Give Petraeus a Chance

How about a moratorium on 2008 politics for a bit?

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

The haggling over various resolutions and nit-picking (inasmuch as no one is seriously going to cut off funding) the surge is surreal. Whatever critics think of its rationale, it is clear that something dramatic is going to shortly transpire, most likely a last-ditch, go-for-broke effort to secure Baghdad that deserves the support of all Americans and our representatives.

Surely if Congress can confirm General Petraeus without a dissenting vote, it can at least give this gifted officer a period of grace to allow his counteroffensive to proceed without pre-judgment — especially when thousands of American troops will be on the offensive in a matter of hours and in greater danger as all eyes turn to Baghdad.

We hear ad nauseam that there is no “military solution” to Iraq, followed by platitudes about political compromises, trisection, fill-in-the-blanks diplomacy. But, in fact, only a military blow to the insurgency will allow the necessary window for the government to gain time, trust, and confidence to press ahead with reform and services. And this is as it always has been in wars. After Cold Harbor Lincoln was at an impasse — his twin workhorses, Grant and Sherman, stymied and stalled.

Only when Sherman cut loose from his supply lines and surrounded Atlanta (taken on September 2, 1864), along with Phil Sheridan’s progress in Virginia (September – October), was Lincoln’s political agenda of emancipation and reunification of the United States back on track. In World War I, the British government was tottering until General Haig withstood the German spring offensive of 1918 and gave the necessary respite for the surge of American troops to allow the allies to go back on the offensive and give the politicians the credibility to demand a German surrender.

After the fall of France, Dunkirk, losses in the Atlantic, Greece, Singapore, and Tobruk, Churchill’s soaring rhetoric was wearing thin and had earned him a motion introduced calling for censure; only the subsequent successes in North Africa, in the Atlantic, and in the air above Germany gave him renewed stature to press the case for absolute resistance to Hitler. General Ridgeway did the same in Korea, mostly through personal magnetism and insistence that his demoralized subordinates cease their defeatism and go back on the offensive. Had he failed, Truman would not have the capital to save the south. Abrams, and the so-called “Christmas bombing,” almost pulled off the same in Vietnam.

So now General Petraeus is trying to shake-up our forces to believe that they can and will so damage the insurgents that the Iraqi security forces and their government will gain confidence to join the offensive, and the shell-shocked citizens, sick of violence and glad for a last-chance reprieve, will support the efforts to establish calm in Baghdad.

Again, our elected representatives can at least call for a moratorium of a few weeks on self-serving bombast and blatant pre-2008 political maneuvering — when so many Americans are now risking their all to take on the jihadists for the future of Iraq.

©2007 Victor Davis Hanson

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