Gen. Rorschach and the Iraq-Shaped Inkblot
Which of the following best characterizes the situation in Iraq?
a. Impressive, effective and satisfactory?
b. Worrisome, alarming and weak?
If you chose (a), congratulations -- you are supported by Gen. James Jones and his commission studying security in Iraq. And if you chose (b), well, you are also supported by Jones and his commission, who presented their report to the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday.
"Our overall evaluation is that real progress has been achieved," Jones told the senators, and then he qualified that judgment with words such as "uneven," "unsatisfactory," "overly sectarian" and "failed."
Jones's conclusions were not so much contradictory as nuanced: The situation in Iraq is perilous though not hopeless; the current policy needs to change, yet a hasty retreat would make things worse.
But lawmakers don't do nuance very well. As is typical of the Iraq debate, they used the Jones report to justify their previous positions.
"This report for the most part reinforces what our position has been," said Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who wants to begin a pullout from Iraq.
"I find the report to be extremely encouraging," countered Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), a big booster of the war.
It was, as more than one senator remarked, a case of what you see depending on where you stand. In that sense, Jones, a retired Marine general, served as a Rorschach inkblot for the coming Iraq debate. "The report has a little of something for everyone," Jones said with a smile after nearly four hours at the witness table. "It probably satisfied everybody or nobody -- I'm not quite sure which."
Only minutes into the hearing, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) e-mailed a news release announcing: "JONES REPORT REITERATES NEED FOR CHANGE OF COURSE IN IRAQ."
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) read it differently. He announced that he had to leave before hearing a word from Jones, but he already knew all he needed. "I just get so excited about good things that are happening," he crowed. "The surge is having very positive results."