The Report

Most of the pundits, I think, are missing the point on the upcoming Petraeus report. It doesn’t matter what he says. The only instance in which it would matter is if he either proclaimed Iraq to be a triumph or proclaimed it unwinnable. That’s not going to happen. Petraeus, being a smart man, is likely to admit that the truth is something in between — i.e., we’re making progress but there are many difficulties, some of which may be insurmountable.

And let’s be honest. No matter what he says, Bush’s supporters — his few remaining supporters — will proclaim that this proves the surge is working and we need to keep going. And no matter what he says, Bush’s opponents — his ever-growing number of opponents — will proclaim the surge isn’t working and this prove we need to pull out now.

I’m afraid that the horrible truth of the situation — that we can’t leave but we can’t stay — a truth Petraeus understands better than anyone — is too subtle for the roughly ground lens of our nation’s politics.

To use my favorite turn of phrase, the politicians will use Petraeus’ report the way a drunk uses a lamp-post — for support not illumination. They’re not going to read it to learn anything. In fact, given their record on the Patriot Act, our politicians are unlikely to read it at all. They may not even bother to get their staffs to redact quotes out of context. They’ll just wave it in their hands and proclaim it supports their position.

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