Wednesday, September 12, 2007

i’ll take that as a “no”

I learned a long time ago, while studying the decisions leading up to the Bay of Pigs debacle, that if a military leader expresses anything less than 100% confidence that he (they were pretty much all “he” back then) can accomplish an objective, then he is virtually certain that he can’t. Even if he says something like, “I’m ninety percent certain,” you can be pretty sure that he’s thinking, “it’s gonna take a miracle.” These are can-do guys, and they don’t very much like to go before their president or their people and say “I can’t.”

What, then, to make of this?

President Kennedy learned from his disastrous experience with the Bay of Pigs invasion to read between the lines, if you will, and evaluated military advice differently two years later during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It shouldn’t take a degree in political science to know that when a supreme field commander answers a question like “Does [your strategy] make America safer?” with “Sir, I don’t know actually,” that he is really saying “not even a little.”

Which, of course, begs the question: If we have already been told that political success in Iraq is not imminent, if we already know that the current strategy has accelerated ethno-sectarian violence, and we now find out that the high and continued loss of blood and treasure does not make our own country safer, then what the hell are we doing over there???

I am somewhat heartened by a rundown of Tuesday’s testimony posted on the Democratic Caucus’s Senate Journal—at least on their website, it seems that the majority “gets it.”

When you click over and read that page, pay special attention to the number of times Gen. Petraeus says something like “I don’t know” or “I have not asked” whenever the true answer would be unpleasant or politically disadvantageous to the Bush Administration. Now that’s the kind of can-do leadership that inspires confidence, huh?

(h/t Think Progress)

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