I watched the hearings yesterday and will try to follow those coming up today. It looks to me that we had an earnest and overly optimistic report by our top cop in Iraq — David Petraeus — conflicting with that of our anxious Ambassador, Ryan Crocker, who is trapped as diplomatic liaison between two discredited and dysfunctional administrations — Bush’s and al Maliki’s.

Somewhat ill-timed for Petraeus’ claim that he was winning the security game in Iraq is the BBC/ABC poll carried out at great personal risk by Iraqis to the effect that a considerable majority of Iraqis have reported that the surge has decreased their personal security, that they want us out of there, and that they support the insurgency!

Crocker was probably more accurate in his expressions both of uncertainty about the possibility for pulling Iraq back from all out civil war and the catastrophe that will ensue in the region if we cannot somehow put in place a government supported by all the Iraqi peoples.

Later last evening CNN reports gave the lie to the administration’s representatives’ tentative hopes for peace. Michael Ware noted that we are essentially arming warlords in the Anbar province who no way will cooperate with the Iranian leaning Shiite central government now foundering in Baghdad and that the negative feelings are reciprocated by the Shiites at the prospect of well armed Sunni militias challenging their dominance.

What must be noted overall is that Iraq seems to be increasingly splintering into more and more factions within factions — competing Kurds in the north, Shiites in Baghdad versus those to the South, and the fractious Sunni tribal leaders to the west.

Petraeus’ optimism about his capacity to hold all these groups together seems naive and as off target as were his optimistic views along the same lines back in 2004.

My initial reaction to both our guys is that they basically mean well, but they have been presented with tasks that they cannot possibly achieve — even with 168,000 American troops, let alone troop reductions. There is no coherent Iraqi civil society upon which to found a democratic government — majority rule imposed on sizable recalcitrant minorities cannot possibly work.

Where to go from here, I leave to others. At the very least we need HELP from the ‘Old’ Europe and from Iraq’s neighbors — all of whom are extremely suspicious of the Bush administration — after all that oil? We are, unfortunately, a discredited nation and are stuck with the chaos and destruction for which we are responsible! The Iraqis deserve far more than we can offer them — and Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan loom as major threats now, too. We are trying to ride too many tigers!

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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