Get the day’s best political analysis, news and reporting from the TPM team delivered to your inbox every day. In 30-60 seconds, you’ll be first to see TPM’s best stories of the morning and caught up on what to expect for the day ahead.
From the inception, and constantly reiterated by President Bush, Defense Secretary Bob Gates, General David Petraeus and others, escalating the U.S. troop presence in Iraq is supposed to give Iraqi politicians the "breathing room" necessary to foster sectarian reconciliation. There's just one problem: no reconciliation has materialized despite the surge. Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki's coterie doesn't expect reconciliation efforts in parliament to move forward in the foreseeable future.
Lieutenant General Doug Lute has peppered his responses to senators' questions with skepticism over the pace of reconciliation. But when Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked directly whether he thinks sectarian reconciliation is still in the cards, he defined the problem as a "capacity" issue, not one of will.
So Lute is "concerned but not yet convinced" that reconciliation won't happen. He didn't specify what he thought should happen if the Iraqi political and social scene remains as violently fractious by, say, General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker's September report to Congress as it is today. Judging by President Bush's belief that reconciliation progress is in fact unfolding right now, probably not much, even if undermines the entire purpose of the current strategy. The hearing is in recess now, so we'll see if Lute is pressed on this in the afternoon.