Friday, September 21, 2007

The tyranny of Petraeus II

Here are the opening grafs of a post by Professor Sandy Levinson at Balkinization:

I have no particular desire to defend the Moveon "General Betray Us" ad, which was incredibly dumb politics. (One would like to believe that a Karl Rove mole had infiltrated the organization and persuaded them to publish the ad with that title.) That being said, I will note that I first heard that term from a graduate of West Point, a veteran of Iraq, who was taking a course from me at the University of Texas Law School. To put it mildly, I was a bit surprised at this person's candor, and I took it as a sign that at least some soldiers on the ground thought that Petraeus was something of a publicity hound who was viewed as indifferent to the fate of the soldiers under his command.

Much more serious, though, is the idiocy of Congress putting so much faith in Petraeus to offer a fully accurate assessment of what is, after all, his own policy. One need not engage in calumny simply to note that it is, as a rule, not a good idea to ask architects of policies (or bridges, or anything else) to offer unflinching assessment of their own handiwork. This is why, after all, one has independent auditors and the like. Moveon's mistake was to suggest that Petraeus was like those at Enron who were self-consciously (and feloniously) cooking the books. I doubt that. But there were lots of other people at Enron who simply wanted to believe their own hype and would always "accentuate the positive" in any ambiguous evidence. One doesn't have to be dishonorable to do that, only human.

It was surely important to hear from General Petraeus. But let me suggest that it is more important to take heed of the more independent assessments being made by other generals, retired military officers, and, yes, journalists on the ground.

Spot thinks that sums it up rather well.

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