Jonathan Weisman and Karen DeYoung refer to the upcoming September reports on Iraq as “widely considered a make-or-break assessment of Bush’s war strategy.” But why should that be. Report or no report, Bush is still president, Democrats still have so many votes in congress, and fundamentally there’s no reason for anything to change. In the next graf, they acknowledge this (“Lawmakers from both parties are growing worried that the report — far from clarifying the United States’ future in Iraq — will only harden the political battle lines around the war”) but the rest of their reporting on the hard-fought battles about the details of staging the report’s presentation make it seem as if folks on the Hill really do see this as a make or break turning point.
But as we read yesterday, the reports are being written by the White House. This is, in my view, appropriate. Petraeus and Crocker work for Bush and it’s always been silly to portray them as independent actors. But the point is that there’s no independent assessment here — the White House is going to make an official statement of the White House’s assessment of the situation and why the White House believes its official assessment supports the policies the White House favors. All that’s fine, and insofar as the White House is persuasive it should sway people. But we’ve already seen what the White House talking points on the surge are — tribal alliances in Anbar Province, unsupported claims that civilian casualties are declining, plus we need more time for progress on the political front to take hold — there’s no particular reason to wait with baited breath to see how they format the official document.