Sunday, August 19, 2007

Petraeus's Report and Emphasizing Meta-Issues

I've often thought that we ought to put more emphasis on higher-order issues rather than spending so much of our time butting heads on more divisive, more specific issues.

Many people who are more firmly entrenched in their beliefs about the war than I am are convinced that the surge is working or that it isn't. I have a genuinely open mind about the issue, realizing that I'm in a fairly profound information deficit.

So I'm really eager to hear Petraeus's report on progress in Iraq. Problem is, we all know by now that this administration cannot be trusted to tell the truth, and now they seem to be saying that Petraeus won't actually be making a report. Instead I'm now hearing that Petraeus's judgments will simply be "incorporated into" a statement by the White House.

Left completely to my own devices, I'd start a campaign to push for an honest report by General Petraeus. Make it clear to Petraeus himself that he has a moral obligation to give us the straight dope, and put pressure on the administration to keep its dirty mitts off the information.

Unfortunately, nobody is going to come to the "Give Us An Honest Report!" demonstration. Anything more fine-grained than "Stop the War!" or "Don't Stop the War!" isn't going to get a following.


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Like the original decision to go to war, I myself will turn less than half an ear to what the politicians say. Unfortunately for the left---and the nation---they will give even less than that to the various fellows actually on the ground in Iraq like Michael Yon, Bill Roggio and Michael Totten.

Although they might, just might, give an ear to John Burns of the NYT,, altho agreeing to an interview with Hugh Hewitt probably scotches that, judging by the foofaraw Glenn Greenwald made over Gen. Petraeus speaking with Hewitt.

(This epistemology thing is getting damned difficult with one hand and three fingers tied behind my back...)

2:37 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


I'm confused, I so often am with regard to your comments.

What does any of this have to do with Petraeus's report? I mean, I know there are other people saying other things, but that seems irrelevant to this post.

And...Michael Totten? I mean...c'mon, man.

And we DO thank you for keeping your mighty epistemic powers in check and not unleashing them all on us. That way we at least have a chance to keep up with you. God knows that the full force of those powers would probably destroy us.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Michael Totten's no good either? John Burns? They're not even gentlemen of the right. Oh well, two more down the epistemological black hole. This is like a Twilight Zone episode where people keep disappearing. I guess we'll always have Glenn Greenwald, but then again you never know.

Make that four fingers...

7:53 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

So now, if I've been following correctly, you have one hand and four fingers tied behind your back.

Does that mean we'll get less of your posts, or just that you'll waste even more time typing them up with your last remaining finger?

11:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I've always got a finger left over for you, pal. Say cheese. ;-D

2:12 AM  
Blogger Jim Bales said...

Since day 1, this White House has been all about controlling the message going out to the public. This is completely consistent with Bush's MO.

I would gladly support your "Give Us An Honest Report!", but (as you note)there would be no substantial public support for it.

Yet, we must make political decisions, even as we deal with an administration that we cannot trust to be honest with us. What do we do?

I contend that we need to treat all pronouncements by the administration as untrustworthy until confirmed by an independent source -- one that has a track record of being correct, or is clearly not carrying water for the administration.

I contend that this response is not dogmatic -- it is simply bowing to the practical realities.

BTW -- We have an example of such a source in the op-ed in the NYT by a group of NCOs in the 82nd Airborne.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

If it's in the New York Times, it must be true.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit.

Of course, in a link posted elsewhere, New York Times reporter John Burns thinks "resolving those differences as they see fit" might result in a genocide/fratricide of a million Iraqis.

But I doubt it'll even be half that. Bring it on, let it be. Thank God for the NYT. It makes life so much simpler.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Jim Bales said...

Tom posts of the recent op-ed by NCO's serving in the 82nd Airborne.

If it's in the New York Times, it must be true.

Actually, Tom, the NYT is quite capable of publishing falsehood -- see (e.g.,) Judy Miller's coverage of Iraq before the invasion.

I think we can believe that the NCOs are describing the situation on the ground as they perceive it, and are giving their honest advice as to what the US should do. They constitute (as I called for above) "an independent source -- one that ... is clearly not carrying water for the administration."

They are independant in that they are not political appointees indoctrinated in the culture of the administration. (They are volunteers indoctrinated in the culture of the US Army, a culture I trust far more than that of the administration.)

They draw on experiences that few (if any) other published commentators can draw upon. They risk their careers by publishing an article that is critical of the conduct of the occupation of Iraq.

We can conclude that they are reasonably independent of, and are certainly not carrying water for, the Bush administration.

Therefore, we can use their piece as input to our understanding of what is happening in Iraq, and to our process of decision making.

(Of course, we are not obligated to embrace their recommendations.)

7:36 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

You guys aren't trying to reason with Tom again, are you?

You KNOW where that's going to get you.

To recap:

Me: we should start agitating to force an honest and open report by Petraeus.

Tom: Heh heh! (sweating) Look, there are ALREADY some guys in Iraq who say it's better there! Like this Totten guy! [Note: one of those odd liberals who had such a weird view of the world that...9/11 made him a conservative! Go figure...]

Now, if you guys want to try to reason with Tom about this semi-relevancy, then be my guest.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


Michael Yon seems pretty sane to me, though, incidentally.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, Totten said many of the things the NCOs did. Nobody read it because Totten is apparently on the "disapproved" list.

The NCOs' opinion is fine, BTW. It's just that there are hundreds of other military sources here and about the internet that no one will ever hear. "Independent" verification will rest on the gatekeepers like the NYT.

And the key objection is that, per John Burns, genocide may follow taking the NCOs' advice. But let's ignore him too.

"The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane."---Mark Twain

You guys play that card everytime you type. My compliments.

1:31 PM  

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