Commentary Magazine


The Magic Words

Politico reports that during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General David Petraeus, named by President Obama to succeed Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was pressed by Senator Lindsey Graham on a recent letter sent by anti-war congresswoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tying support for war funding to a plan for withdrawal.

Under continued questioning from Graham, Petraeus said that putting such conditions on war funding “would be contrary to the whole policy, which is conditions based.”

Those words — “conditions based” — are vital. They demonstrate to both our friends and our enemies that we’re not foolishly committed to withdrawal on an arbitrary date (in this case, July 2011). That Petraeus used these words isn’t surprising; he knows how to run and win a war. But it would help a great deal if his command in chief would as well.