If you haven’t read it already, you can read Chuck Hagel’s remarks to the CFR here. Most of you are familiar with this tidbit:
I’ll give you my personal opinion. I know I’m not known for that, but — (laughter) — that’s why I’m so highly regarded at the White House. History will make that determination, as you know, Bob, more than almost anyone. And I’ll leave that to history as to its determination. As to my personal opinion, which I have not been shy about sharing, I think as most of you know in speeches or interviews, this administration in my opinion has been as unprepared as any administration I’m aware of, not only the ones that I have been somehow connected to and that’s been every administration — either I’ve been in Washington or worked within an administration or Congress or some way dealing with them since the first Nixon administration. I would rate this one the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus — almost every area, I would give it the lowest grade.
However, that is just a small portion of the talk, and in response to adirect question. The rest of the talk is less exciting, but still worth your time. This portion regarding the surge is particularly relevant:
But to get back on the focus of your question, it seems to me, Richard, that as we look at Iraq, we are in a situation where we have today, almost at the end of our fifth year, more troops in Iraq today than we’ve ever had. We’ve had more American casualties in Iraq this year than we’ve ever had. We have more American troops in Afghanistan than we’ve ever had. We’re at the peak of both, in our fifth and sixth years, and we’re getting ready for our sixth and seventh years.
Now, what does that mean? What can we do to go forward? Well, I asked the question of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker at hearings in September regarding the surge — “Give us more time” — and I said, “More time for what? What is the purpose here?”
It’s not a military tactical victory. I mean, we had most every military tactical victory in Vietnam, with the United States winning every tactical victory. We’re winning every tactical victory in Iraq. But the point is to buy time toward some resolution, some political dynamic that can set in motion enough of the requirements for the Iraqi people to govern themselves, defend themselves, support themselves, and bring some stability to a society to let them start working it through. That supposedly is the objective.
Well, yes, our casualties are down. Yes, we’ve seen progress. But what’s disconnected from that is where we go from here. You asked about General Lutz’ point. I’m not sure that we’re in a position ready to sign any kind of an agreement with Iraq. For example, there’s no oil law. There’s no de-Ba’athification law.
All the laws that we put at the front end on benchmarks — and, by the way, those days are over when people say, at least in my opinion, some of my colleagues in the Congress, “Well, let’s set up a new set of benchmarks.” No, we’ve passed the benchmark point. We’re in a whole different zone here.
And if we don’t see some progress — and even General Odierno and General Petraeus recently have said, in a very frustrated way, the military is doing their job. We never had enough troops, in my opinion, that went in there. Again, we’re not going to go back and unwind that. But the military has done a magnificent job of achieving the objectives that we’ve asked them to do and more. But we’ve not seen that translate into any political progress, which in the end is all that counts.
I have blockquoted more than enough, and Tim will bitch at me for not taking into consideration those of you reading on a laptop, so just go read the whole thing yourself.