The reports that General Peter Pace will be urging that the U.S. begin a phased redeployment from Iraq, cutting troop levels to half by next year, seems fairly shocking, but shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. I haven't exactly been a fan of General Pace, but now that he is on his way out, reports like these show that without his job on the line anymore, he's more willing to give blunt assessments than he has in the past. He seems finally willing to say what he knows - we have no strategic reserve because of Iraq, and our commitments around the world are far more expansive than Baghdad. Frankly, now that he's not looking over his shoulder, he's doing his job, it seems to me.
General Pace's job, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Senior military advisor to the president, is to assess our military effectiveness and readiness on the larger scale. It's markedly different than the job of General David Petraeus, whose overall concern begins and ends in the borders of Iraq. While General Petraeus must be concerned with what's happening in a section of Baghdad, and won't hold back in saying more troops can solve this problem or that, Pace and the Secretary of Defense are literally the circuit breaker that keeps such deployments from being fulfilled, if they feel it will break our military and hurt our ability to quickly and effectively respond to other conflicts. Or, at least, that's the theory. General Pace and Donald Rumsfeld didn't exactly live up to that job in the past.
Nonetheless, and unfortunately, every sign points to the president using General Petraeus as his excuse for keeping the war in Iraq going with no foreseeable end. For General Petraeus, it makes perfect sense for him to go along to get along. Essentially, when the White House writes its September report, it will claim that progress is being made and say General Petraeus is doing a good job. And, he'll sign his name on the dotted line. Why wouldn't he? Why wouldn't anyone here sign a positive job performance review?
The White House will cherry pick areas of Iraq, representing the overwhelming geographic minority of the country, as areas that were secured. But, it will ignore other areas that were once secured, then lost, when troops left, because of a lack of political reconciliation. It will ignore that the warring parties of Iraq are no closer today than they were in 2003.
Meanwhile, the White House will bypass that circuit breaker - General Pace - who will be warning of dire consequences to the military and United States security if the surge is allowed to continue - indeed, if war is allowed to continue for an indeterminate length. They'll be bypassing the recent Intelligence Estimate that warns that while our military is doing what it's supposed to do, there is no real progress on the ground in Iraq, because there is no movement towards real, permanent stability.
Of course, this is nothing new. Since the war began, the president has not listened to the commanders he needed to listen to , and when a General told him something he didn't want to hear, the president replaced him (see: Shinseki, Eric K.). That seems to not be lost on General Petraeus, and now on General Pace who, with no job security to lose, is finally willing to tell the president what so many military experts and retired brass have been saying for two years: This war is breaking our military and hurting our national security.