October 14, 2008 | Commentary on Department of Homeland Security

Petraeus Lists Successes

If you asked Sen. Barack Obama two years ago for a strategy for Iraq, he would have recommended withdrawing all troops. The New York Times and other liberal news outlets would have said that Iraq was on verge of an inevitable civil war and a stunning U.S. defeat. Yet President Bush went with his "surge" strategy and wisely chose Gen. David Petraeus to lead it.

The surge has been a resounding success, and liberals are scrambling to explain the dramatic reduction in violence in Iraq.

Last week at The Heritage Foundation, Petraeus spoke of this success and warned of "storm clouds" that remain for continued democracy in Iraq. The political situation in Iraq "does remain reversible," he said. Our military needs to complete the job and help the "fragile" government to establish a constitutional democracy, free from sectarian violence and insurgency.

Under-reported successes by Petraeus and the troops include:

  • Of 167 Iraqi Army Combat Battalions, 116 are now "in the lead" on operations and have taken over from coalition leadership.
  • The detainee re-arrest rate is down to 1%, compared to 10% two years ago.
  • The "bulk of [Muqtada al-Sadr's] militia has turned into a social services movement" after losing public support.

Despite the success, Petraeus warned that challenges remain, as al-Qaeda and other extremists attempt to revive their operational capabilities. Other challenges include integrating the Sons of Iraq into the government, meeting political expectations and providing services to Iraqi citizens, and the potential destabilizing influence of Iran.

Petraeus also acknowledged "Afghanistan will be the longest campaign of the Long War." Fortunately, he will take over as Commander of the U.S. Central Command, which will allow him to oversee American efforts in Afghanistan. He emphasized that "some of the concepts used in Iraq are transplantable" but "every situation in counterinsurgency is unique."

Americans are lucky to have such a leader. The next president and Congress should listen carefully to his assessments.

Replacements


If Barack Obama is elected president, there will be an open Senate seat from Illinois and one from Delaware. Who would replace Obama? Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill) can appoint a replacement, and he can pick from two of the more well-known members of the House of Representatives: Rahm Emanuel, the fourth ranking House Democrat (and presumed engineer of the 2006 Democrat takeover), and Jesse Jackson, Jr. Both are considered far left of center. The American Conservative Union gives Jackson a lifetime conservative rating of 3.07%, with Emanuel a bit higher at 13.09%. Considering that the non-partisan National Journal ranked Obama is the most liberal member of the Senate, either would essentially offer more of the same.

The Delaware appointment will be made by the new governor. The race between Democrat state Treasurer Jack Markell and Republican former state judge Bill Lee currently is in the "leans Democrat" category. Democrats who would most likely to take the seat are Biden's son, Attorney General Beau Biden, or retiring Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

If John McCain is elected, what would happen in Arizona? Gov. Janet Napolitano is a Democrat, but Arizona mandates that any Senate replacement must be from the same party of the retiring members. Presumably, Napolitano wouldn't choose from House members John Shadegg, Trent Franks or Jeff Flake unless one of those members lose their race and would appear vulnerable in a special election in 2010.

Judges


President Obama or President McCain will have to decide what to do with the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, and the judges they appoint to the federal bench will be very important in those decisions. The seriousness of this issue was brought into focus by the recent order of Federal Judge Ricardo Urbina to release 17 Chinese Muslims held in Gitmo as enemy combatants into the United States. This may be the first of many judge-ordered releases of prisoners held in Gitmo to a zip code near you.

The predictable effect of the Boumediene Supreme Court decision this past June is that judges will believe that they have the power to release these foreign terrorists held in Gitmo into the general population of the United States. This decision, which has been placed on hold by the DC Circuit, is the first to actually do it. McCain denounced the decision.


Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

First appeared  in Human Events