The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Petraeus

September 10, 2007

General Petraeus finished delivering his prepared remarks to the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees not long ago — and I’ve already been interviewed about them by the local NPR station (WFPL).

Basically, I concluded that his report was not surprising. Most analysts expected an optimistic assessment that would not call for a substantial reduction in American troops. The General is only talking about returning the US troop level to pre-surge levels by mid-July 2008. A modest proposal, eh?

I also noted a few points that General Petraeus did not address (though many in the blogosphere have):

  • What about seasonal violence? Yes, violence is down since the surge began in mid-June. But violence goes down every summer when it is hot. How much different was it this year?
  • What about the refugees? How much of the decline in ethnic violence is attributable to the fact that up to 100,000 Iraqis are fleeing the country every month?
  • What about winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis? Petraeus did not mention the latest ABC/BBC/NHK poll finding that nearly 60% of Iraqis think it is acceptable to target American troops. How can counterinsurgency succeed in such a context?

In short, I wasn’t shocked, or awed.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.