No Exit

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Wednesday, April 9, 2008; 1:06 PM

Well, it's official. Getting out of Iraq is now exclusively the next president's problem.

That's the only serious conclusion that can be drawn from yesterday's Senate testimony by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. The two standard-bearers for President Bush's war engaged in an absurd tap-dance that nevertheless made it clear that U.S. troops aren't going anywhere anytime soon.


While asserting that "the way forward on reduction should be conditions-based," Petraeus and Crocker were unable or unwilling to say what those conditions might be.

While insisting that the U.S. commitment in Iraq is not open-ended, they described no circumstance in which it would end.

They refused to consider any hypothetical scenarios, except for their own.

They refused to acknowledge that reasonable people might disagree with them.

And, as they demonstrated yesterday and in their testimony last September, no matter what the situation on the ground, they are able to use it as an argument for staying the course.

A few key exchanges tell the story. Here's one with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton:

Clinton: "What conditions would have to exist for you to recommend to the president that the current strategy is not working? And it seems apparent that you have a conditions-based analysis, as you set forth in your testimony, but the conditions are unclear, they certainly lack specificity, and the decision points, with respect to these conditions, are also vague.

"So how are we to judge, General Petraeus, what the conditions are or should be and the actions that you and the administration would recommend pursuing based on them?"

Petraeus: " . . . With respect to the conditions, Senator, what we have is a number of factors that we will consider by area as we look at where we can make recommendations for further reductions beyond the reduction of the surge forces that will be complete in July."

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