WaPo fronts this dispatch from Thomas Ricks:
With opposition to Bush’s Iraq strategy escalating on Capitol Hill, the president has sought, at least rhetorically, to transfer some of the burden of an unpopular war to his top general in Baghdad, wielding Petraeus as a shield against a growing number of congressional doubters. In speeches and meetings, the president has implored his critics to wait until September, when Petraeus is scheduled to deliver a much-anticipated assessment of the U.S. mission in Iraq.
Some of Petraeus’s military comrades worry that the general is being set up by the Bush administration as a scapegoat if conditions in Iraq fail to improve. “The danger is that Petraeus will now be painted as failing to live up to expectations and become the fall guy for the administration,” one retired four-star officer said.
Bush has mentioned Petraeus at least 150 times this year in his speeches, interviews and news conferences, often setting him up in opposition to members of Congress.
“It seems to me almost an act of desperation, the administration turning to the one most prominent official who cannot act politically and whose credibility is so far unsullied, someone who is or should be purely driven by the facts of the situation,” said Richard Kohn, a specialist in U.S. military history at the University of North Carolina. “What it tells me, given the hemorrhaging of support in Congress, is that we’re entering some new phase of the end game.”
We all know that come September, Petraeus is going to request more time to allow ‘his’ counterinsurgency plan to ‘succeed’. And despite the latest rumblings of Congressional discontent from the GOP, Bush hopes his futile effort will continue to receive funding simply because the good General is the new Colin Powell, a guy who’ll always tell it like it is. Petraeus’ precious reputation is why he got the position in the first place; mark my words, September is going to be ‘Powell goes to the UN’ all over again. And, like the former Secretary of State, Petraeus risks losing his good name as a result of his participation in the war effort.
The real architects of the surge, Jack Keane and Fred Kagan, have stated that their plan needs at least 18 months to gain meaningful results. And that’s starting only after full troop deployment, which was completed in June.
Nice – just in time for Bush to pack up his pretzels and Segway and wave bbye to all responsibility re: what happens next. Which will been even less painful if he succeeds in making Petraeus the public face of the (outrageously unpopular) military effort in Iraq. Hopefully Warner and Lugar aren’t just blowing smoke with their demands for a ‘new strategy’ (and that said ‘new strategy’ isn’t a renewed US reliance on deadly air strikes).
Update: Dan Drezner compares Ricks’ piece to a ridiculously fawning Bill Kristol
mash note op-ed (also from Sunday’s Post) on Bush’s legacy; Michael Stickings reminds us that passing the buck has been a long time trademark of the Bush admin.
Portions of this post originally appeared in comments at Obsidian Wings, expanded and modified.