Paul Greenberg

Only names, places, dates and the war have been changed. The rest of the quotes are taken almost intact from the transcript of last week's hearings. The spirit of the exchange between an American general and his interlocutors, among them three presidential candidates this election year, has been fully retained:

General Eisenhower (Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force): "There has been significant but uneven security progress in the Ardennes. As of the end of December 1944, our casualties have been reduced substantially . . . . The situation in certain areas is still unsatisfactory, and innumerable challenges remain. Moreover, as events in the past two weeks have reminded us, and as I have repeatedly cautioned, the progress made since last spring is fragile and reversible." Senator John McCain, (R-Ariz.): "We're no longer staring into the abyss of defeat and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success . . . . I do not want to keep our troops in France a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there. Our goal, my goal, is a France that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine." Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY): "For the past four years, we have continually heard from the administration that things are getting better, that we're about to turn a corner, that there is finally a resolution in sight. Yet each time, our allies fail to deliver. I think it's time to begin an orderly process of withdrawing our troops, start rebuilding our military, and focusing on the challenges posed in the Pacific." Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.): "Nobody's asking for a precipitous withdrawal, but I do think that it has to be a measured but increased pressure, and a diplomatic surge that includes Germany. Because if France can tolerate as normal neighbor-to-neighbor relations with Germany, then we should be talking to them as well. I do not believe we're going to be able to stabilize the situation without them."

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When this same committee grilled General Petraeus last year, Senator McCain delivered the most concise summary of what these hearings are all about. It still holds:

"General Petraeus and his troops ask just two things of us: the time to continue this strategy, and the support they need to carry out their mission. They must have both."

Or has that become too much ask of this America? We shall see.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.