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Matthew Yglesias Asks "Why?!"

Matthew Yglesias asks "why." The answer, Matt, is that the Washington Post is not a news gathering organization:

Matthew Yglesias: This "news analysis" from Peter Baker and Jonathan Weisman in yesterday's Washington Post was so ridiculous that I couldn't bring myself to complain about it on a low traffic Tuesday. As many people as possible need to slam their collective heads against the wall and ask themselves why. Why people would actually be paid money to write this lead:

When Army Gen. David H. Petraeus last week proposed withdrawing more than 20,000 U.S. troops from Iraq, some congressional Democrats nodded their heads and saw it as a positive, if insufficient, step forward. Some wanted to take credit. After all, they reasoned, the drawdown, the benchmarks report, even Petraeus's Capitol Hill testimony came about only because of Democratic pressure.

Within hours, that idea was shot down. When House Democratic leaders convened in the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) at 5:30 p.m. Monday, strategists concluded they were already getting credit for what was happening but that voters wanted much more. So Pelosi, according to aides at the meeting, insisted that Democrats coordinate their message and dictated what that message would be: The general's plan meant 10 more years of war, or even "endless war."

Yes, yes, Pelosi is the one to blame for the failure of a compromise to emerge, even though what Bush (pardon me, "Petraeus") proposed wasn't a compromise at all, unless "keep as many troops in Iraq as possible for as long as possible" now counts as a compromise. And it keeps going on like that. They warn that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may be unable to bring the congress together because "Even if they could find a compromise that enough Republicans would accept, it is not clear that the candidates would agree to anything but a hard-line position given the antiwar fervor in the party base." This fervent party base would, I take it, be the 60-70 percent of the American public who wants to see drawdowns in Iraq and these base-beholden presidential candidates would, I guess, be the ones who are sticking to their base-displeasing stances in favor of residual forces in Iraq.

In contrast to these intransigent Democrats, Baker and Weisman suggest that Bush "has signaled that he is starting to shift." Really? I guess so:

In fact, although senior officials did not use the term "exit strategy," the outlines of one emerged from the various statements and speeches they made last week. Petraeus plans to begin redefining his mission in December from leading combat operations to partnering with Iraqi security units and eventually to supporting them. At least 21,700 troops, and perhaps more from the buildup, will be pulled out by July. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters he hopes to bring the overall force, now at 168,000, down to 100,000 by the end of next year. And Petraeus told The Washington Post that he foresees "sustainable security" in Iraq by June 2009, a point at which the U.S. presence could be scaled back even more.

Now, again, what happened here is that Petraeus said that some troops will be withdrawn when it is no longer possible to avoid withdrawing that. At that point, we'll have as many troops in Iraq as we did a year ago. After that, Petraeus gave us a chart that contained no dates and where the final point still had tens of thousands of American soldiers in Iraq. That's not an exit strategy. And, indeed, a couple of paragraphs later they note that Bush "made no commitment to do anything beyond the initial drawdown of forces sent for the buildup." But this is the key point -- there was no compromise! They then go to Peter Rodman, a former Don Rumsfeld aide now cooling his heels at Brookings, and who "said he was particularly surprised at how Democratic presidential candidates reacted to Bush because they have a vested interest should they win the White House."

I'm ready to explode. The goal, in article-writing, should be that a person who reads your article comes away from it with a better understanding of the subject -- this does the reverse.

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