The Ray and Dave Show

Today, Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno will go before the Senate Armed Services Committee to obtain advice and consent for their recent promotions by President Bush. Petreaus has been tapped to lead CENTCOM; Odierno to lead Multi-National Forces - Iraq. It's almost certain that the dynamic duo will be confirmed, and confirmed by a near-unanimous margin of the Senate. Indeed, today's hearing will likely provide little more than a sideshow -- a chance for some members of the Senate to score political points by grandstanding, asking questions and appearing presidential.

In an alternate universe, instead of preening for the cameras, senators might ask smart questions that seek to develop U.S. policy positions and provide oversight and strategic direction for the nation's military. The Center for a New American Security has come up with a list of what such questions might look like, including:

QUESTION: General Petraeus, can you give us your assessment of the overall priorities and force require­ments in the region and tell us how you plan to balance across the range of demands? How will you tailor your approach to deal with diff erent extremist groups in diff erent contexts in the CENTCOM AOR?

QUESTION: Generals, do you share their assessment that the current pace of operations is not sustainable and that the lack of ready and available ground forces for other contingencies increases our level of strategic risk? What, if any, steps would you recom­mend taking to reduce the strains on our ground forces and rebalance risk?

QUESTION: Please outline for the committee exactly what your defini­tion of "overwatch" is, describe the key features of the transition to such a posture, and the key capabilities and missions that will characterize American operations in Iraq in an overwatch position.

QUESTION: To what degree are we making security assistance and ISF capacity building conditional on the integration of the Sunni community - particularly the so-called Sons of Iraq? What do you think will happen if large armed units of Sunni security volunteers fail to be integrated into Iraq's security forces? Shouldn't we be using these ongoing negotiations to exercise our significant leverage over the Maliki government and push them toward more political accom­modation on key issues?

QUESTION: What are your views on Iranian intentions and capabilities regarding Iraq and the region, and how will you approach the issue of engagement with Iran?

QUESTION: How do you see a truce between the Government of Pakistan and the militants affecting the ability of U.S. forces in OEF to accomplish their mission? What changes do you expect to be required to U.S. deploy­ments near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, and do you see this requir­ing an increase in U.S. force levels?

By Phillip Carter |  May 22, 2008; 7:56 AM ET  | Category:  Civil-Military Relations
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Yes, these are good questions, but as you say, Congress isn't a place for intelligent questions. It's just a soapbox for reelection commercials.

Posted by: Jason | May 22, 2008 9:48 AM

In a Senate hearing of this sort, I'd be more concerned about force level and mix requirements given the civilian announced and determined security objectives;
Opinion on long term sustainment;
Efforts to retain the integrity and discipline of the soldiers in a very corrosive environment;
Need for equipment replacement;
Equipment currency; and,
war time needed in the forces to achieve the cultural and language understanding of the AOR to prevail.

Policy questions should be dealt with among the elected civilians and not abdicated to these very good but not elected leaders.

Posted by: Bill Keller | May 22, 2008 3:33 PM

After hearing our incredibly talented representatives ask the most useless, uniformed questions imaginable, Thomas Jefferson commenced rolling over in his grave at a speed of 4000 RPM.

Posted by: FA | May 22, 2008 4:01 PM

Well, I thought some pretty good questions were asked of Crocker and Petraeus last go-round, and Congress was given a load of BS in reply.

It's like asking a politican a question on one of those TV "debates": the answer given does not relate to the question asked, or it's a wordy version of "I can't/won't tell you".

If Congress had the balls to cite the C&P show for contempt for not answering questions honestly maybe we'd get some worthwhile replies. But until they compel an answer, you might as well save your thinking for stuff that really matters.

Posted by: DanPatrick | May 22, 2008 4:17 PM

I note that Ray and Dave held out the opportunity for reduced troop strengths in Iraq in the fall.

We've all heard that one before. Want to bet that some crisis will come up and that they'll be begging for more troops next fall instead?

Posted by: pluto | May 23, 2008 7:59 AM

DanPatrick, were there answers from the testimony that were demonstrably false? Wouldn't Congress be obliged to prosecute if there were evidence of false testimony?

Which particular statement by Petraeus/Odierno was false? Please point it out so I can research it and follow it up.

Posted by: mj | May 23, 2008 10:42 AM

pluto says "We've all heard that one before. Want to bet some crisis comes up and they'll be begging for more troops next fall instead?"

Ah, anticipatory defeatism. It's not enough to negatively spin current operations, we now must also predict failure in future situations that have yet to happen, and slam those, too.

And people wonder why this is taking so long.

Posted by: mj | May 23, 2008 10:48 AM

"And people wonder why this is taking so long."

I don't think anyone is wondering why "this" is taking so long. Well, I should probably take that back. The individuals in the 20% +/- that still approve of GWB's performance may be wondering why "this" is taking so long, and may be incurious as to why the blessed vision of democracy in Iraq has yet to come to fruition.
Nahhh, they know it's because the brownskinned peoples are incapable of running their own country. That's why we're going to be there for another 100 years - to help them out a lil.

Posted by: Corner Stone | May 23, 2008 5:06 PM

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