Endgame, Like Porn: Know It When You See It?

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Gaming an end was the organizing principle of today's hearings. Republicans recognized this as much as Democrats. Democrats grew frustrated that the strategy pursued by Petraeus and Crocker and run up the flagpole to the White House has no reasonable or conceivable end point; neither the general nor the ambassador seemed to be willing to give an opinion about just what constituted sufficient progress and, in importantly, what the intersection is between the finite resources and patience of the US and a realistic scenario for Iraq.

All three presidential candidates stuck largely to their campaign stump speeches.

The only thing Petraeus would say is that "local solutions" were the key, although he failed to explain, as Sen. John Kerry noted, how, if those solutions were not available today, how they've be viable with even fewer troops -- would more be required? This isn't a Democratic talking point -- Sen. Lugar asked the same question.

But, of course, there are no more troops to send.

** Joe Biden's questioning resulted in the admission from Adm. Crocker that U.S. security interests would be better served if Al Qaeda in Pakistan were eliminated more quickly than AQI. Biden really shined today... he was strong and knowledgeable and a better prosecutor than the Democratic presidential candidates.

** Crocker and Petraeus denied the obvious: by giving money to the Sons of Iraq, they're arming Sunnis. And paying them not to be violent. Will those payments breed dependence? Will they continue indefinitely?

** Clinton's tone was senatorial as were concerns: her main issue was the agreement the White House wants to sign with the Maliki government over the legal authority to keep troops in Baghdad, an agreement the Senate will not be privy to.


Senator Clinton: Does the Administration plan to submit this agreement to our Congress?

Ambassador Crocker: At this point Senator, we do not anticipate that the agreements will have within them any elements that would require the advise-and-consent procedure. We intend to negotiate this as an executive agreement.

(B) Obama called for a "diplomatic surge with Iran." He was focused on an end-game: "The problem I have is that if the definition of success is so high, no traces of Al Qaeda and no possibility of reconstitution, a highly effective Iraqi government, a democratic multi ethnic, multi sectarian functioning democracy, no Iranian influence, at least not the kind that we like, then that portends the possibility of us staying for 20 or 30 years."

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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