has been sorely tested the last seven months. Sorely. Their party affiliations have led them against their principled beliefs, and some have waivered. As a whole, they will probably come out Ok. A few of them could see serious problems if Petraeus' report is even better than expected. My gut sense is that these people mainly have their fingers on the pulses of their constituents. They should come out no worse for the wear. 9-to-7 Winner.

Snowe, Hagel, Warner, Lugar, Voinovich: Losers. Though they vote Republican in organizing the Senate, they don't come across as a trustworthy bloc of support for anyone. They have called for policy changes in ways that annoy the GOP faithful but don't quite toe the Reid line. Lugar and Warner will likely be hurt the worst. They had been strong supporters of Bush's policy in Iraq and lost faith at the worst possible moment. It is always darkest just before dawn; he who loses faith at that moment suffers the worst. 8-to-5 Losers.

GOP "Top Tier" Presidential Candidates: Winners. While platitudinally voicing support for the Global War on Terror, most of the GOP candidates for President have managed to gain a modicum of separation from Bush while the counterinsurgency devised by Petraeus has run its course. Each has spoken glowingly about our men and women in uniform. Each has pledged support for maintaining an offensive strategy in the conduct of the effort. Whether by political mastery or sheer dumb luck, they've had enough separation from the current administration to let them voice support while not getting too close. The exception is John McCain who, while badly damaged by his stance on the doomed immigration bill and occasional criticisms of Bush's overall policy in Iraq, has remained one of the President's staunchest war allies on the Hill. An overwhelmingly positive report could allow McCain to jump start his campaign and compete seriously next winter and spring. Guiliani's support for the war is unquestionable. Romney's ramblings are worrisome. Thompson's position is unbloody known. 11-to-8 Winners.