September 10, 2007

THOUGHTS ON THE PETRAEUS HEARINGS, from Austin Bay: “Ike Skelton’s comment when GEN Petraeus’ microphone failed to work is something of a metaphor both for Washington and Baghdad: ‘Are we fixed yet?’ . . . That mike failure — as incidental as it was, and as easily solved as it was– is a useful reminder. General Murphy is always at work. If it can go wrong it will. Murphy’s Law affects everything but it rules warfare. War is the effort where everything goes wrong — Clausewitz’ concept of friction recognizes this. It’s why perseverance and will are the traits of victors. I’ve dealt with Iraq’s creaky infrastructure –it’s frustrating. But from now on every mid-level Iraqi ministry is going to smile when a US diplomat or reporter asks him how his reconstruction and maintenance operations are going. The sharp tongued will say: ‘Our parliament’s microphones work.'” Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Reader Madhu Dahiya emailed:

So, I’m listening to CSPAN and I’m learning a lot. We are blessed as a nation to have such intelligent Congress persons, I tell you.

1. I’m learning that the BBC and ABC know how to conduct a poll and know how to count, unlike the generals (paraphrasing Congresswomen Sanchez). She says people will know what she’s talking about (again, paraphrasing). Laughing too hard to hear the whole thing.

2. I’m learning that the correct way to ask a question is to talk about North Korea and then Iran and then what you are going to have for dinner that night and….uh, what? I lost the thread and so did the questioner. Somewhere in the Proustian sentences (Proustian by length, not quality) there’s a question. I think. I knew a stauch anti-war communications professor who used these kinds of events to teach her students how not to ask a question.

3. There should be a drummer to do that little ‘ba-da-bump” sound at the end of the obvious sound-bites. Crafty and subtle, Congress people. Who helped you out with these questions? You might as well dress up like Milton Berle to deliver those dead-weight zingers.

4. Okay, quoting that three year old Washington post article by Petraeus was effective, I admit. Still, the question gave him a chance to stand by what he wrote, in addition to a chance for opponents of the war to say, “hey, he said the same thing before and nothing got better.” The only ‘draw’, I think, in the whole gotcha game, because Petraeus came across as calm and knowledgeable and the majority of questioners came across as needing to practice their ‘gotcha’ speeches a little more before going in front of CSPAN. Dear Congressians: do your homework before television, okay? If only we could ground them for not doing their homework……

5. If I had ever been as meandering in any presentation or conference at my work as the majority of these Congress-types, I would have been laughed out of the room.

Look, I know there are some good guys in Congress; they’re not all terrible. Still. Cringe-inducing.

Yuck!

Yeah, if I were advising the Bush Administration I’d encourage them to encourage Congress to hold lots of hearings on live TV. The more they talk, the worse they look. I think I’ve commented on that phenomenon before.

And reader Chad Olson writes: “As Rumsfeld might have said: ‘You go to war with the Congress you have, not the Congress you want.'”

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