Petraeus' report is a creature of this instantaneous and pervasive media. For better or worse, he is responding to the condition and using the condition.
War doesn't operate on media time or political calendars. Petraeus' report will address that fact. The Baghdad clock and the Washington clock run at different speeds. The Baghdad Clock is ponderously slow and painfully incremental. Why? Because what the Iraqi government does and does not do must be politically digestible in a nation where democratic politics is a brand new experience.
Washington's clock -- at least the one run by the likes of Sens. Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton -- is set to the 2008 election.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki disdains their myopia. At a news conference earlier this week, Maliki said: "There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin. They should come to their senses."
Petraeus will give all politicians an opportunity to come to their senses.
Style always counts. I am certain he will be honest, disciplined, sobering and judicious in his presentation.
As for substance, I'll wager he will ask for the antithesis of the instant: patience.
Instant experts will demand numbers, and odds are Petraeus will have mathematics and graphs. He may address semi-quantifiable factors like the number of trained and equipped Iraqi troops, the number of qualified Iraqi senior and mid-level military officers who can plan and lead their own operations, and the number and locale of police precincts judged competent and minimally corrupt.
But the gist of his message will be what military veterans call GUTINT -- gut intelligence. GUTINT says sticking with the effort in Iraq is crucial if we want a more peaceful and prosperous 21st century, for Iraqis, Americans and every one else on the planet.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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