Monday, September 8, 2008

Arcuri: Obama's Wrong

Sunday's Observer-Dispatch article about the impact of the presidential race on the local congressional election had some interesting material, but the one thing that really leaped out at me was Congressman Arcuri's steadfast refusal to admit he was wrong about the surge in Iraq:

Democrats, including Arcuri, have long pushed for a pullout of American troops from Iraq and opposed sending more troops there in a strategic surge.

But conditions in Iraq continued to stabilize this summer in the wake of a troop surge. President Bush now has authorized a general timeline for the departure of U.S. troops, and the war has ceased to be a campaign hot-button issue. “You can see that the Democrats aren’t talking about Iraq the way they used to,” Politico’s Kraushaar said.

Nonetheless, he said, Republicans aren’t talking about it much, either.

“You have a significant number of voters who don’t think the war was the right decision in the first place,” he said.

Hanna noted that Arcuri voted for a 2007 bill that would have reduced troop presence in Iraq by April 2008.

“You can see that had that vote passed, basically it would have been an abject failure,” Hanna said.

Hanna opposed entering Iraq, but has said he wouldn’t remove U.S. troops until Iraq was clearly stabilizing.

Arcuri said he didn’t believe it was the surge that had reduced violence in Iraq, but rather shift in the allegiances of certain sheikhs, and because of other policies on the ground.

“The disaster is that we went there in the first place,” he said.

Mr. Arcuri's disconnect from the reality of the surge's success is all the more stunning considering his support for Barack Obama in this year's presidential race. After months of silence, all the more notable because of the growing consensus on the issue, even Mr. Obama has embraced reality:

Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, said on Thursday night that the troop surge in Iraq had succeeded beyond his – or anyone else’s – expectations, adding that he believed the US was fighting a war on terror...“I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated,” he said. “I’ve already said it’s succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”

If we accept that Mr. Obama is correct then what are we to think of Mr. Arcuri's obvious lack of agreement on the matter? Does he think Mr. Obama is simply too inexperienced to see the reality of the situation? That may not be very far-fetched considering Mr. Arcuri's political ties to the Hillary Clinton faction of the national party. They've provided him with extensive financial and campaign support, including the services of Howard Wolfson during his original run for office, and it was even rumored that Mr. Arcuri's oath of fealty had secured him a place in a potential Clinton administration.

Or, more realistically, is Mr. Arcuri simply wrong? More intriguingly, is his overweening pride preventing him from admitting it?

Long-time followers of the Congressman's career may remember that this facet of his character isn't something new. During his time as a District Attorney it came up more than once, most notably in the Desiree Case murder trial. In that instance Mr. Arcuri fought tooth and nail to send Joseph Smith to prison for the rest of his life despite the purely circumstantial nature of the case and Mr. Smith's continued protestations of innocence. It was only after proof surfaced that the Utica police department had been holding evidence exonorating him for months that Mr. Arcuri finally dropped the prosecution.

That same strident refusal to acknowledge error, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, seems to be something Mr. Arcuri still hasn't been able to exorcise from his personality. He knows best, and he'll continue saying so even when the man he endorses to hold the Presidency says otherwise.

While his hubris is troubling, the Congressman's statements also demonstrate a profound ignorance of military matters in general and the surge in particular. The political re-alignment of Iraqi factional leaders wasn't just some willy-nilly bolt from the blue, but an integral part of the policies adopted under the command of General David Petraeus. That would be the same Gen. Petraeus that Mr. Arcuri publicly excoriated last year after his testimony before Congress, a man that quite literally wrote the book on counter-insurgency doctrine. If you like you can can read it for yourself, Army manual FM 3-24 "Counterinsurgency", over here.

If Mr. Arcuri had bothered to read it, or even payed attention to Gen. Petraeus's testimony, he would understand that the "Anbar Awakening", and similar movements across Iraq, were the product of months of hard work by thousands of troops guided by an over-arching plan that emphasized tribal engagement, empowerment, and re-alignment. The surge wasn't just boots on the ground, as Mr. Arcuri seems to believe, but the adoption of new techniques for stabilization specifically designed to produce the results he claims had nothing to do with it.

This isn't the first time the Congressman's out-of-touch views on Iraq have come up, as Col. Joe Bolton's steadfast efforts attest, but his latest refusal to accept reality has hit a new level of denial. It's time for Mike Arcuri to agree with Barack Obama, swallow his pride, and admit he was wrong about the surge. To do otherwise is a slap in the face to the thousands of men and women that made it a success.