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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

As part of the surge-week PR offensive, the President will make a primetime address Thursday announcing that he intends to bring the surge to an end next summer. That means 30,000 U.S. troops will be rotated home without replacements. The White House--and most press reports--will describe this as a troop withdrawal, which is true in a very narrow sense. But this can't seem to be repeated often enough, if credulous press reports are any indication: the surge was only ever designed to be temporary and could not be sustained for any longer than next summer without seriously compromising overall U.S. military readiness. So the surge is coming to end, and troop levels will return to late 2006 levels. The White House can tout it as a troop withdrawal. Gen. Petraeus can claim it is his best professional military judgment. But bringing the surge to an end is a hard reality born of an overstretched military. They can smear all the lipstick they want on that pig, but it's still a pig.

You don't want to put too much emphasis on one response over two days of hearings, but when Sen. John Warner (R-VA) asked Gen. Petraeus a short time ago if victory in Iraq would make America safer, Petraeus hedged before saying, "I don't know." Perhaps it was just a moment of uncharacteristic befuddlement for the general, but if the answer to that question isn't a resounding yes, then, even on the Bush Administration's own terms, it's time to start loading up the troop carriers in Kuwait and bring our people home.

Late Update: In follow-up questioning from Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Petraeus backtracked from his "I don't know" to Sen. Warner.

Pulitzer-winner Charlie Savage explains why the Bush Administration's grasp for more executive power has been one of its most successfully implemented policy initiatives.

Via Laura Rozen, I see we have another journalism fraud exposed. This time it's a pseudo-expert in national security matters named Alexis Debat:

Debat is a well-known "expert" in Washington with an impressive resume: He serves as a fellow at the Nixon Center, a conservative think tank; he collaborates with The National Interest; a quarterly journal of international affairs; he has been consultant to ABC News for years. He belongs to the "expert market" of Washington DC. He appears credible, and the media often quotes him on matters pertaining to terrorism and Islam. . . .

Alexis Debat is a strange character, with a resume that changes depending on who he is talking to. Once he claimed to our colleague Guillemette Faure, a reporter for Le Figaro, that he got his PhD in political science from Edenvale University, in Great Britain, a university which proved to be a a fraud.

Another time, he said that he received his PhD from the University of Sorbonne. But that's not true either. "He manufactured his doctorate. I had the document which he manufactured in my hands," says André Kaspi, a professor of North American history at the Sorbonne. Debat does not deny a "conflict" with the Sorbonne, but refuses to elaborate.


What apparently got Debat in trouble was publishing in a French magazine what purported to be an interview with Barack Obama, except Obama's people say no such interview actually occurred. Hard to figure how Debat thought that would slip by. But Debat's strange story doesn't end there. And as Laura notes, there's more to this story that has yet to be satisfactorily explained.

Late Update: Mr. Debat provided TPM with a written response to this post which can be viewed in full here.

Sen. Feingold (D-WI) presses Petraeus and Crocker hard on whether Iraq has distracted from the fight against al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Perhaps it's time Congress heard from military leaders other than Gen. Petraeus:

NEWSWEEK has learned that a separate internal report being prepared by a Pentagon working group will “differ substantially” from Petraeus’s recommendations, according to an official who is privy to the ongoing discussions but would speak about them only on condition of anonymity. An early version of the report, which is currently being drafted and is expected to be completed by the beginning of next year, will “recommend a very rapid reduction in American forces: as much as two-thirds of the existing force very quickly, while keeping the remainder there.” The strategy will involve unwinding the still large U.S. presence in big forward operation bases and putting smaller teams in outposts. “There is interest at senior levels [of the Pentagon] in getting alternative views” to Petraeus, the official said. Among others, Centcom commander Admiral William Fallon is known to want to draw down faster than Petraeus.


Yesterday, Petraeus testified that Adm. Fallon and the Joint Chiefs support his recommendations. Why take his word for it?

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